The Direction of My Life

Growing up was something that had eluded me for many years. When one is suddenly taken off the loop of interaction with society, one tends to regress. I stopped growing up right after I became paralysed. I was mothered over, pampered and got things done my way, almost always. The world moved forward unceasingly while I stagnated in all aspects of my life.

My parents saw to it that I was never in want. Material wise, I never was, but I yearned for more. I hankered to grow like other teenagers – go to college, date girls, be gainfully employed, get married, have kids. I had dreams. Unfortunately the paralysis had become a life sentence. I could not live those dreams anymore. I was trapped in a body that I no longer had control of. I looked out to the world and wished I was free again.

Months turned into years. I saw those dreams fade away one by one as my condition did not improve. I gradually retreated into a world that neither had marker stones nor landmarks that I could find my way around with. I drifted aimlessly in an ocean of despondence, my bearings determined by the capricious currents and wayward winds. My existence then had become meaningless. I had ceased to seek.

Someone once said that for a man to be happy, he needs three things: something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. I had only one of those. I thought I had found love. One out of three is not that bad considering the condition I was in. I was to discover later that love too was a cruel joke. How could women find my emaciated body appealing? Love was not forever after all and promises were meant to be broken.

I meandered on aimlessly looking for a cause to call my own. Mum gave me all the support she could muster. She knew I was searching for a basis to make my own being purposeful. Parents can only give us so much. There are things that we have to strike out by ourselves to discover. I gathered some courage and took small timid steps. She followed from a distance, making sure that she was there for me should I falter in my quest.

Then I met Wuan. She was not only a confidante but a soul mate in every sense. We knew exactly what each other was thinking without words being spoken. Have I finally found my purpose in life? Wuan’s coming into my life has certainly filled many gaps in the tapestry of my destiny. However there are still many fissures that I need to plug that she could not help me with. It is something I have to do by myself.

And then Mum fell ill. For the first time in my life, I had to take responsibility, not only for myself but for Mum. I grew up a lot those few months. I realised how much she had sacrificed for me through the things that I had to do for her. I really grew up. I was an eighteen year old boy imprisoned in a thirty seven year old man’s body. The teenager in me suddenly grew up a decade or two.

All too soon, I became an adult orphan. Once again, I had to pick up more shattered pieces of my life. The passing on of the surviving parent quickly broke down the belief that death is a distant event for me. The buffer to my subsistence was no longer there. I was abruptly thrust into the realisation that my mortality is a certainty and close by. My clock began to tick away the seconds.

Suddenly there was much to do and little time to accomplish them. I did not even know where to begin. I got lost in the midst of all those ideas that were constantly swirling inside my head. Then reality struck. I was in no position to map out the remaining of my life with so much. My health is such that today knows not what tomorrow brings. The best way for me to live is to live each day to the fullest, one day at a time.

Most important of all, I had fulfilled the uppermost in my list of priorities. I am walking the faith that was explicitly revealed to me at Mum’s deathbed. I was reborn a believer in the salvation of Jesus the moment she breathed her last. She died so that I could live the faith she was inducted into as an infant. She died so that I could grow up and take charge of my own life.

The cause to validate my being alive still eludes me although I now have devoted my life to serving God and the community that I live in generally. I am still searching for that clear path that will lead me to live a fulfilling life. This growing up process is slowly but surely turning me from self-centric to Christ-centric and community-centric which I am happy to say has filled me with much contentment.

The adult-teenager in me is slowing emerging from the cocoon as an adult. Adulthood comes with a different set of responsibilities. I am learning to be a responsible adult. There is still a lot of catching up to do. The direction of my life is still vague. I have a faint inkling of the exact course I want to take. Hopefully the fuzz will clear up and hopefully I will have time to realise them all before my time is up.

Launching Of The Jubilee Year

Bishop Anthony Selvanayagam just before Mass.

At today’s Sunset Mass, the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit played host to the launching of the Jubilee Year from August 2004 to August 2005. The Penang Diocese celebrates the fiftieth years of its formation. The Golden Jubilee Celebration is a momentous occasion for the Diocese which encompasses the states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Kelantan.

The Bishop Anthony Selvanayagam obliging with a pose.

