My Heart Loves the View

It’s almost inconceivable that four years could whiz by in a flash. I recall the first day of school, seeing people wear the shirt with the question “Why am I in NTU?” printed on the front. Standing amidst unfamiliar faces, in an unfamiliar surrounding, it was precisely what I thought. The answer to the question was written at the back of their shirts: Because God put me here.

Four years on—I still live by it.

These four years have changed me—I’m probably not the same person I used to be. The winds and storms of life have weathered my soul, but it hasn’t quelled my enthusiasm for life. If anything, this hardy soul is brimming with energy, ready to embark on this adventure!

The year, thus far, has been extraordinarily momentous. I’ve been blessed with opportunities, experiences and people that have made an immense impact in my life. And for these, I’m eternally grateful.

P.S. This year, I’ve learnt that a smile can bring you so much (:

As I stand at ground zero—gazing back at my past, and admiring my future—my heart loves the view.

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Footprints in my Heart

The last thing you said to me when I saw you was “Thank You”. I couldn’t see your smile anymore, but I knew that you were trying hard to. I didn’t know what to say. All I could do was hold your hand and say a prayer.

You have fought the good fight, and touched countless lives in the process.

You will be dearly missed, Mani. Thank you for leaving your footprints in my heart.

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your field. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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Patience—demonstrated not measured

What is it like being trapped in your own body? Waking up in the middle of the night choking but not being able to alert anyone about it? Suffering from pain but not being to relief it? Having the clarity of mind, but not being able to move nor utter a single word? This is Motor Neurone Disease (MND). As the name suggests, MND is a degenerative neurological disease that affects an individual’s motor neurones (cells that control voluntary movement like walking, breathing, speaking, swallowing, etc). At present, there is no known cure for MND.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting Mani, a patient with motor neurone disease at the hospice. For the past two months, I’d walk past his room, wave and smile at him, and off I went to complete my other duties. Each time I walked by, he never fails to greet me with a warm megawatt smile—it was almost as if he wanted me to come in to speak to him.

I’ve heard so much about him which made me want to meet him, but I never entered his room because I didn’t know how to communicate with him. Communicating with Mani requires the use of a coloured alphabet chart, in which you follow his eye movement to determine the alphabets that make up what he wants to tell you. As you can imagine, wanting to put across just one word takes time. Having a conversation with him requires a lot of patience on both ends.

Before meeting Mani, I asked Janice—a volunteer at the hospice who has been working with Mani for about 5 months—what she talks to him about. Janice said that conversation with him comes very naturally, and there’s no need to think too hard. I was finally able to meet this guy that everyone at the hospice seem to be talking about! I’ve heard how patient, genuine and cheerful he is, but being able to meet him for myself was very exciting.

As expected, when I walked into Mani’s room, I was greeted a smile that lit up his room. Janice taught me to use the chart and off I went trying my hand at communicating with him. Getting used to the chart, figuring out the letters and stringing them together to form a word and then a sentence was very trying. At times, I got slightly frustrated at myself for not being able to get it. Each time I got it wrong, I would apologise, but all Mani did was to shake his head ever so slightly and smile. He never once got frustrated, and even went on to tell me that I was a natural at this. When I got it right, he would blink his eyes (which means ‘yes’) and smile.

After getting the hang of it, Mani asked me, “Why do you always stand outside and not come in?”. I was at a loss for words. He actually remembered seeing me walk by. You see, Mani is almost like the “star” of the hospice. He gets many visitors and every single staff in the hospice knows him. Why would he remember someone who he catches a glimpse of barely 5 times. Janice went on to say that he asked her about me once, and even remembered what I wore the week before. I was, and still am truly touched. I told Mani that because I didn’t know how to use the chart in the past, I was apprehensive about meeting him, but now that I can, I’ll visit him whenever I’m at the hospice.

The conversation between Mani, Janice and I was peppered with jokes (mainly told by Mani). He had a great sense of humour which never failed to make us laugh. He complimented me saying that he liked my dimples, just like a cheeky boy. He told us little things about himself like how he has 28pairs of Adidas shoes, that he supports liverpool, and that he has been in the hospice for 6 months. His wonderful personality shone through despite his inability to speak.

Mani, however, expressed frustration that some of the nurses at the hospice did not know how to use the communication chart, and thus couldn’t understand his various requests and needs. In his own words: I was in pain; I suffered; No one helped when I choked; It can be life threatening. From what I gathered, he’s happy as long as someone wants to learn how to use the chart, even if they get is wrong occasionally. He just gets frustrated if someone refuses to even try.

