Sunday, 24 June 2007

Stranger than Fiction

Some time back, teo sew chin, a blogger had passed a remark, " ..... only you would laugh at death", or something like that.
Little did he know how true those words were.
I had long ago, lost this "fear of death" thingy ..... today, it is more of "respect for life", that actually drives me.

When I had passed out of Med-school, I strangely felt a little "out of place" around my class mates/ colleagues who were "brimming with a sense of achievement" - I somehow couldn't think like them. In fact, I felt "small", thinking of the years ahead, and the prospect of having the responsibility in determining the survival of real people/ human beings.
It was probably all those years of "soul-searching" during my student days that made me think and feel quite "different".
When I had finished my housemanship, I still felt inadequate despite the horrendous calls and long hours of work (once, during the "coxsackie" epidemic - after 72 hrs at a stretch, I slept standing during rounds with Prof. Husin - of course, I got punished for it!).
Despite the fact that I was offered a place at a small hospital with relaxed work, I opted to be transfered to JB hospital, which was grossly understaffed, and notorious for overwork! All becos I just needed to know more about handling illnesses.
When I moved to the medical & emergency postings, I really learnt what it was all about - the "YYYYESSSS" feeling of elation, when you've really saved a life becos you made the right diagnosis and all the right calls. (Of course, the frustration of failure is very humbling - especially during "mortality meetings" - when we take stock, and discuss on what might have been should we have made different calls at that point in time, with the luxury of hindsight.)
Nope - I never felt like "god", but the feeling was close (what a boost for the ego!).
It was then that I knew that what I had learnt, was all worth it.
To me that was my "graduation" and my "convocation".
I really thank God, that never once did I panic, although I was scared shitless (although keeping a calm demeanor outside) on numerous occasions with my heart pounding at 160/min!
Although, I simply loved the work in the public sector (being a treasure trove of knowledge), sadly, I had to quit due to disillusionment with the "system".

Having stared at death in the face for years, having brought life back into these guys, somehow the fear of death is diminished.

I have always been so taken up by children, who face death with a calmness that is rarely seen in adults. While working in the Haematology ward with leukemic patients, it is really heartbreaking at times to see children suffer.
One child, no more than 6 years old, once asked me how long she had, while I was doing a spinal tap - she kept insisting on an answer, and I couldn't run in the middle of the procedure! That's when I "magically" started telling a fairy tale I cooked-up on the spot to calm her down.

I concluded after all these experiences, that it was indeed our "attachments" to this world that makes us fear the "hereafter". The fear of losing all that we lived for, all that we loved, all that we have done. A child has no attachments whatsoever, and does not know what death is all about (not that adults know much more) - so the child can still be happy, even on the day before death. Adults on the other hand would brood over death, and probably cry becos he's gonna lose all the beautiful thing that life has to offer, with no opportunity to make it any better.

The sad part is, most adults have very short memories - when they are given a new lease of life, they would initially become a "changed man" and soon revert to what he was, no longer appreciating this gift of life.
Stranger than fiction - the Movie, is really something to think about ....

This guy comes face-to-face with his destiny, and in the end accepts that it would be inevitable.

How would I have actually reacted to knowing that my death would be inevitable soon?
It was a thought that I had once played in my mind ........ especially when I once thought that I was on my deathbed.
At that moment in time, I was strangely calm.
It was indeed a moment of "awakening" ................ it was almost like I was ready to embrace was was served to me.
At that moment, a lot of walls came tumbling down - all the prejudices, values and ideas that I held for dear life didn't really mean much.
One song that played itself in my head was Losing my Religion by REM - it was to an extent the very sentiment that I felt

Losing My Religion

Life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour I'm
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up

Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I've said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

Oh yes, I had my fair share of preachers coming to me and asking me to repent. They even "threatened" hellfire, when I was practically bedridden.
Believe me ..... these guys are real scum of the earth, waiting to pounce on you in your moment of vulnerability.
Initially, I was actually quite diplomatic with these guys, not arguing theology with them. i let them blabber away all their nonsense, until I was "given a choice"!
Holy cow man! These guy, actually decided to play God and give me a choice between heaven and hell! He wouldn't give up despite me having chosen hell, if he could decide!
Since he actually asked for it, with what little energy I had, I decided to play his game - thank goodness he realized that he was trying to fool the wrong person, and sheepishly withdrew by wishing me peace.

These guys who talk about religion never fail to amaze me with their ignorance of Life. They do not understand the concept of love and brotherhood. They are however very good at playing God and instilling fear of the unknown into you.

To me, God lives within me.

I'll never forget what Fr. Walter told me in my time of emotional distress and searching ......

He said, "Do you think you will find God when you come to church regularly? Or is it when you say your prayers? Or is it when you do 'penance' by fasting? No, my man! Go into the world, face the challenges in life, do good to others - then you will find God! The temples, mosques, churches and synagogues are only for fellowship and for the weak who need support. You on the other hand are made for greater things ......"
With that message, he "chased" me out of the church hostels .............

It took me years to realize how true his words were ...............