February is a month of the sick. It is a time when we are reminded to pray for the sick and also to pray for their caregivers. Many of us are lucky and do not to deal with the sick and invalid. We usually go through life with beds of roses. Some of our parents died suddenly and we never have to deal with the tasks of caring for them.

Just like my own mother, she died just like that. No warning. One night in the hospital and she was gone. The next morning, before we even took her body home, I went to the doctor to ask him what happened that night. He told me her organs just gave up. He said they tried to resuscitate her but failed. He added that if she had survived, she would have a lot of problems due to the internal organs failure and etc.

I was pregnant with my 3rd son then. And I recalled laughing in a weird sense and think to myself, “That’s my mother. She hates to be in that condition and I guess she chose the path because she didn’t want to be in the situation. None of us, my sisters, brothers and I are capable of dealing with her because I know we are just inadequate. Unworthy.”

Meanwhile, my mother-in-law had a long term stay in a nursing home. She got a stroke, was fine and then worsen. There was one year when she was in the geriatric ward in Pantai Hospital. It was very expensive staying there but money was all we could offer because again, none of her 8 children are capable of taking care of her. My excuse was my 3rd son was still young and my other two children needs me to ferry them to school. The geriatric ward is not really a hospital kind of stay but more of a nursing home type. She was in wheelchair and during one Chinese New Year, we took her out from Pantai to my house in Sungai Ara to have a Chinese New Year gathering with all my siblings in-laws.

It was the last year that she was conscious and able to spend Chinese New Year with her clans of grandkids and great grandkids. She spent the rest of her years in a nursing home, in coma. Fed through tube and totally bedridden and unconscious. The best my hubby could do was to visit her every morning before going to work.

There was once when the nursing home called me and said she was showing signs of giving up. I took my three kids there on my own and frankly, that trip was very difficult for me. I didn’t like going because I hate to face the truth. Of course, my excuse was the place filled with sick old folks are not ideal for my small baby and children.

It is not the invalid and bedridden senior folks that bothers me. It is the active and talkative ones that tried to engage me in conversation that makes me nervous. They are so lonely there and they have so many things to tell you. They will take out some stuffs to show and talk about it. I sometimes wonder why they ended up there? Of course, it is none of my business and who am I to ask others when I myself put my own mother-in-law there?

My point is – it is not easy caring for the sick. Especially when you are not close to the person. I could care for my own son who was oxygen dependent, needed 24 hours surveillance but he was only a small baby. His shit doesn’t stinks. He had to obey with taking medications because I could pinch his nose and force him to drink it. He wasn’t heavy. He was cute and my own son. But given an adult for me to care, I doubt, I could handle the situation.

So, my dear friends, remember to say a little prayer for all these caregivers. Especially those who have to care for their parents, siblings, spouses and all. May they have the patience, strength, love, wisdom and perseverance to give all the attention the sick needs without losing hope.

At the end of it, our lives will be enriched. That I know. If I had not seen with my own eyes, care for my own son and been there in the ICU for months in Lam Wah Ee and Adventist plus UMMC, I think my life today will not be as fulfilling as what I am living now. It is in facing the deaths, pain and sufferings of those patients that drove me to turn to God and Christianity. Having face deaths that often (because people dies daily in the ICU), I am a lot courageous now. And I appreciate whatever little things life has to offer. Thank God for the blessings that we have and praise God for our good health.

Lastly – If you have ageing parents, spend all the time with them. Don’t give excuses of not going back for your Chinese New Year reunion. No excuses. Tomorrow or next year may never come.

Notice : The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Penang will have a special mass for the sick on the 17th February 2008 at 10.00am. There is a dedicated team of committee members who will be around to help those who are sick and invalid to celebrate mass. Please check the details from the bulletin. (in pdf format)