Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wake of a stranger

Attended the wake of a stranger. We didn't know her personally, but she was a fellow volunteer at Gift of Love who passed away suddenly over the last couple of days. From what we've been hearing, Mdm W Wong was there twice to three times a week cooking for the residents, shuttling the sisters around on their errands and driving the ambulance as the need arose. The hole she has left behind is a big one to fill.

But as the Father who led this morning's service did not present a eulogy, neither will I. Instead, like him, I will present my own homily. The circumstances surrounding Mdm W's passing were as such: she'd been complaining of severe pains in her stomach for some time, though she put off seeking medical advice. When the pain finally became unbearable, it was too late. As I understand the story, appendicitis killed her. Her passing was all the more tragic as it might have been avoided with a simple medical procedure, had she sought attention early enough.

Mdm W really did give her all to follow the command of "love your neighbour...", and if more of us did likewise, that could help us solve  a lot of our human social problems. But we also need to remember the follow up to this Mosaic injunction, "... as yourself" (Lev 19:18). Yes, it's good to place other's needs before our own, but if we aren't feeling well, we should love ourselves too, and break off helping others at least long enough to find out what's wrong first, fix the problem, then go back and continue helping others.

We people need to be needed. Being able to lend a hand, or to be depended upon for one thing or another is an uplifting experience, one we wish to continue experiencing. Whether it's bringing food to old folks or consulting worried students after class, it feels good to be able to fill that need and contribute to another person's well-being. But as volunteers and teachers, let's also be mindful of our physical and psychological health, and step back for a while as and when we are tired or sick. There will always be someone else that can fill in for us, so the choice is ours: do we want our position filled temporarily, or permanently?

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