When I started my voluntary work at Mt. Miriam, I know I am going to see deaths and sufferings daily. However, I also know that it is not an experience that everyone gets a chance. They are selective of people who can do these pastoral work. Pastoral care like what I am doing is not social work. I don’t go to make the people happy or supply them things to keep them entertained. I go there to let them deal with their illnesses and face deaths if the disease is terminal. I provide an ear and the occasional warm hug or understanding touch when they need it.
On July 8th, Fr Fab wrote this in an email to me.
i am happy for you, as you embark on this journey and I am sure you would have numerous encounters where the people you meet will be touched and you would be touched as well.
I told him I am ‘enjoying’ myself but he knows the enjoy is not the happy-happy joys but the rare experience of looking at human most difficult situation and being able to fit into the picture.
Every morning before I step foot into the palliative care ward, I would go to the chapel and ask for help from the Divine. And the good Lord has always answered my prayers. I never pray for the patients’ recovery because I don’t want to ask for ‘difficult’ things. I only ask for each of them to have strength to face their daily sufferings.
Suffering. It is indeed suffering. But some exceptional people I meet do not see that as suffering. They have such mental strength to hold their head high even when their family members were afraid and worried. One of them is Puan R. She is a Muslim and her faith in Allah strengthens my faith to be all surrendering and trusting to the Almighty till the end.
Puan R is a control freak like me. I told her how alike we are in dealing with critical illness. Last time, I used to jot down my son’s milk intakes, the number of times he peed, the colour of his stools on a daily 24/7 basis. I kept a notebook like all those things nurses do. Once, I took him to the hospital and then, whipped out my notebook and rattled off the details. Doc C laughed and said my records are better than his nurses and I should seriously consider nursing.
Puan R too keep a record of what she ate, when she peed and how her B.O. is. She did that right up to Friday. And she passed on the next day. No one saw it coming. The two nuns and I who usually chat with her never expect it this soon. I guess Puan R has what she would prefer. Dignity right up to the very end.
Last two weeks, both of us were talking about how helpless it felt to have someone help us pass motion with a bed pan , clean us and dispose our B.O. (shits lah). I know she would hate it if that happens to her for too long. Not for her ownself but rather the inconvenience of the nurses. I am sure she will feel miserable it if she no longer can make herself beautiful like she was. She is the only cancer patient I have met so far who put on lipstick and colour co-ordinated tudung with her pajamas. And she did that, not for her ownself. But to make her children and relatives less worried about her condition.
I didn’t go into her room last week because there was absolutely no space for me to squeeze in because her colleagues were visiting. I thought there is always next week. After all, we have so much to chat about.
I am going to miss her. But she has given me very firm footings in my pastoral work. Not every patients are able to tell me if my visit means anything to them. But with Puan R, she gave me confidence that my presence there helps a lot. She told her sister and two gorgeous, beautiful daughters about me.
May Allah bless Puan R and watch over her children and spouse.