Thursday, 13 March 2014

Immortality - or the lack thereof

I know I haven't written in a's been a crazy few months, as my family can testify. My dear grandmother (or ah ma, as I call - or used to call - her) passed away on the 2nd of February after seven weeks of hospitalisation following a stroke. So she spent Christmas, both the Chinese and English/Western/Gregorian new year in Pantai Hospital. The first three weeks of my time back in KL was mostly spent with her as we took turns looking after her as she was no longer able to sit unaided, let alone stand or walk, and she also lost her powers of speech and swallowing. The photo's from almost a year back, the last time I saw her with her body and mind relatively intact.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Quite a few people ask me about my experience in South Sudan, in particular, how I dealt with so many deaths and usually that of children as young as newborns. There's never an easy way, especially if the little one was admitted for a while and rapport's been built with the child and his/her family. I saw more deaths in a month there than I saw in my previous two years working in major metropolitan Melbourne hospitals. Some (including myself at times) might argue that one has to preserve an emotional detachment, ensure a mental distance, if only to preserve one's sanity. That's the fine line, the balance, between empathy and heartbreak or burn-out. It's hard...and even harder when it's flesh and blood in question.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

How do I resolve this? The knowledge that it is better to let go of a loved one who is in pain or suffering but at the same time trusting that God is sovereign and that it is in His perfect timing that we return to Him? As the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:23, "I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better". There are so many wonderful things, wondrous even, in this world; but they would be easily eclipsed by the joys that await us in the afterlife, and only a lackwit could gloss over all the disappointment, sorrows and injustice that coexist. Besides, it is there that we will finally see Him, our Immortal Beloved, face to face.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'

Grief is a funny to speak. It can be selfish in essence. It can be buried underneath so many layers of the humdrum of daily life but always at the edge of perception like a niggling feeling or an itch that never really goes away. I wish ah ma was still here with us...but I wouldn't wish her to live the rest of her life completely dependent on others for even the most basic necessities of life. No longer able to savour the taste of food or drink, instead being fed questionable-looking fluids through a nasogastric tube. Unable to articulate any thoughts, only able to communicate through frustrated grunts. Bedbound, unable to ambulate to the toilet and having diapers changed by strangers. My God, it's not a fate I would wish on anyone. But still, she may have recovered some semblance of function, albeit at a painfully slow pace. In the end, not my will but Yours be done.

Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If it was part of His plans, He will provide, His grace is always sufficient. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. In good times and in bad. In sickness and in health. For better, for worse.

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