The Passing Of A Great Educationist

There was no Mass this morning. The parish priest is attending the Priests Annual Retreat at Stella Maris which began on September 7. Instead, a Service was conducted by a lay leader in his absence. A service without a priest felt somewhat different. Nevertheless, the essence of the worship was still the same. We came together as a community to strengthen our faith and to renew our spirituality.

After the Service, Peter and I went to pay our last respects to Father Arthur Julien who died September 11. He was eighty seven. His body is laying in state at Dewan Holy Spirit which is adjacent to the Cathedral. I do not know Father Julien personally. What I knew about him I heard from my parents a long time ago. They had had talked about Father Julien and had high regards for him for the immeasurable role he played in the realisation of the Heng Ee schools.

He was a well respected figure in Penang for his ceaseless effort in supporting Chinese education here and for being able to speak fluent Mandarin. Many older generation Catholics and those whose lives have been changed for the better by Father Julien’s works remembers him with affection. To quote Lucia Lai: ?Father Arthur Julien will indeed be remembered fondly as the mat salleh man who became Chinese in the process of his contribution to Chinese education.?

Jeff Ooi and Lucia Lai also blogged about the demise of this great educationist. Father Julien had touched many with his generosity and effort in promoting literacy here. Foreign Catholic priests like him who had dedicated their lives to the educate Malaysians are a dying breed if not already extinct. They have transformed countless lives with their selfless contribution based on their love of educating people from all walks of life all, irrespective of creed or colour. Father Julien is one of those outstanding ones. His funeral is on September 14. May the Lord grant him eternal peace.

Outside Looking In

“Fine lines radiate out from the outer edges of the eyes that had long lost its gleam. His skin seemed dull and lifeless. Permanent creases line the forehead. What once was a full head of hair is thinning out with obvious hints of grey. He tried hard to bring to mind another face he was very familiar with that had such worn features. It has been slightly more than one year. The impression of that face he had seen a million times before has become vague. The mirror began to reflect back some of those blurred features as he gazed into it.”

How I have aged. It felt like only a while ago when my face was bursting with youthful vibrancy. What the visage does not divulge, the body confirms – aching joints, failing eyesight, decreased stamina and the list goes on. My right knee can tell when rain is imminent more accurately than the weatherman. This is the perk of suffering from osteoarthritis. I will never be caught dead in a rainstorm again. That knee was injured in my early teens and again after the paralysis when I underwent intense physical therapy.

What I miss most is the ability to read minuscule texts without a pair of glasses. Reading the Reader?s Digest from cover to cover in one sitting is one feat I can no longer perform. My eyes now struggle to focus on each blurred line with great effort. This could also be caused by the long hours I spent looking at the monitor since the time when processor speed was a measly 4.7Mhz. I do not read as much as I used to or like to anymore. The John Grisham and Ernest Hemingway that Wuan gave me are stacked up nicely and gathering dust.

Youth came and went without my realising it. When I was young, those formative years felt like they would last forever. At twenty, thirty sounded like it was still so far away in the future. When it arrived and wheezed past, I did not give it much thought. Life began at thirty, so they said. My fortieth milestone is coming up. Life truly begins at forty, I was told. Then I read that life begins at fifty, sixty seventy and every decade thereafter until life decides to give up on us.

Thinking back about the age-worn face that looked back at me from inside the mirror, I am given the realisation that life begins the moment I wake up and try to live another day. Life begins anew everyday. This finite cycle is one we cannot evade. Why wait for thirty? Why expect that something exciting will begin at forty? Much time had been wasted waiting. When I was in my early twenties, I waited for the day that I could walk again. In my early thirties, when the hopes of ever walking again vanished, I waited to have a family to call my own. That did not work out either.

Unfortunately, looking at the big picture, I still do not know what I want to do at forty. While I attempt to fully utilize my daily waking hours in the best ways possible, it will be nice to be able to do my part in contributing to the greater good of humanity. All my life, I have been at the receiving end of acts of kindness. It is about time I pass on that generosity to those who are in need.

Mirrors do tell a story indeed. I gazed into one and it unwittingly triggered my subconscious to unleash untold stories of my past. Perhaps if I look into one long enough I can steal a peek into the future too and discover my true calling. I have wasted enough time waiting for that to come.

“God, I do not want to be doing at forty what I had been doing when I was twenty and thirty. Please do not let me grow old and rot away without You making use of me as an instrument to spread Your goodness. I pray that You will grant me the insight to recognise the calling that You have designed for me. Give me the perception to comprehend Your purpose for me and the courage and resolve to carry them out to completion. Amen.”

Thoughts On Independent Living

Much has changed from one year ago. That is how long the maid has been here. She had taken over most of the housekeeping and cooking chores. Over the months, we have an unwritten list of daily tasks that she is to get done. She does not need much prompting. This apartment is now spick and span except for the mess that I created on my workspace and the sofa beside me.

I am by nature a disorganised person. My things are strewn all over the place. Tidying is futile. They will become a jumble again in no time. Still, I can find something that I need from under a pile of papers and books. I thrive in such chaos. Tidy up everything and I will have a hard time looking for the items that I want. The maid knows it and leave that heap be.

She may be a good housekeeper but her cooking skills leave much to be desired. I am not complaining though. For the remuneration that she is getting, I do not expect her to cook like a chef. She needs to be guided every step of the way from the cutting of the ingredients to the amount of seasoning to use. She has improved from when she first came but still likes to add more salt and other seasonings than necessary.

The heavy rain woke me up this morning. The clock showed 9.25am. It was time to get up anyway. I decided to skip breakfast and got her to prepare lunch. Rummaging through the fridge, we came up with the remaining of the okra that was bought two weeks ago, a bundle of kangkung and a piece of belly pork from the freezer. The menu for the day would be stir-fried kangkung with okra and stir-fried pork in turmeric.

She got all the ingredients ready and arranged them nicely on the kitchen counter. I would usually tell her what I wanted and she would cook it with her own ingenuity and from what I had instructed her previous times. Today was one day I would stay in the kitchen and watch her cook from the beginning till the end.

When she was cutting the onions I wondered how I was going to manage my meals when she leaves for home in one year’s time. Her culinary quotient may be lacking but I have had the benefit of eating home-cooked food since she came. I thought about how long it was going to take me to finish cutting the onions which took her less than one minute.

Living independently by myself is one aspiration I have had for a long time. I thought I could manage. I can, to a certain extent. The kitchen counter height was built to suit my requirements. An unkempt apartment is the least of my worries. There is a washing machine for my laundry although I dislike hanging and collecting them. Washing dishes and cooking utensils is not a big problem.

The one major obstacle to living alone is my meals. My lack of hand dexterity impedes my ability to cook anything but the simplest dishes that needs little preparation. Eating catered food everyday is out of the question as I am on a strict diet. As I ran those thoughts through my mind, I began to appreciate how much she had assuaged my disabilities.

I can get another maid when she leaves but that is not what I have in mind. I genuinely want to see how far I can make it living with minimal assistance. For the tasks that I cannot perform like changing bed sheets and other more laborious chores, I can get someone to come and do it on a fortnightly basis. This needs plenty of planning. I should start taking over the cooking from her soon if I want be to well prepared before she departs. I wonder if I can cook better tasting food than her.