Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lessons in life from an elderly couple

Faithful even in adversity

I had the opportunity to visit an elderly couple recently whom I had not met for many years. The husband, whom I addressed as Uncle, is an elderly gentleman in his eighties but he was physically healthy and fit. His wife is in her late seventies and paralyzed and blind for the last 10 years or so. She lives confined to her room which she shares with her husband.

We made a prior telephone appointment to visit them and as expected Uncle was eagerly waiting at the gate to greet me and my wife. His action was a lesson on punctuality which is rarely seen these days. I was surprised with the radiant smile on his face which reflected the feelings in his heart. I was in for greater surprise on meeting his wife in her room. Although she could not move out of her chair or see us, she was full of cheer on meeting us. She appeared pleasantly surprised at our presence. Their hospitality even in their times of difficulty was unbelievable and it touched us very much.

We talked for a long time about the past and they readily shared their experiences in their lives with us. They are staunch believers in God but they could not understand why He had to ‘punish’ them with such bitter experiences in their lives, ending up by being lonely and handicapped at this advanced age. Although they could not understand why God has led them to the state they are in today but they contend that He knows what He is doing and that He is always right.

The Uncle does everything for the wife, feeding, bathing, attending to her calls of nature and above all keeping her company 24 hours a day without fail, with the aid of a maid who happens to be very wonderful person. He says he is so blessed to have such a caring maid and he is so worried as she will be leaving soon after being with them for seven years. According to the Uncle, his wife looks for him every now and then and he can hardly leave her alone to attend to the household chores.

His ‘job’ demands his full attention day after day throughout the year. There is no such as taking leave to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work like what we do. His greatest fear is what will happen to his handicapped wife if he is suddenly called to the Lord. That fear really makes him shiver with fright and occasionally breaks down and cries. If that happens not all the money and wealth that he may have is going to help her in this cruel world.

It made me reflect on the many foolish things we do in life to accumulate money and wealth much more than we really need. Most of these acts are driven by greed and selfishness in the process we compromise on our principles and lose our compassion for fellow men. We buy huge insurance policies for our spouse and children to make them comfortable when we leave them. But if we end up like these elderly couple, no number of such policies is going to give them the security and reassurance like our own physical presence.

In a world that is driven by greed and lust this elderly couple stand out as a shining example of love and faithfulness between a husband and wife. The husband never complained about having to take care of his disabled wife all by himself. Instead he is taking it in a stride as his sacred duty; he has done it for ten long years and is willing to continue doing so till death does them apart.

Meanwhile his wife despite being bedridden and blind for the past ten years, she is so cheerful and treasures every moment of her life with the man she loves. She is full of praise for her him saying that he never abandons her and never fails to be there when it matters most. She doesn’t curse and swear for the condition she is in but happily accepted it as a ‘blessing’ in disguise from God.

The Uncle then gave me his Ten principles for Peace of Mind which were derived from the various bitter experiences in his life of over 80 years. These are:

1. Do Not Interfere In Others' Business Unless Asked.
2. Forgive And Forget
3. Do Not Crave For Recognition
4. Do Not Be Jealous
5. Change Yourself According To The Environment
6. Endure What Cannot Be Cured
7. Do Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
8. Meditate Regularly
9. Never Leave The Mind Vacant
10. Do Not Procrastinate And Never Regret

After spending about an hour with this fabulous elderly couple we left rather enlightened that there are much more to learn and endure in life. Life is not about making money and enjoying ourselves but to make others happy even if may your own spouse.

The next day I was surprised to receive an E-mail from the Uncle which read, “Thank you very much for being a special part of our life” and he attached a beautiful and inspiring poem by Rabindranath Tagore in his 'My Philosophy in Life' which a enclose below.

'MY Philosophy in Life'

Go not to the temple to put flowers at the feet of God. First fill your own house with the fragrance of love.

Go not to the temple to light candles at the altar of God First remove the darkness of sin from your heart

Do not go to the temple to bow down your head in prayer First learn to bow in humility before your fellow men

Go not to the temple to pray on your bended knee First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden

Do not go to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you

Rabindranath Tagore

I do not know whether I can ever emulate this elderly man with regards to his attitude towards his paralyzed and blind wife. I do not know whether I can emulate his wife by being so cheerful under the circumstances like she is in. What I have learnt from them is that I must try as that is what being a human is all about.

Dr.Chris Anthony

1 comment:

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