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“Forget me not” is a phrase steeped in meaning for Voices for Hope graduate and self-advocate Thomas Ong. A long-time avid poet and writer, Thomas wove this refrain into his poem, titling it with the same phrase. We interviewed him about his creative process, and what his poem means to him. 

Forget Me Not

by Thomas Ong

Forget me not
The day my memory
Of you was almost down to nought
In trying to think of you daily


Forget me not
When I don’t remember
Your name or thought
You are some stranger
Forget my not
When my parents, siblings, children
And others I have not sought
Especially my granddaughter my sweet little wren
Forget me not
When I miss your birthday
And the memories which you brought
In a most unforgettable way


Forget me not
When we celebrate your birthday occasion
With the many wonderful gifts they brought
You in every kind and fashion
Forget me not
When I am angry
For not knowing that you ought
To remember me
Forget me not
For fearing the day
I would be fraught
Not remembering my way


Forget me not
Knowing that many things that I have learnt
Have been lost or not sought
But into my lasting memory burnt
Forget me not
As the day fades into the twilight
With the weeks we slowly forgot
And the months fall out of sight
Forget me not
For not writing in reply
To your letter in which you sought
Help and required my advice


Forget me not
When I had to move to another state
Due to work that brought
Me a new fate
Forget me not
As we grow old
Drifting apart as we ought
Looking at our future as it unfold
Forget me not
As we fade away
Leaving behind our hard fought
Life as it goes on its way
Forget me not
As I travel towards the long road
Hoping to be guided and brought
Finally to my heavenly abode

What inspired you to write this poem? 

Thomas: When inspirations come, the words flow easily into my poems, a niche which is often inspired by the various aspects and outlooks of dementia. One of my initial poems is “Face of Dementia”. This is followed by another passionate poem of mine called “Forget Me Not” inspired by my understanding of the importance of memory and its eventual loss as we age and now with the diagnosis. It is an aspect of life that often haunts me as I keep forgetting names, faces, events and things.  

I was afraid that events, friends and people would be forgotten. So I penned these into poetic verses with the theme “Forget Me Not”. Ideas and words seemed to flood easily into my mind which I swiftly wrote down. I restricted each stanza of my poem to four lines enjoying the fast and smooth flow of words that rhyme easily. The gist and context for the poem came readily and unequivocally easily as I tapped on my knowledge and experiences of dementia. 

A very important message that I wanted to share is that people with dementia like me should not be forgotten or left out. I am a person and would like to be treated with love and respect like one and be given the opportunity to live a full active and rewarding life in spite of having dementia. 


What does the phrase “forget me not” mean to you? 

Thomas: “Forget me not” for me holds a very special meaning. I like to be remembered, be known, and accepted as a warm-hearted, loving, caring member of society living a fruitful life, contributing to the progress and success of society. I would like society not to forget me even when I am not able to perform as well as expected, and also when I have passed my days of positive contribution and exhibiting forgetfulness.  

I would like to be remembered for my achievements and contributions towards making society successful and fruitful. 

To many of my family, friends and people whom I may forget, I would like firstly to express appreciation and love for them and appeal for their understanding and care when dementia overtakes me. To society in general, please be kind and considerate if and when I am not able to reciprocate and respond to your attention. 

As a person with dementia, what is important to me right now is to take hold of my life, know that there is much I can do both for myself and for society. I should be positive, know that in spite of dementia and its impediments, I can look for new things to do and to achieve. I should also plan and set a timetable for future activities using the SMART maxim.   


What about writing do you enjoy? 

Thomas: Searching for, creating and leading interesting activities satisfies my ever inquisitive and creative mind and soul. I am very much involved in and affected by these activities. Among the activities that I enjoy and found peace and ease with is expressing my thoughts and feelings in words and writing.  

Writing is something I do regularly: putting into words my thoughts, aspirations and inspirations. It gives me much pleasure and a sense of achievement in vividly, visibly, and succinctly presenting the ideas in physical words. I enjoy and treasure these wonderful feelings of achievement. It is also a way of giving my ever-inquisitive and voracious mind a wide range of challenges which seek smooth, succinct, sequential and understandably successful and gratifying written solutions.  

Writing also challenges my brain to search, recall and create more images, ideas, plans and solutions to the problems presented. It is also a natural follow-up action to inspirations and thoughts which often invade my mind with all sorts of visions, ideas, plans, dreams and solutions. It gives much satisfaction. 

Many of these inspirations and thoughts are important situations and occasions that need to be written down for posterity. These pieces of writing can be in the form of stories, poems, anecdotes or even diaries. I feel and enjoy the beauty and enchantment the way the written language is used to describe these unique environments. 



Thomas Ong Xian Wei PBM, PBS, DGCE (Dip. in Guidance and Counselling in Education, U.K.), B.A., MSc. (Counselling), was a secondary school teacher, principal, school counsellor and an advisor to the Juvenile Court for 10 years. He is 84 years young as of 2023. A graduate of Dementia Singapore (DSG) ’s Voices For Hope programme fifth cohort,  he has since gone on to be an active self-advocate, sharing how one can live well despite dementia. He is also currently a co-facilitator for other Voices of Hope programmes and an active volunteer in DSG. He currently enjoys his time sharing as an advocate, and doing things he enjoys like tutoring students in Mathematics, painting, writing, and playing mahjong. 

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