Wednesday, Dec 12th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Saturday, 24 February 2018 00:00

You Light Up My World

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Lee Hung Jiew

Volunteer Tan Hooi Poh (right) gave Shella Chan (left) apples and a red packet, wishing her a blessed New Year. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

If everyone gives a little love, it can turn into abundant love, lighting up the darkness in one’s heart and the world. Shella Chan is grateful for the love of Lord Jesus and Tzu Chi, which fill her life with hope and motivate her to live on.


“Here’s a red envelope to wish you a Happy New Year! And big red apples to wish you peace and safety!” Volunteer Tan Hooi Poh squatted before Shella Chan and delivered her well wishes with smiles.

Sitting on a chair looking down, Shella replied smilingly, “Thank you. No one had really paid attention to me in the past two decades or so. Fortunately, you all came to keep me company.....”

As a believer of Lord Jesus Christ, there is no resentment or anger in her tone, only a slight sigh. Volunteers tried to divert her attention and asked about her New Year resolution. After a moment of thoughts, she said sincerely that her greatest wish is to pray to Lord Jesus daily, for Him to give Tzu Chi volunteers a lot of love, so that the volunteers can spread the love.

Forty-eight-year-old Shella is unable to speak fluently like a normal person, but she expressed intermittently that since Tzu Chi volunteers came to visit and care for her, there were many surprises in her life. For example, on this ninth day of the lunar New Year (February 24, 2018), she was home alone, listening to the radio, thinking that she would spend her Chinese New Year alone. Unexpectedly, volunteers came to visit with food, cookies and mandarin oranges. The warmth instantly brought her over the moon.

A drunken accident

Shella used her atrophied hand to hold the spoon and very slowly fed herself. Volunteers offered to help but she insisted on doing it herself. They praised her independence and offered her words of encouragement. To add to the festive mood, volunteers decided to sing for her.

“I would like to listen to ‘The Moon Represents My Heart’.” Shella requested with a smile. Although the volunteers did not prepare this famous song from the 70s, they quickly searched online using their mobile phones. As the song was being played, it seemed to bring back memories for everyone and they started to sing along. Following that, Shella asked for another song, “Sweet Honey”.

The song echoed indoor and everyone sang while clapping along with the beat. While listening and singing along, it was as if Shella had returned to the past, and she started recollecting the days gone by.

“I sang all these songs. After graduating from secondary school, I came with dad from hometown Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur, and sang in cabarets and nightclubs. We even went to Indonesia. I was very frugal and unwilling to spend my money. I saved up and bought this apartment.”

Old memories vividly returned to her life. Blessed with a beautiful voice and attractive appearance, Shella managed to earn a good sum during the days in Indonesia. Upon returning to Kuala Lumpur, she continued to be a popular singer at cabarets and nightclubs.

Despite the nightlife with alcohol drinking, Shella was not happy at all. She always felt that her family did not understand her, and it was the same with her boyfriend, who did not propose marriage. With all kinds of worries, she drowned her sorrows with alcohol. One night, she got drunk at her workplace and while she was vomiting from a window on the fourth floor, she accidentally fell off the window. Fortunately, she landed on a tree branch, which saved her life.

The accident injured her spine badly, and she also had cerebral haemorrhage. She became paralysed. She was only 22 back then. As she was unable to speak or walk, and had lost the ability to care for herself, she had to rely on her boyfriend to take care of her. At first, she tried to escape from reality by spending over ten hours a day on drama series from the moment she woke up. Later on, she turned to reading the bible to calm her mind, and started to accept and face her own situation.

Through seven years of physiotherapy, acupuncture and massage, Shella’s condition improved and gradually, she was able to stand. However, due to the injury on the spine, she could not lift her neck, so her head remained drooping close to her chest, causing a 90-degree hunchback. At one point, her boyfriend hired an Indonesian maid to take care of her full-time.

Shella revealed that the most gratifying thing was to be able to speak again. Even though she started with a stutter and spoke in utterance, she was able to speak in full sentences gradually. It gave her confidence. Although she knew that her chance for a full recovery was slim, her faith and religious beliefs kept her going.

There is warmth in humanity

“My boyfriend left me after seven years. I didn’t resent it. Instead, I was able to accept it because I still had the Lord’s love. I read the Bible daily and found a lot of love and courage from it.”

Shella informed that after her boyfriend left her, she could no longer afford a maid or any of the therapies. Since then, with her stubborn hands and feet, she has learnt to take care of her daily needs. She recalled the days when she could take a few hours to walk from her living room to the bathroom to shower. Although each movement required extreme effort, she learnt to be independent with a strong will.

In fact, Shella was lucky to always have good Samaritans around. Her neighbour sympathized with her predicament and knowing that she could not cook or buy food from outside, provided her with a meal each day. Her family members have their own lives to maintain, so they could only visit her weekly and bring her some food, which she could keep in the fridge and heat up anytime she needed to eat.

Such lonely days lasted for about 20 years until her predicament was referred to Tzu Chi by the neighbour, who sent her meals, in October 2015. The neighbour felt her loneliness and noticed her difficulty in paying for her utility bills and building management fees.

Tzu Chi volunteers initiated a home visit and were impressed that Shella, with limited mobility, was able to live by herself for nearly two decades. From their conversation, volunteers learnt that her family, neighbours and old classmates had extended help. She was not completely unattended as reported by the neighbour. However, when no one was able to deliver food, she would have to bear with hunger.