Coincidentally (though I don’t believe in coincidences), Janice was going to bring Mani to the florist to get flowers and a card for one of the physiotherapist at the hospice, and I could go along too! At the florist, he specifically requested for pink roses, and even chose a card for her. When deciding what to write in the card, he said that he had a writer’s block, and wanted Janice to write the card on his behalf. Janice insisted that he think of something himself, and that we’ll pen it down for him. When it was time to sign off, he indicated that he wanted Janice’s and my name to be on the card as well. Before leaving the florist, he asked if the two of us wanted anything. He went on to signal that he wanted to thank the florist for her help.

Suffering from this dreadful illness, he has every right to be impatient, depressed and frustrated about his condition. But he isn’t. Not one bit. His frustration, if any, is directed not at the plight he’s in, but the fact that some people refuse to learn to use the chart so that he can communicate with them. For one, I’ve never seen anyone with a smile so genuine, that it warms you up instantly. One thing that struck me was how Mani would say ‘Thank You’ after someone did something for him. For someone who finds it so trying just to say a single word, making the effort to say a word of thanks was beyond admirable.

As able-bodied people, we take what we have for granted. One minor setback and all we do is complain incessantly, saying how life is unfair to us. When things deviate from our original plan, we sulk. Expressing our gratefulness seems like a task too difficult to carry out. We have much to learn, my friends, so much to learn.

As volunteers, you choose to help hoping you can make a difference in the lives of others, when really, it is the very people that you help, that unwittingly make a difference and leave footprints in your life. Mani’s optimism, patience and tenacity is above all, exemplary.

If anyone’s interested, this film is based on a true story of a girl who was diagnosed with MND, and how she chooses to live life to the fullest: http://www.mysoju.com/japanese-movie/1-litre-of-tears-movie/

Mani with the Physiotherapist and Pink Roses

Everyone has a story to tell, take time to listen. And I promise, you’ll never be the same again.

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Thank You, God

The time of the year for making resolutions (and eventually breaking them), and awaiting what the brand new year might bring, has come again. Some wish to clinch a good job, others hope for better relationships with family and friends… the list goes on. Have we forgotten about the wishes and dreams we made last year that came true this year? Why are we so eager to ask for more, without stopping for a second, to thank the One who answered our prayers?

This year has been nothing short of miraculous for me. You might say I’m an optimist, and you’re probably right, but to me, everything is a blessing—even downfalls. Bluntly put, I’ve been given so much that even I feel that it might be a tad bit unfair. If everyone were to remember all the blessings in their life, no one would be complaining, and everyone would be more willing to give off of themselves to others without reservation.

On another note, helping out at Assisi has been an eye-opener. It’s a marvel to see how every patient there isn’t treated like a statistic, but a human being capable of experiencing joy and pain, frustration and sadness. It’s wonderful seeing how the nurses and volunteers remember personal details about each patient—what they like to drink, their temperaments, etc.—and interact with them accordingly. Every single one of them has a story to tell, and I thank God for giving me the chance to listen to them, and hopefully make a difference in their lives—even for half a day.

What better way to end the year with than to thank God for the people in my life, the experiences I’ve gone through, the relationships I’ve forged and all things material and immaterial He has bestowed me with.

Whether the new year will bring with it something to look forward to—or not—really depends on how you choose to put things into perspective—to turn defeat into triumph, to take failure as a lesson learnt and to count your blessings, every single one of them. With this, each new year can only be better, more wonderful than the previous.

Last year was delightful. This year was incredible. Next year will be sensational.

A blessed new year to all. May you find boundless joy and love. And amidst it all, find a little time for thanksgiving (:

Learn from your mistakes, celebrate your blessings.

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He makes all things beautiful

Christmas—probably the most beautiful time of the year. A time to celebrate the humble birth of Jesus, and with it, the hope, love, joy and peace He brings to this world. It’s a time to recollect the past events of the year. A time best spent with the ones you love most.

This year has had it’s share of wonderful moments and instances of despondence. If I had the chance to change anything about the past year, I wouldn’t. It’s only by taking a step back, that you start to fathom the perfect plan God intended for you. Our God is really one who’s full of surprises. He never fails to amaze me with the blessings He pours forth—always furnishing me with more than I expect. In times of despair, one must always possess hope—hope that all things will be made beautiful. Afterall, that’s what faith is—living without all the answers. And faith in God is also having faith in His timing. With some patience, you might just be given more than you initially anticipated.

This just could be the best year yet!

