Today is Good Friday, I trust that each of you have had a meaningful time commemorating our Lord’s sacrifice for us.
For my last reflection for Passion Week, I recall Adeline. I met her when we were hospitalised together, but lost touch after that. I hope she has found Christ like me and the other patient; because we all need the Lord.
On the Cross
Adeline Khor’s mother fetched her to the door of the support group meeting. “I’ll be waiting in the carpark when you finish,” she told Adeline anxiously.
Adeline escaped gratefully through the door. She wasn’t looking forward to the support group meeting but neither did she want her mum to hover over her. Adeline felt enough of being a burden already.
The room was already full. Among the misfits, she immediately spotted the facilitator. He must be the facilitator because he looked so cheerful and in command. Her knees grew weak at his groovy good looks. How she wished a man like that would pay attention to her. But in the next heartbeat she told herself, “Who would ever pick a girl like me?”
The man dazzled her with a smile as she took the seat he indicated. “Welcome to the Support Group for Nihilists,” he greeted her.
“Wha-at?” she thought to herself. “Nihi who?”
She must be in the wrong room! But she was too lethargic to interrupt the meeting and leave.
“We have a policy that newcomers always get to share first,” the facilitator said playfully. “Adeline, tell us why you are here.”
She squirmed inwardly. She hates it when people pay attention to her. She blurted out, “Isn’t it obvious why I’m here?”
The group looked blankly at her.
“I’m thirty eight kilogrammes,” she said by way of explanation.
One participant, an aging geek who looked and smelled like he hadn’t washed in a week, snorted, “Yup, we know why she’s here. Self-absorbed. Thinks the world revolves around her.”
Adeline was incredibly wounded by his remark. “How often will I feel hurt by this kind of comments? It’s not as if this is the first time,” she scolded herself.
The facilitator silenced the man with a wave of his hand. “Perhaps you can just tell us about yourself, Adeline.”
Adeline’s mind was blank. She looked desperately around the group for ideas. That’s when she noticed a little old woman. She wondered why an old woman would have problems with nihi-whatever. Seeing her gave Adeline an idea.
“I miss my grandmother,” said Adeline. The group waited.
Oh dear, more was expected of her. “I miss her because she cooked wonderful food but she never forced me to eat.”
The participants took turns to share. The middle aged geek ranted against his boss, his mother (with whom he stays), the People’s Action Party… Adeline drifted off.
“Adeline? Adeline? Grandma Letty is sharing now and I thought you would like to hear her.”
With a start, Adeline came back to her surroundings. Oh dear, she hoped the delicious facilitator would not think her rude for losing attention.
The old woman, Grandma Letty, said, “So much angst among such young people. Why! Two or three of you together would not add up to my age.”
She started to work her jaw. She took out a tissue from her huge handbag and slowly worked a gob of spit onto the tissue. Then, she folded the soggy tissue carefully and put it back into her bag.
Adeline reeled. “When does this thing end?” she wondered desperately.
Grandma Letty said, “I need help to go toilet.”
The facilitator looked expectantly at Adeline. She didn’t want to disappoint him. She got up and felt a wave of blackness. Clutching her chair till it passed, she wondered who would actually be helping whom.
Grandma Letty took Adeline’s arm and shuffled with maddeningly slow steps towards a distant toilet door.
“Starving yourself is a cruel slow death. But I know you can’t help it, dear child,” she wheezed.
Adeline was intrigued. Nobody had ever told her that she could not help herself. They were always telling her to “just eat”, “eat more” and “don’t you dare purge!”
Grandma Letty droned on, “Yup, the only way out is to lose yourself on the Cross.”
Adeline was amazed. How did Grandma Letty know about her fascination with ‘losing herself’?
Very few people understand Adeline. Call her a coward, but she did not want to plunge to her death, or slash her wrists, or take an overdose of pills. They’re all such painful and messy methods to die. All along, she had this fascinating thought − if only she could lose herself! The way she lost her wallet on the bus or her notes from school. That way, there would be no father to mourn her, no mother to cry, “You’re breaking my heart!”
But how does one lose oneself on this Cross-thing that Grandma Letty is talking about?
They stepped through the toilet door and Adeline stared.
Instead of a tiled cubicle with toilet seat and sink, she saw a hillside, hordes of people, hot sunlight glinting off bare sand and a black silhouette against the sun. She felt the prick of sweat immediately. Her eyes adjusted to the light, and she saw that the silhouette was the grotesque impalement of a living man upon a trunk.
She had seen bronze statues like this on the steeples of Roman Catholic churches. They’d looked so majestic and noble. But here, cracked lumber, rusted nails and torn flesh assailed her senses. Adeline vomited.
Adeline could feel the man’s agony as if it was her own. She completely forgot herself. The man looked down at her and said, “Daughter, behold I have left you my Comforter. He shall teach you all things, help you and be with you forever.”
Adeline had had a trying day. Unlike other people, she had very little reserves of energy. She fainted.
When she regained consciousness, Mum was screaming, “Adeline! Baby! Don’t all of you know she has anorexia? I’m bringing her to A&E right now.”
Adeline opened her eyes, but although she saw her mother and the support group people gathered around her anxiously, she could not get the image of the crucified man out of her mind’s eye.
“She’s all right,” wheezed Grandma Letty, “She just needs a drink of water.”
She took a recycled mineral water bottle out of her bag. Adeline could see Mum’s eyes widen with disgust at the thought of her frail daughter sharing a bottle with an unhygienic senior citizen. But suddenly Adeline felt incredibly thirsty.
“Mum, can I have some water?”
Mum looked shocked and delighted. She fumbled with Adeline’s personal bottle of vitamin-boosted water and poured a cupful for her. “Sip slowly, you don’t want to throw up,” she fussed.
Adeline took a few gulps. Water never tasted so delicious to her before!
“What now?” Adeline asked, looking past her mother at Grandma Letty.
“Well, a bowl of soup would be a good start,” said the old lady, “Grandma Letty’s soup is the best. Come on, give an old woman a helping hand.”
Let us rejoice this coming Easter… BECAUSE THE TOMB IS EMPTY; OUR LORD LIVES!