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Sunday, 08 January 2017 00:00

I want to live to my 100s

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, Kl & Selangor / Translated by Chew Chiau Ping

Care recipient Loh Mee Ping (centre) only wished to have more time to experience as much of this world as she can, and be an inspiration to others. [Photograph by Leong Chian Yee

Many will make New Year’s resolutions as they usher in a new year. Sixty-four-year-old Loh Mee Ping reiterated the same wish year after year, that is, to live life to the fullest. To her, she simply hopes for more time to experience as much of this world as she can, and be an inspiration to others.


“That year, my mother in her 80s was ailing in hospital. I would drop by the hospital every day to have my wound dressing changed before visiting her. We would spend some time together, and it was usually well past 11 pm when I got home. The agony we went through day after day was too much for her. ‘Why don’t we jump down from the building to end all suffering,’ she suggested out of desperation…”

On stage stood the white-haired Mee Ping, with an umbrella in one hand to support her frail body. The audience listened intently as she continued, “I told my mum that I don’t want to die. Why should I? For years, I have received help from so many people. I want to live, and not end my life this way!”

Her great mental toughness moved the hearts of the audience. With nerves of steel, Mee Ping had chosen to rise above and beyond her adversity to love and embrace life.

Live life with courage

The Lunar New Year celebration for care recipients held at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall on January 8, 2017, had special significance for Mee Ping. It marked her first sharing on stage after coming into contact with Tzu Chi for 12 years. Her life’s story had restored hope among care recipients, whom like her, suffered their fair share of misery.

At the age of 19, Mee Ping came down with prolonged fever and painful aching bones, but no doctor could give her a diagnosis. The symptoms persisted, and finally, she was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), an incurable auto-immune disease. A severe attack often left her in excruciating pain.

When her mother learnt from the nurse that the disease was incurable, she sneaked Mee Ping out from the hospital to seek treatment elsewhere. Unfortunately, other specialists also gave her the same answer, that is, she could only take medication to relieve symptoms of SLE, but there is no cure.

Although feeling sad, Mee Ping had no choice but to deal with her illness. Since then, she saw her doctor regularly, and would take more than 20 tablets coupled with oxygen therapy every day, while hoping for a permanent cure to come soon. To provide for her mother, she had to endure much pain working as a clerk in textile shop.

Time flew by as Mee Ping juggled between hospital and work. At the age of 40-plus, the disease had spread to her bones, leading to arm muscle atrophy and blocked leg arteries. She frequented the hospital to treat sores on her legs, which required special dressing and protection with special socks.

As the socks impeded her mobility, she had to quit her job to focus on treatment instead. Unfortunately, despite constant visits to the hospital, there was wasting of her limbs which also became gangrenous. She became fully dependent on her mother. Even a task as simple as wearing socks was too daunting for her.

Although those treatments yielded little improvement, she was not ready to give up. She visited the hospital more frequently, and instead of hailing a taxi, she chose to walk a longer route to catch a bus to save on transport fares.

In 2005, her friend sympathized with her predicament, and referred her case to Tzu Chi. When volunteers visited Mee Ping, they learnt that she had received a sum of donation from newspaper appeal and that could last her for some time. Volunteers were deeply moved by the fact that Mee Ping’s mother still accompanied her to hospital daily despite her old age. Although an aid was not necessary at that time, volunteers continued to visit and befriended the mother and daughter.

“I am thankful to have these sisters from Tzu Chi, who are always a phone call away. Their monthly visit became my mum’s happiest moment. They would listen to her, share coffee, and even compliment her.”

Their presence had cheered up the elderly’s gloomy days and brought a sense of comfort to Mee Ping. By 2007, Mee Ping had almost used up the public donation received earlier. After due assessment, Tzu Chi began subsidizing her medical and transportation fees so that she could continue with the much needed treatment.

That year also saw Mee Ping and her mother’s first participation in Tzu Chi’s Lunar New Year celebration for care recipients. The joy on her mother’s face was still fresh in her mind. Just like a child, she would clap gleefully seeing the lion dance, God of Prosperity, and other programmes. A sign language performance of “We Are Family” deeply moved Mee Ping.

It was a joyous occasion having a scrumptious meal together with other care recipients. The family-like feeling had kept them coming to the reunion every year, except for a few unavoidable occasions.

Cherish every single day

“Tzu Chi had not only brought us the warmth of a family, but also taught me how to help others.” Upon learning from a video footage that a mere 50 cents when accumulated could help others, Mee Ping and her mother immediately signed up as Tzu Chi donors, pledging a monthly donation of RM5.

Mee Ping also started saving in a bamboo bank and would return it to volunteers once it had been filled up. A visit to the recycling point near her house had made her realize the importance of environmental protection. Since then, she and her mother would visit a local market to hunt for recyclables. But the load was simply too heavy for them. Soon, they turned to their neighbours to promote Tzu Chi’s Recycling Day that falls on the third Sunday of every month. Occasionally, some neighbours would send recyclables to her house. Despite her physical limitation, Mee Ping would try her best to flatten the aluminium cans and stack the newspapers neatly.

