I readily accept any comments or criticisms that I am not the most compassionate person around. Although mercy is much more desirable than justice, I must admit that I would skew my opinion towards demanding fairness than granting mercy. This is in line with my logical character and the tendency to focus more on my mind than what is in my heart. I know that this is one of many areas that I am working to improve with God’s help and guidance.
On certain occasions however, I surprise myself with the level of compassion that I can display. I can’t really boast about it as it is not in my inherent nature to act that way.
Upon my arrival in Surabaya, I learnt that Yani’s great uncle is sick in hospital – two years ago, Yani and I along with my mother-in-law and her sister visited his house in Cianjur, a little town half-way between Jakarta – the capital city – and Bandung, my hometown. At that time his wife was still alive, it was the first reunion for Yani’s mum and aunt as they moved away from Surabaya to live in Cianjur. He was very alert at that time and joined the discussion from time to time. His wife was the lively one and it’s quite ironic that she’s the one who left first.
Upon her death last year, Yani’s great uncle moved back to Surabaya and live with Yani’s aunt. He got sick recently so he has to be hospitalised. I asked the family whether they would like Yani and I to visit him, as it would be the proper thing to do. So earlier today, we visited him at St. Vincentius Hospital in Surabaya along with my mother-in-law and Yani’s brother.
He was looking frail but still very alert for a bedridden 89-year-old. One of Yani’s aunts was there when we came around. I instinctively reached out and held his bony right hand – he gripped my hand faintly. I surprised myself with that action as I would normally be quite squeamish around elder people and that I would be the stand-offish person who nods politely but keeps the distance away from the bed. Yani’s auntie patiently talks to him and reminds him of his youth. Her comments and our conversations made him laugh, and sometimes turned his laughter into tears of sadness. I have seen that before in my Dad – Dad sometimes cries for no apparent reasons when he turns melancholic.
I stayed and held his hand for a while and even prayed for him before we left, at the request of Yani’s aunt. Looking around at other patients, I had an urge of compassion for them. Some senior patients had no visitors, and some just curled in the foetal position throughout the visiting hours. I wish I could hold their hands and pray for them too. Even this kind of wish surprises me. I’m not naturally the kind of person who would do that.
I also realise that whilst I am slowly learning to show compassion, it is a different matter to show genuine compassion for my father. I need to muster a lot more compassion and love to hold his hand, to support or care for him. Maybe it’s the realisation that somebody who I should respect, would need my help to even sit upright. Perhaps it’s also a faint feeling of disappointment that he is no longer the clever and clear-minded person that he was. He is still the most stubborn person in the family and his anger still seethes when his wishes are not granted soon enough by mum. Even bedridden, he can still cause mum to cry in fear and despair.
I have detailed my feelings for dad in this blog before and how I have forgiven him. I have accepted the fact that he has many weaknesses and strengths and that he could never reach the threshold that I have set for him. The experience today with Yani’s great uncle teaches me that forgiveness needs to be accompanied by grace and compassion. I can’t truly forgive if I still keep a spot in my heart that demands justice. I should truly discard my long obsolete idea of my perfect dad, and now that I am a grown-up man, I should accept, honour and love my dad with all his weaknesses, even when he does things or says things that I dislike.
It’s true that as we grow old, we regress to our childhood – to be a person who demands but shows little appreciation. However, from the faint grip of Yani’s great-uncle’s hand I learn that everybody wants to be loved and that they don’t want to be left alone regardless of their age. I know that it’s not easy but it’s the least that I can do to thank him for his numerous contributions to make me the person that I am.