Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Missed Call

I received a missed call on my hand phone in early February. It was P and I knew the purpose of the call. It was about church. Everytime I missed attending for several weeks, she would invite me again. She had done this faithfully for the past two years. In early 2005 when Alix was 3 months and Shane just 2, I started thinking about attending a church within walking distance of my home so that I could bring the crayolas along with minimal inconvenience. One evening, on my way home from the MRT station, I noticed a sign tacked outside an ordinary looking terrace. On the sign, were times for church services.

The congregation was small about 50. In their pamphlet, they promised not to “prod” and they welcomed the “unchurched”. During the worship session, I heard the most beautiful expression of a traditional hymn that I knew. The hymn was How Great Thou Art and it was sung by the entire congregation in Hokkien. Something in me felt that this was what I was searching for.It was here that I met P. On our first meeting, she told me abouther life story. About her older child Lincoln from a previous marriage,aged 11, who was autistic and her younger child, Faithbeline who was conceived after several miscarriages. Her doctor had advised her to stop attempting for a child due to a blood incompatibility between her husband and her. But they persisted in faith and Faithbeline was the miracle.

As if that wasn't hard enough, when Faithbeline was still a baby, P had a stroke. Somehow, she managed to pull through and take care of both her children without any additional help.

We were the same age. I marvelled at her optimism. In the lottery of circumstances, I was much more privileged with no major health setbacks. And yet she was telling me about the goodness of God?

In the weeks and months which followed, I attended church whenever it suited my convenience. I wasn’t regular with my attendance. During the times I showed up, P always welcomed me to sit with her during service. Our children played together. Her husband doted on Faithbeline and carried her throughout the service. P told me that ever since her husband’s conversion, he stopped drinking and her family would attend church 3 or 4 evenings in a week not including the sunday service.

I admired P's simple but strong faith. She had endured so much suffering. When I sat with her, I felt sheltered. We were collectively under an umbrella of God’s protection and things would be ok no matter how stormy the weather.


After the missed call, the phone rang again. This time I picked it up.

“I just want to let you know that Faithbeline is in hospital. She has a chest infection. The doctors also say that she has a hole in the heart. When her chest gets better, the doctor says they will do surgery to repair the heart. She is now in an isolated ward because her immunity is very low."

The next call was a few days later. It was the third day of Chinese NewYear.

“Is Faithbeline discharged from hospital? Sorry I didn’t visit. The kids were sick and I did not want to carry the bugs.”

“She is still in hospital. We have been here more than a week. We want to go home. The hospital aircon is very cold. Say hello to Aunty Carrie.”

“Hello Aunty Carrie, happy new year”

“Hello Faithbeline!”

“On new year's eve, the doctor gave us 5 hours home leave for reunion dinner. She was sohappy when she got home. My relatives were shocked. They could not recognise her with her face all swollen up. My husband had to carry her. She is only 13.8 kilos.”

“When can she get discharged?”

“Don’t know. They say one two days, maybe one week. I ask them what if morethan a week passes and her condition does not get better….they say she will have to go to ICU.”

The next day, P calls me. Crying.

“She collapsed this morning in the toilet. She is now in ICU.”

I went over to KK at lunch hour. I walked past clinic K where I had seen the haematologist about Alix’s blood results. I remembered the period of anxiety and broke into a cold sweat as I walked into the ICU. As a mother, I cannot think of a valley darker than the ICU of a children’s ward.

Later that night at 3 am, I wake up. I had a missed call from P at 23.37.

At 6 am, the phone rings again. Through the sobs, I hear this ”Faithbeline passed away. The doctor told us to go home to sleep. We were not there when it happened. When I go to hospital, I call her but she did not answer.”

At the funeral service, I saw Gary cry (I have never seen him cry so openly). If it is hard for us to accept, how much more hard is it for P and her husband? Of all people, they could least afford a setback like this. P was a stay at home mother. Faithbeline was everything. They were faithful.

We cry because she reminds us of an older version of Alix.

We cry because you can love your child and want to hold onto them forever but you can run out of time.

I can’t forget the child sized coffin. Her brother had bought a doll and put it inside.

I repent for the many missed calls I’ve felt annoyed at or deliberately ignored from P to attend church with her. For reducing not only her calls but God to an inconvenience.

Her parents bought her new shoes for primary one this year. They will never be worn.


Blogger The Imp said...

it's a sobering story for me. reminds me of what reality is for many. life's never quite fair, and all the more painful in this case for P.

1:20 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

Imp - i can't totally make sense of it too. Thanks for stopping by.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Derek Soon said...

thanks for the chat Carrie. Go in God's grace

3:54 PM  

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