The truth about angels

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You are sitting in that small room, almost a vigil for the living and the frail. This woman sleeping in the bed, she is not well. She does not seem to want to recover; you fear she is giving up. Every day passes more slowly than the next, the shafts of sunlight that passes through the windows thinning. She is sleeping, your mother, but she is not sleeping well.

You sit at a corner, away from the bed, away from her. She cannot sleep with someone breathing over her head, she has told you, told you this many times. She does not want you to take hold of her hands, caress them with love, she does not want your attention or your care. She is past caring about the tears that stream down your face for hers have long dried up.

She will not pray with you.

She has not eaten in two days.

You hold the good book in your hands, on your lap. You know some pages by heart. Psalms which are songs which are salves, during the worst of it. The angels sing the loudest when they are needed, after all. That’s their job. You remember your mother telling you this when you were a little girl, when you fell down and scraped your knee or when someone at school bullied you. The angels, the heavenly choir, they will sing and they will fix you, my dear, my beloved.

You open your eyes and you look at the woman sleeping in the bed, her face partly hidden by the afternoon shadows. You can scarcely believe this is the same woman who told you that truth about angels. Did you imagine this, did you make it up? Where did the angels go?

She won’t pray with you, this woman who first taught you how to pray, this ailing woman lying in bed, sleeping and stirring, and maybe giving up. She won’t cry any more.

You will. You shiver as you open the book again, and turn its pages. You will allow yourself to cry, to let fresh tears stream down your face, you will love her even if she won’t, you will pray even if she has given up on prayers. You will hope and you will be her strength.

She lies there, this woman, your mother. She is still your strength and suffused with this, and with love, you keep praying.

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34 Replies to “The truth about angels”

  1. @Paul: Uhm, rather not. Mayhaps you’re subconsciously influenced by the memory of Coldplay’s frontman’s wife covering the song ‘Forget You’ by Cee Lo on a certain episode of the musical comedy ‘GLEE’?

    Gotta love Gwyneth Paltrow. Heh.

  2. Sending B much love, thoughts, prayers and strength at her hour of need. May the Angels keep her and her beloved Mom in God’s grace and may the Lord continually keep watch over His flock, especially at this hour of need.

    Much love to you and Devil too! :)

  3. Prayers for your filial friend. Looking after the sick is a tough job, and often a great test. Strength, love and patience be with her always.

  4. @Camemberu: Maybe one of life’s greatest tests. It’s a sacrifice when one gives up something of value to oneself (e.g. time, freedom) for someone whom one values even more.

    Yet I believe there is some grace to be found in the daily grind of caring.

  5. While I know this isn’t about me…

    I just got a new job at a lighting design firm; which is amazing. And of course it happened the same week my mom had surgery on her spine and I found out it’s deteriorating after a much-disheartening conversation with the neurosurgeon.

    I’ve stayed with her several nights. Begged her to stay with me, to make it easier. Since the commute is killing me, and the constant care of someone who doesn’t care about themselves is draining (we have, I believe, spoken of this before). This will (already has) affected my new exciting development toward a career I want, deserve, etc.

    Strange our connection my friend, after so many years. While I haven’t been in touch much as of late; it is your observations of others, and expression of your own ideas and happenings that continue to enlighten me, and remind me to be “connected”.

  6. @Brienne: Heya!! I’m so happy to hear from you, my dear. (And to be honest, I’ve been remiss in terms of keeping touch too.)

    It’s a nice coincidence that you got a new job at a lighting design firm (congrats!) as one of my good friends had also moved into such a job from a project management role so she can return to her true passion – design. May you have many fantastic learning and creative experiences with your work.

    My prayers go out to your mother – I know it hasn’t been easy on her, and on you. And you have been through so much already, and survived. I think this is why I keep writing. That I’ve been fortunate enough to meet great people like you who are so strong and tenacious in your pursuit of life, love and happiness – it reminds me never, ever to give up on my own pursuit either.

    May you and your loved ones be well, always.

    *HUGS*

  7. Written with magic as usual, Kenny, but hope and wish you’r friend will find better days with her dear mum.

    Will try praying for her as well, although it’s been a while since a bad boy like me spoke with the boss..

    All the best!

  8. it sounds like her mother did a wonderful job, raising her to become the woman she is. i haven’t had to confront what she has, but the extent of her compassion and strength is inspiring.

  9. @Sean: This element actually came up during the dinner conversation last night with a couple of friends – how some people we meet may behave poorly due to lack of manners, i.e. not being raised properly or in Cantonese “mo ka kao”.

    And I’ve found this, at least partially, to be true – that we are a reflection of our upbringing to some degree. My friend’s had a sound education, in this matter, and if I ever had children, I could do well to hope and do as well as her mother has.

  10. B is a godsend. I truly admire her and hope should the need arises, I have her strength and faith to do the right thing.

  11. @gfad: May we all have the strength and faith to face whatever comes our way with grace and, yes, gratitude. For everything in life, I’ve learned, is a blessing. We just need enough of distance and hindsight to see this is true.

  12. I’ve often thought about this; how far I’d go to care for loved ones should illness strike them down. I’m still working through to an answer but your friend’s strength is disarming and inspiring.