Shella revealed that there was once when no one sent food for a week. The fridge was already empty, and she had no choice but to eat garlic and onions to fill her stomach. Fortunately, her family and neighbours brought food in time to save her from starvation.

There is warmth in humankind after all. Shella firmly believed that her sincere daily prayers were heard by Lord Jesus. At the time when she needed most, Lord Jesus sent Tzu Chi volunteers. She knew that Tzu Chi is a Buddhist organization, but she did not mind and welcomed the volunteers with an open heart.

After the home visit and evaluation, it was decided that besides subsidizing Shella’s living expenses, the volunteers would provide her with caring support. Over time, volunteer Lim So Hwa has become her friend. Besides helping to pay her utility bills and building management fees monthly, So Haw would also help to purchase her daily necessities, in addition to making arrangements for her follow-up medical consultations and physiotherapy sessions.

Every bit of love counts

So Hwa related, “Shella mentioned that she had not been to the hospital for treatment for more than ten years. Neither did she go for physiotherapy. She only learnt to walk and stretched her back by holding the iron bar installed earlier for physiotherapy. It broke my heart to hear that. She also complained about the pain in her neck and spine. So we quickly took her to the hospital for X-ray and physiotherapy.”

So Hwa remembered the day when she and fellow volunteers assisted Shella out of her apartment and walked down the stairs, Shella looked like she had been cut off from the outside world for ages and said that it was unimaginable that someone was willing to bring her to the doctor again. What surprised her even more was that it was not a one-time act. The volunteers have since been transporting her to and fro and accompanying her for subsequent follow-up consultations and physiotherapy sessions.

To So Hwa, keeping Shella company for her visits to the hospital is not a problem, as volunteers would take turns and make up for each other in transport arrangements. They are pleased to see Shella’s improvements, from having a hunchback to being able to slightly straighten her back and lift her head slowly; and being able to grab a spoon to feed herself.

Through their conversations, So Hwa learnt that Shella was very lonely, so she invited Hooi Poh and other volunteers to celebrate Shella’s birthday for her. While Shella was having her treatment at the hospital, volunteers would help to clean her house. They also invited medical students to come along for the visits and interact with Shella, encouraging her to walk more with the iron bar as support and to be more active.

The love opened up Shella’s heart. She had always thought that no one would care for her long term, but Tzu Chi volunteers did it and their love touched her heart. Therefore, when So Hwa invited Shella to share her stories with other Chinese care recipients at the lunar New Year celebration for Chinese care recipients at Tzu Chi Setapak Community Centre on February 4, 2018, Shella agreed unhesitatingly.

On the day of sharing, Shella was on her wheelchair. Besides talking about the preciousness of life, she mentioned the continuous care given by Tzu Chi volunteers all these years. In fact, her neighbours and family have been helping her too. With a little love from everyone, her life is filled with abundant love, making her to feel good to be alive.

She said, “Because of love, I feel alive. True love is very important. Without true love, I have no life. The Lord Jesus and Tzu Chi volunteers have given me true love and made me truly happy.”

Shella firmly believed that it was because Lord Jesus and Tzu Chi volunteers did not give up on her that she could spend every day in peace. She learnt that one must give and learn to love others before one can be loved. Just like herself, she was willing to share her experiences with others, so as to spread the love that she had received to bring warmth to others.

Shella is grateful that the volunteers have given her an unforgettable Chinese New Year. At this beginning of a new year, she wishes that everyone is able to find love in his/her life and spread the love around.

 

Tzu Chi volunteers started to care for Shella Chan in October 2015. On December 6 that same year, volunteers gave Shella (front row, 2nd right) a surprise birthday celebration. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]   In November 2015, volunteers helped Shella Chan out of her house and fetched her to the hospital and for physiotherapy. Shella was over the moon. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]

Tzu Chi volunteers started to care for Shella Chan in October 2015. On December 6 that same year, volunteers gave Shella (front row, 2nd right) a surprise birthday celebration. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
In November 2015, volunteers helped Shella Chan out of her house and fetched her to the hospital and for physiotherapy. Shella was over the moon. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
February 2018, Shella Chan (in red top) attended the Chinese New Year celebration for Chinese care recipients happily. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]   February 24, 2018, the ninth day of lunar New Year, Tzu Chi volunteers brought food, cookies and mandarin oranges to Shella Chan’s (red top) home to celebrate the festival with her. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

February 2018, Shella Chan (in red top) attended the Chinese New Year celebration for Chinese care recipients happily. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
 
February 24, 2018, the ninth day of lunar New Year, Tzu Chi volunteers brought food, cookies and mandarin oranges to Shella Chan’s (red top) home to celebrate the festival with her. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
Learning that Shella Chan loves oldies, volunteers looked for the songs online using their hand phones and started singing along for her. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   Volunteer Lim So Hwa (right) and Shella Chan have interacted for many years. Whenever there is a need from Shella, So Hwa is always ready to help. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

Learning that Shella Chan loves oldies, volunteers looked for the songs online using their hand phones and started singing along for her. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
 
Volunteer Lim So Hwa (right) and Shella Chan have interacted for many years. Whenever there is a need from Shella, So Hwa is always ready to help. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]