Source: THK太和观 @ Facebook
The social worker, Karen, traced, checked and got in touch with the nursing home. Upon his request, Karen sought the help of THKMS’s Volunteer Management’s Manager, Patrick. Patrick, in turn called me informing me of this. Why not, I thought. We arranged it to be on today, 3pm.
2.30pm, I looked up the skies. It was grey. Thunders roaring. I had to go to be on time. Navigated my way out of the standard route, got there at 3pm sharp. Skies started to clear up. Thanks to the God I believe in. I went up to the Centre. Patrick and Karen were already there waiting for me. We sourced for some stuffs which we can use to throw at Mr Lim when we reach his flat. No, not that we are playing punk. Neither were we trying anything childish. Mr Lim is a completely deaf elderly. Did I mention that he is also blind in one eye? We needed something that we can catch his attention from his flat’s entrance. In the end, we settled for papers that we could crush and throw.
The flat is simple. White walls and decent furniture. We heard clinking sounds from the flat. I peeked in and saw Mr Lim meddling with some stuffs I could not see what they were. He walked in a pace of his age, to the other end of the flat where we can see him clearly. A petite old man with colourful decorations on his hands. Patrick threw a piece of paper in which missed him, and his attention. I gave it a try, only to see the crushed paper reaching his feet while he walked away at the same time. We stood there waiting for him to turn around, when his neighbour from his diagonally opposite flat opened his/her door to check on the ruckus from the corridor. We did not pay much attention to him/her, until he/she decided to slam the door shut to expression his/her frustration, shaking the religious symbol that was hanging on the wall in the process. I learnt from Karen that Mr Lim’s neighbours are not very tolerant of him, and have made a couple of complains on him to the housing authority. Being someone with a soft heart for elderly, I felt the pain in my heart.
Mr Lim finally saw us, smiled and opened his door without questioning our presence. Karen took out a clipboard with papers, wrote in Chinese to him, “ 看太太”.He nodded his head, turned around to his bed. As we wonder why, we saw him putting on rings onto his fingers. Oh, and not forgetting that clinking sounds were from both his hands full of jade bangles. After a good 5 minutes or so, Mr Lim finished decorating his fingers. He wore literally 5 fingers full of rings on his left hand and grabbing a piece of jade on his left palm, leaving only his right hand free. Necklace was a chain hanging on his neck, bundling his keys together. Karen reminded him of his need to bring along his identity card. He walked back in, brought out 2 bankbooks with his identity card and ezi-link card in one of them and handed them to Karen. This is how trusting he is to his caregiver.
He got in the car, made our way over to the nursing home. Informed the office of his visit, showed the IDs and stuffs and they advised us the level, room and bed number. Reached the room, we saw his wife lying in bed motionless. Mr Lim walked up to her, with a bright smile on his face. He stood there, just watching his wife as she let out a soft scream to express her excitement. Excitement to finally see her husband after 3 years. They could not converse. Mrs Lim is too weak to talk. Mr Lim is deaf on both ears to hear. But their eyes showed their communication, in their spiritual level that we can never comprehend. The kind nurse in the room brought a chair for him, and Karen wrote to tell him to sit down and spend time with her. Mr Lim sat down, and we left them alone to have their own time. That was not before I secretly snapped some photos of their reunion.
We left them alone for a while. We chatted while we were outside the room. Karen is a fresh graduate from HongKong, and this is her first job after her graduation. I admire her drive to be a social worker. It is indeed a job that is getting too little attention from the society. Time to time, I sneaked into the room, trying to snap some photos of Mr Lim’s reunion with his wife. I got to know from Mr Lim and Karen that Mrs Lim was sent to the nursing home after a fall that happened 3 years back, and Mr Lim hasn’t seen her since until today. I feel so much about this; I wanted to post this experience immediately onto my Facebook. But wait, I told myself. Let me get back and do a more decent write up with photos and details.
It was almost time. Karen wrote to Mr Lim asking if he wants to go home. Mr Lim stood up quickly, stroke his wife on the head with affection in his eyes. He waved goodbye to her, with Mrs Lim looking towards his directions. We then proceed to send him back home. The journey back was quiet. While I am not sure if this is a common scenario that Patrick and Karen face everyday, this is certainly a good experience for me. I looked upon myself, my surroundings. Things start to look bright to me. After sending Mr Lim back to his flat, Patrick, Karen and myself parted ways. I have to get back to office, Patrick is going back to the family service centre, and Karen has her other places to go. I drove back, with the scenes etched in my memory.
Throughout my life, I’ve met a considerable number of people. Customers, friends, buddies, fellow volunteers, leaders, workers, gangsters, religious people, atheists and more. More often than not, we look at ourselves more than we look at others. We look at how are we going to pay for our next holiday, our next hip gadgets, our shoes, our watches, belts, bags and so many more I couldn’t finish typing here. Perhaps we should put aside our smart phones and take a serious look around us. Ask ourselves if the world is as beautiful as we always see it to be? There are people waiting for their next meal, waiting to buy their next 3-for-$10 t-shirt to replace the worn and torn ones that they are wearing. Waiting to even take a late night bus home after bleeding profusely from a bad fall, because taking a cab is out of the question for their financial situation (yes, and I’ve seen 1 real life case before). For Mr Lim, seeing his wife again after separating for 3 years seem to be his only hope. I am glad I can be part of the group that is fulfilling his wish.
Around us, we see shouting parents, nasty customers who put their newly purchased assets in the centre of their world, stuck-up yuppies, self-pity individuals who complained about having to queue to have their dinner at Ichiban Sushi. In the course of making ourselves feel good, have we actually neglected the worst-than-us cases that are as near as the next block that we are living in? Let us wake up our brain a little, whack it and think about things out of what we usually see. The world will be so much better if empathy is on others instead of us.
I am not sure how this story is going to affect others, but this trip has definitely made me a better person.