  13. @minchow: I believe this is how sharing our stories with each other helps – who better to inspire us than the folks we love but also complete strangers? Proves good is good is good whoever you or they may be.

  14. Sometimes, we are a better parent to our parents, than they are to us. And I’m not sure where it comes from- loyalty, grace, empathy, pity, obligation; maybe a loving combination thereof.

    What your friend is doing is brave. It is something I sort of fear- to give up my dreams…

    It’s admirable. And shows a great deal of respect and gratitude for her mother. I know for me; it’s the version of my mother that taught me about the “angels” that I’m caring for when I sit with her. It is not who she is now, that motivates me to reciprocate much.

    I hope B finds moments to care for herself too.

  15. @Brienne: It’s what life is, isn’t it? That we get our turn to “parent” our parents as they did for us when we were younger.

    It may not be the easiest of roles to accept, but it is a decision we make, if we do make it. Our own motivations, our own angels, our memories and our love for our parents.

    And you hit on something I nearly forgot – that we have to take care of ourselves too, if we are to care for others. Thank you.

  16. it is sad and dishearting to look after someone who has given up hope for themselves. I admire your friend for her strength for doing that. May the angels be around to help B to stay strong and take excellent care of B and her mom.

  17. @lena: I believe that’s what hope is – the belief that our loved ones will respond to our ministrations and recover the appetite for life. That’s what hope is, and what drives it are the twin angels of love and faith. Angels we could do with.

    Thank you for your wishes, dear.

  18. but parenthood is still a double-edged sword. i sometimes am sorry to be missing what seems to be the essential life experience of having children, but at other times, i feel relieved, because i fear that any child i have will break my heart. and as we all know from experience, there are so many factors beyond a parent’s control when it comes to what a child will grow up to become. but in your friend’s case here, she’s one of the good ones, clearly, whom anyone would be lucky to have as a daughter, a sister or a friend…

  19. yeah, that’s one fear i think all of us can relate to. but then again, having children doesn’t mean that they’ll love us back or pay attention to us when they grow up. besides, it wouldn’t be the right motivation to have children mainly because we’re afraid of some sort of emotional deprivation when we get older, i think. in the end, i guess we just gotta deal with our circumstances, whatever they are. if we have kids, try our best to make sure they are loved appropriately. and if we don’t, then we try to make sure that WE are loved appropriately? :D

  20. @Sean: True. We gotta love ourselves first, most of all.

    Plus, kids are EXPENSIVE. I heard from my Singaporean pals it may cost SGD 1 million to raise a child from birth till his/her tertiary education is completed. Yikes.

  21. Dearest Kenny, Kenneth, Camemberu, Ernst, Sean, GFAD, Minchow, Unkaleong, Brienne, & Lena,

    No words can express my sincere thanks & gratitude for your encouragement, wishes, kind words & prayers. May God bless all of you abundantly always.

    I am who/what I am because my mum & dad had raised & taught me well.

    I’m sharing with all of you the lyrics of my parents’ fave song by Martina Mcbride. I’m sure that if my mum can read this post & comments today, this will be what she wanna share with you.

    In my daughter’s eyes I am a hero
    I am strong and wise and I know no fear
    But the truth is plain to see
    She was sent to rescue me
    I see who I wanna be
    In my daughter’s eyes

    In my daughter’s eyes everyone is equal
    Darkness turns to light and the
    world is at peace
    This miracle God gave to me
    gives me strength when I am weak
    I find reason to believe
    In my daughter’s eyes

    And when she wraps her hand
    around my finger
    It puts a smile in my heart
    Everything becomes a little clearer
    I realize what life is all about

    It’s hangin’ on when your heart
    has had enough
    It’s giving more when you feel like giving up
    I’ve seen the light
    It’s in my daughter’s eyes

    In my daughter’s eyes I can see the future
    A reflection of who I am and what will be
    Though she’ll grow and someday leave
    Maybe raise a family
    When I’m gone I hope you see how happy
    she made me
    For I’ll be there
    In my daughter’s eyes

  22. @B: That’s a lovely song, dear. May you continue to find strength every day.

    P.S. There have been many well wishes on my Facebook link to this post too. Allow me some time to gather them up and email them to you. *hugs*

  23. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. You write beautifully and I cannot agree more you never know what you have until you don’t have it anymore.

    Since my Mum passed away who was the last member of my family I have realised these words more and more. Luckily for me I have a very caring husband but no blood relations left and we have no children!.

  24. @Dianne: For me, I still have my parents, my sister and her teenage kids around – and I’m grateful every day for this, even though they live in a different state. At the very least we get to meet once a month and spend some time together.

    The rest (and bulk) of the time though, I spend it with my partner and our friends here in the city, and it’s a very blessed life we share.

    Thanks for dropping a comment; I appreciate it.

  25. Hi Kenny, first time visiting your blog. This is a very touching post. I know what is it like to see your love one suffer without able to doing anything. Many a times, when a person is very sick and suffers, they tends to want to distant themselves from all their love ones because they felt they are a bother to them. I am speaking through my own experience. When this happens, it pains those who love them. I wish your friend, B solace and peace in the hardest time moment taking care of her mum and I pray for her mum’s speedy recovery. You are such a great friend to her. KUDOS to you!

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