On Recycling Day, Mee Ping would carry bags of recyclables collected and limp her way to the recycling point using an umbrella as her walking stick. Soon, the load became overwhelming, and volunteers offered to pick up recyclables from her house instead.

Mee Ping was glad to contribute within her own means. Sickness and hospital aside, she had found great joy through recycling.

At the time when Mee Ping’s mother was sick and distressed, volunteers began to visit them more often. During one Lunar New Year, they even brought a guitar along to sing for her. On one of the reunion lunches, volunteers explained in detail the preparation of each dish as they were served. Mee Ping’s mother, who did not eat much, had an unusual appetite that day. The delicious taste lingered in her tongue, as she could recall vividly whenever volunteers mentioned that meal. “The vegetarian fish in sweet and sour sauce was the best,” she gleefully recalled. Much to Mee Ping’s relief, those suicidal thoughts that had once haunted her mother, were replaced with fond memories.

Wish to live to 100s

Looking back at her long battle with sickness, Mee Ping was surprised at how much she had to be grateful for. Two years ago, her mother, who was in her 90s, passed away. Living all alone now, Mee Ping chose to live a purposeful life instead of dwelling on her own sorrow.

Without her mother to help around the house, she had to deal with each chore slowly. Last year, she could barely walk due to pain in her knee that was operated before. The doctor suggested that she stayed in a nursing home to ease her commute to hospital. After a month in nursing home, an inner voice said to her, “I just can’t stay here waiting to be nursed. There are so much to do, like recycling, and so on. I must stand up and show the kids my fighting spirit.”

The children she was referring to were students from Da Ai Kindergarten, whose teachers often organized visits to Mee Ping’s home, hoping that the children could learn from her resilience in the face of adversity, and at the same time, bring her joy. When Mee Ping talked about her battle with sickness, the children would sing praises of her courage, giving her a renewed sense of purpose.

Finally, Mee Ping was convinced by that inner voice to check out from the nursing home. At home, she began a gruelling practice to slowly stand and walk. After numerous attempts, the pain eventually subsided, and she resumed her usual routine: commute between hospital and home, do recycling, save in her bamboo bank, tell the children stories, and others.

“If I can stay undaunted despite the ordeals, you too, can do it. Don’t give up easily. We must live our lives to the fullest. I used to pray that I could live to my 80s, but now I am hoping for 100s!” Mee Ping shared firmly that the additional 20 years are meant for her to do more recycling, help more people in need, and inspire more people to cherish their lives. Her determination received a warm round of applause from the audience.

Not only did Mee Ping rise above adversities, but she also gives within her means. As she emptied her savings into an urn at the bamboo bank corner, the crisp sound of coins reminded her of the joy of giving. Life is great, and helping others makes it even better!

 

Tzu Chi volunteers started caring for Loh Mee Ping (left) and her mother (2nd right) in 2005.[Photograph by Casy Lau Chun Nee]   Photo shows Loh Mee Ping’s mother smiled brightly as volunteers greeted her at the 2008 Lunar New Year celebration for care recipients. [Photograph by Lim Chin Tong]

Tzu Chi volunteers started caring for Loh Mee Ping (left) and her mother (2nd right) in 2005.[Photograph by Casy Lau Chun Nee]
 
Photo shows Loh Mee Ping’s mother smiled brightly as volunteers greeted her at the 2008 Lunar New Year celebration for care recipients. [Photograph by Lim Chin Tong]
 
Since turning 19, Loh Mee Ping has been battling with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, which required special dressing and protection with special socks. [Photograph by Ten Chee Hean]   Despite the pain of illness, Loh Mee Ping joined Tzu Chi volunteers to raise funds for the earthquake and typhoon victims in Sichuan and Myanmar respectively. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]

Since turning 19, Loh Mee Ping has been battling with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, which required special dressing and protection with special socks. [Photograph by Ten Chee Hean]
 
 
Despite the pain of illness, Loh Mee Ping joined Tzu Chi volunteers to raise funds for the earthquake and typhoon victims in Sichuan and Myanmar respectively. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
Loh Mee Ping has been promoting recycling to her neighbours for years. Some neighbours would also send recyclables to her house. [Photograph by Ten Chee Hean]   Having understood the importance of environmental protection, Loh Mee Ping would try her best to flatten those aluminium cans collected with her weak and stiff hands. [Photograph by Ten Chee Hean]

Loh Mee Ping has been promoting recycling to her neighbours for years. Some neighbours would also send recyclables to her house. [Photograph by Ten Chee Hean]
 
 
Having understood the importance of environmental protection, Loh Mee Ping would try her best to flatten those aluminium cans collected with her weak and stiff hands. [Photograph by Ten Chee Hean]
 
By saving a little money into the bamboo bank each day, Loh Mee Ping is able to help others within her own means. [Photograph by Ch’ng Kooi Tick]  

By saving a little money into the bamboo bank each day, Loh Mee Ping is able to help others within her own means. [Photograph by Ch’ng Kooi Tick]