Hearing his story (and having interviewed him), I wondered to myself: “How does he really feel about his chequered life?” He’s spent almost half his adult life in prison, being jailed several times – two of those times for stretches of more than 10 years each time.
Here he is now, 67-years old, battled-scarred, inflicted with several very serious medical conditions. He can barely walk nowadays.
“I was a satanist,” he tells me, as his eyes brighten up. “I used to worship ‘666’, the mark of the devil,” he says with some pride. “When you call the devil, he comes immediately.” Yet here he is today, decades later, having to rely on charity to survive. He no longer glorifies Lucifer but Jesus Christ. The church now is his daily haunt – his last bastion of hope as he lives his life out.
Now, he awaits an operation to relieve the pain on his right knee so he can walk better.
The tears fall as she recounts to me the situation her mother is in. Stage 4 cancer. Her mom now undergoes chemotherapy but the prognosis isn’t good. It is a relapse of the condition her mom had years ago. She, herself, is undergoing some personal situation which is tearing her insides apart.
What do you do for someone whose heart is, before your very eyes, being shattered to a thousand pieces? You can’t do much, really, except to silently pray in your heart that she will persevere.
And she will – just as she has these last few years when she was put through trying times as well.
I have just finished reading the book by Loh Kah Seng, a friend of mine, called: Making and Unmaking the Asylum. It is a book about the history of leprosy in Singapore and Malaysia. I highly recommend it.
The word “leprosy” has always frightened me when I was a kid. I’d heard it tossed around. And pictures of men and women without fingers or toes or limbs frightened me. Stigma is a terrible thing, especially the stigma of disease.
What drew me, in the book, was the mention of children who were admitted to these asylums or leprosariums. I can only imagine the fear and confusion these children must have felt being housed together with older patients whose conditions were much worse than theirs. What is more unimaginable is that these children – some of them – would end up spending all their lives in the homes, afflicted by a disease dreaded by all and sundry.
How would I feel if I were any of those kids?
It is a terrifying thought.
When real life presents itself in front of you, you become silent. All your little, insignificant, petty concerns fade away, melting into nothingness as you realise that there are people out there, including children, who struggle just to live an ordinary life – one which those of us fortunate enough to have, live it without even realising how lucky we are. Yet, they strive on. While it pains you that they are suffering, they also leave you with admiration for their spirit.
It is a humbling thing – to come face to face with those whose personal stories reach into you and wake you up, making you realise that what you are complaining about incessantly is nothing but selfish and insignificant. In fact, a complete waste of energy which could be spent in better ways.
Real life gives real perspectives.
They indeed humble you.