The Cathedral was filled with roses of all shades for this occasion. There was only standing room as the Cathedral was packed to the brim with parishioners wanting to be a part of this beautiful event. Bishop Antony Selvanayagam, Monsignor Stephen Liew and a mass of Fathers and Religious from different Orders of the Roman Catholic Church were there to witness and celebrate the event with the laity.

Homily by the Bishop Anthony Selvanayagam.

I missed the beginning part of the Mass as I could not find a place to park my wheelchair in the crowded Cathedral. Then my cousin Mary found me a spot where I could see the altar, the projector screen and follow Mass. Towards the end of the Mass, I met fellow blogger Lucia of Mental Jog for the first time. A while later, while I was wheeling to get a better view, the digital camera slipped from my lap and dropped onto the floor. The fall broke the catch of the battery cover. The cover cannot be shut tightly and the camera kept flashing the battery exhausted message. Now I wonder how I can get it repaired.

Our Lady of Jubilee.

In conjunction with this auspicious event, the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Jubilee was unveiled by the Bishop and was heralded by the blowing of the horns. This statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Boy Jesus was conceptualised by Father Michael Cheah. They were given a local flavour with Mary and Jesus wearing clothes with an indigenous theme. Mass ended with a rapturous performance by the choir singing the Jubilee Theme Song.

When I Walk Again

It is difficult to find the opportunity to chat with William. He usually logs into ICQ after midnight. I will usually be in bed and asleep at that hour. A few days ago, those rare times when I was still online after midnight, we had the opportunity to catch up again. We started to talk about my previous entry Cure for Spinal Cord Injury. He told me, “Honestly until today I still believe one day you will stand up and walk.”

It is really nice that someone I have met only a handful of times telling me that he is still bearing the hope that I will walk again some day. What William knew about me was from the chats that we had many years ago and those few times that we had met, either in Kuala Lumpur or Penang. Although I have long given up the notion of ever walking again, what he said got me thinking.

What will it feel like to be able to walk again – without equipment, unsupported and under my own strength? The perspective certainly will be different. I have a metal frame that helps me stand and parallel bars that I use for my walking exercises. Whenever I stood up, everything looked unlike those from the viewpoint while sitting down. But that is different. I am confined by the length of the parallel bars and the stationary frame. To be able to stand up and walk around and see things from a different view will be a totally new experience. Things that used to be out of reach will no longer be so. I will be like a kid who has suddenly grown two feet. The sights will be so very fascinating from just two feet higher. Believe me. It will be like being in a new world altogether.

And I do not have to talk to groins and breasts. Two of my cervical vertebras were fused together to strengthen the fractured one. This has severely limited the rotation of my head. Ideally while talking to a person on a wheelchair, one should kneel beside him so that the conversation can be carried out at the eye-to-eye level but most do not. They just stand there and expect me to look up to their face. I have talked to tall men. I have talked to well-endowed women. It can be embarrassing when my eyes are always fixed onto those intimate parts while chatting with them. I did not mean to. I could not help it. The movement of my head is restricted. What am I supposed to do?

What will be the things that I will do when I can walk again? I will walk into the House of God and kneel down and pray and praise and thank Him for that miracle. And then I will pay my respects to Mum and Dad for giving me life and for giving me hope when all seemed lost. And then I will take Wuan to the beach and walk and walk and walk and watch the sun set and rise again together. And then walk some more. I will take her to all my favourite spots and hiking trails and be in communion with Nature, just the two of us. And then walk some more.

If I get back the use of my hands as well, I will get a guitar and serenade her with some of our favourite songs from Bee Gees to Eagles to Whitney Houston. Yes, we are from that era. And then I will cook for her with my own hands. And yes, I will do the cartwheel, just for her. The cartwheel thing is from an e-card that she had sent to me many years ago. I have long forgotten what the content of the card was but it had greatly encouraged and amused me at the same time. Yes, I will do many cartwheels, just for Wuan. And then I will go to Kuala Lumpur and paint the town red with William. It is good to have dreams like that to keep the hopes alive. Thank you, William, for igniting that aspiration in me again.

The photo above is one of those few taken my before my accident. My classmates and I were on the way back from Pantai Kerachut. We were caught in the rain. I am on the right. Pantai Kerachut is one of my favourite beaches. It used to be isolated and pristine. To reach the beach, one has to hike a 4km trail beginning from the Teluk Bahang fishing village.