On first June, a nine-year old boy, Gabriel, fell to his death from his fifth floor public housing apartment. His mother, Rebecca, was seen crying by the window. She then rushed down to the dying body of her son and cradled him while he was lying in a pool of blood, crying hysterically that she had killed him.
According to a witness who lives across from the block, Rebecca was first seen climbing onto the window ledge at the kitchen and sitting on it. She then went back down and returned this time with her son. Next thing anyone knew, Gabriel was found unconscious at the bottom of the block.
Over the next couple of days, as the media reported on this tragedy, more information was revealed that Rebecca is a single unwed mom. Poor Gabriel was born with a weak liver, and had gone through a failed liver operation. On top of liver problem, he also suffered from jaundice, and as a result, he was sickly and had yellow skin and eyes. His legs were weak and so Rebecca had to push him around in a baby stroller. He also had to attend a special needs school, which is very likely due to his illness.
Gabriel’s health condition meant that Rebecca could not work as she had to care for him full time. Both of them lived with Rebecca’s mother who is the sole breadwinner. They survived on a measly monthly income of S$1,000 a month, and this included paying for Gabriel’s medical needs. The dire economic situation caused tremendous stress within the family. Neighbors talked about the violent arguments regularly coming from the household that cops had to be called in to stop the fights.
So finally Rebecca snapped and decided to kill both herself and her son. I don’t know why after she threw her son down the apartment that she didn’t follow suit. Did she murder her son? Technically yes. After she was arrested, the court sent her to be remanded in a psychiatric ward for evaluation, and it was determined that she was of sound mind at the time of the crime.
Did Rebecca kill her son in cold blood? I don’t think so. Rebecca is not a bad mother, least alone, an evil one. She took care of Gabriel since he was born, and was rather indulgent to him. But my husband thinks Rebecca could have swopped places with her mom; she could have worked while her mom took care of Gabriel, and she would have been able to get a higher pay for the family. We don’t know what was the reason that Rebecca didn’t do so. Perhaps there was a hint when Rebecca claimed she had to kill Gabriel as she didn’t want her mother to care for him.
To be honest, I’m deeply affected by this case, not just because I’m also a mother. On a day when Alex had his birthday celebration, a distressed mother killed her son. So what if Rebecca’s psychiatric diagnosis indicates she is of sound mind? She is still likely to have suffered from depression. A mother wouldn’t just kill her child in cold blood. Sure there’re a couple of cases of bad mothers who did but these are rare. When a mother has to resort to this, she is over the brink.
In Singapore, murder is liable for the death penalty. But I really don’t think Rebecca deserves to be put to death for what she did. Lest you think I’m being lenient to her, the thing is she has had so many strikes against her in our society. Despite having a facade of a developed country, the leaders have a closed mind-set against unwed mothers, regarding them as pariahs. On a side track, the country is suffering from low fertility rate that is threatening its future, and yet nothing is done to discourage abortion and makes it easier to put up the baby for adoption. Instead the government resorts to importing migrants to grow the population.
Back to Rebecca, the fact that she has a sickly child is a big disadvantage, even compared to other unwed mothers. I’m not sure if she sought financial aids, but knowing how miserly this government is, I’m not surprised if very little helps are rendered to her. Even if Rebecca didn’t approach social service for assistance, the fact that the cops are called often to the house should have raised red flag to social service. And what about the neighbors? Shouldn’t they have brought up the family’s plight to the relevant organization, or even extend a helping hand? It’s not just the system that has failed, but society has failed as well.
Sure some people might argue that Singaporeans have been told so often that they should rely on themselves. But if Rebecca could be self-reliant, Gabriel wouldn’t have ended up in such tragic circumstance. We should realize that hard work and perseverance are not enough to achieve in life. Luck plays a big part too. Some people are unfortunate to be born into a system that is against them right from the start. Some are struck by a string of bad luck and unable to get out of the rut they are in, which are not their doings. Society needs to be empathetic and gives these people a helping hand. It also needs to be forgiving and gives people a second chance. So, don’t say that Rebecca shouldn’t have gotten herself pregnant in the first place. That mistake should never have cost her son’s life. And don’t talk about self-reliant because you never know when you might get struck by misfortune, and need another lease in life. One should be thankful and count one’s blessings, but more importantly to extend that blessing to others who need help. It will be a greater tragedy when people turn their eyes away from the unfortunates. Please look out for those in needs.