He makes all things beautiful, in His time.

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Manners

You might call it a pet peeve, and it probably is—I cannot stand people who lack manners. I almost always experience a tinge of indignation when a ‘thank you’ or  ‘please’ is lacking. Maybe I simply had the privilege of parents who understood the value of good manners. I still recall the ‘magic words’—please & thank you—my parents expected from us whenever someone did something for us, or when we wanted something. I guess the habit stuck, and I can’t help but expect it from others as well.

I know I shouldn’t judge others based on my personal values, but some things are just inexcusable.

Showing a little gratitude never hurt anyone. Sometimes, I scoff at how people engage in politesse when meeting others for the first time, but revert back to their ‘old ways’ when they’re with family and friends. It is precisely the people around you that deserve the expression of gratefulness from you.

This started off as a post about manners, when really, it’s about not taking those around you for granted.

There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed.  If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude.

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Season of Advent

Yesterday evening, we had penitential service at church.

I was never fond of such services—much preferred going for a ‘proper’ confession in a confessional box with a priest. I used to find penitential services rather impersonal, somewhat like a factory assembly line. Yesterday, however, my entire attitude towards the penitential service changed drastically.

The lights in the church were dimmed—as with every penitential service—and queues started forming, as people made their way towards the priests dispersed at different locations around the front of the church. Right in front of me, I could see the silhouette of the  crucifix, and I thought to myself: the immensity of God’s love for us, compelled him to send His son to die on the cross for us. I went ahead, made my confession, and when I came back to my seat, I was supremely touched by the overflowing love He has for me.

Give thanks, because He’s given Jesus Christ, His son.

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Hello, December

Listening to Christmas carols and browsing through photos from Christmas 2 years back—spent traveling the east coast of north america with my sister and little buddy—brings with it a sense of nostalgia.

Christmas spent overseas is really an experience—the decorations, the atmosphere, the snow. But really, what is Christmas if you don’t spend it with the ones you love most. As much as I would love to spend Christmas in some winter wonderland, I’d rather forgo all of that and spend it with my family and friends. Christmas 2 years ago was the first time my sister and I didn’t attend church. It was only then that I realised how meaningless Christmas is without celebrating the true meaning of the day—the birth of Jesus.

But before Christmas, there’s so much planned in the month of December. I seem to be busier now, than when school’s in. Nonetheless, I’m going to enjoy every bit of December before it ends. I don’t ever want December to end cos it’s the last school holiday I’ll ever have as an undergraduate.

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These hands He made

Fell sick on the last day of my exams.

Falling sick makes me feel like a kid all over again. I lie in bed and complain that nose is blocked, my throat’s sore, my head’s throbbing, my tummy hurts and I feel feverish. My family will check in on me and make sure I’m as comfortable as can be. You realise that in the eyes of your parents and grandparents, you never really grow up. Etched in their minds, I’m just a kid that still needs to be taken care of. Amidst the rush to grow up—especially since I’m just about 6 months shy of graduating—being at home with my family relieves me of the need to act like a ‘grown-up’.

Since I was young, I always had this occasional pain in my tummy. It’ll come out of nowhere and it’ll hurt too much to walk. Everytime I got it, my grandma would make me lie down and rub ointment on my tummy. I’d feel better almost immediately, though I don’t know if it was because of the ointment or the love and care of the act itself. As I grew older, whenever I had the usual pain, my grandma would offer to rub ointment on my tummy, but I would decline, giving reasons like: it’ll get better on its own; I don’t like the smell; so troublesome.

Yesterday, I got up early and complained of a tummy ache. Again, grandma asked me if I wanted to put ointment on my tummy. I declined, yet again. But she insisted that it’ll make me feel better. After much persuasion, I finally relented.

As I lay down and she rubbed my tummy with ointment, I looked my my grandma’s hands, and realised just how much she’s aged. These were the very hands that prepared so many meals, carried me when I was a child, soothed me when I cried and caned me when I was disobedient. These were also the hands that shaped me into the person I am today. Over and above all the things these hands have done, there you find love. Being at the receiving end of these hands is a blessing and privilege, and I thank God everyday for the gift of my grandma.

The scent of the ointment was familiar, soothing, and no longer ‘smelly’ like I used to think it was.

These hands He made, for love, not hate.

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Realisation


Something that mummy sent to me this morning:

There comes a point in your life when you realise who matters, who never did, who won’t anymore, and who always will.
So, don’t worry about people from your past, There’s a reason why they didn’t make it to your future :]

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