St. Anne Church Bukit Mertajam at night.
A pilgrimage to the Feast of St. Anne was always a humbling experience. Even when I was a kid, I was awed by simply being there. The sight of the quaint little church atop the hillock exuded a sense of serenity that soothed my little heart. I did not understand what it was all about then. What I remember most from those times were the small packets of salt and pepper wrapped in paper that were given away. There was also the smell of burning candles and the unmistakable fragrance of jasmine and a potpourri of other flowers inside the church. The lingering smell in my nostrils long after made me happy.
Peter and I journeyed to the Church of St. Anne in Bukit Mertajam last Friday. Like the years before, the hallowed ground still cast the same sense of tranquillity even though it was abuzz with pilgrims and worshippers and brightly-lit stalls selling a multitude of items. Wuan could not make it this year. Most of all, without Mum and the boxes of devotional candles and flowers that she used to bring for the feast, it felt different.
For more than twenty years, after I became wheelchair-bound, I have not been into the old church on the hill. The steps leading to it was simply too daunting. I did not know that there was a paved path leading to a side entrance. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise when Peter pushed me up the steep slope passing the St. Anne?s Water Fonts and into the church. And the memories came rushing back. It was awesome. Never once did I think I would ever get into that church again but there I was. Salt and pepper were no longer being given away. I was happy to be able to go back after so many years nevertheless.
All too soon, we had to leave. I said a silent prayer and made the Sign of the Cross, the first time I ever did that inside the church as a Christian. Despite the melancholy I felt earlier, it was like being home again after a long time away. I was truly happy. I pray that I will be able to make the annual pilgrimage for many many more years to come. As long as I am able, I will carry on the tradition that Mum had started a long time ago.
Feast of St. Anne 2004