'Just give Jesus a chance to let you know how much he loves you.' I read those words in an email from a friend at about 10pm on 17 April, 2016. The words brought immediate tears to my eyes but I did not know why. Perhaps, I was feeling sad partly because I was leaving my immediate family to go to visit my mother the next day, and my ever-present fear of flying has been exacerbated by what happened to flights MH 17 and MH 370. All I knew was that I had to suppress them, or I would wake up the next morning with swollen, puffy eyes.
That morning, I reviewed a man in his early 80s. I asked how his mood was. He said, 'up and down'.
I was looking at the computer screen as we do these days at work while asking him, 'how often do you feel down?'
There was no answer, a silence, a pause. I looked up. Were there tears in his eyes? He was trying very hard to hold back his tears.
He told me he had been repressing something for over 50-60 years but it has been coming back to him the past couple of years.
Here I was trying to control my tears, while this very private man, was revealing his tears possibly for the first time in many years. 'When vulnerability meets vulnerability, there is intimacy.' (Patrick O'Sullivan)
I flew back to Malaysia at midnight that night and spent a week with my 90-year-old mother.
I wasn't sure most of the time whether she knew who I was or not. I looked into her eyes, there was no connection, no recognition.
Over the past 5-7 years since a couple of falls, fractured spine and delirium, she had been not quite herself.
It frustrates me that even though diagnosing dementia is my bread and butter, I find it hard to diagnose what type of dementia she has.
She certainly does not fit textbook descriptions. From what my sister, Betty, who lives with her and is her carer, tells me, I suspect that she has Dementia with Lewy Bodies rather than typical Alzheimer's disease.
The three core features of DLB are parkinsonism, hallucinations and fluctuation, the last being notoriously difficult to identify.
She does not have parkinsonism but she has visual hallucinations, including seeing her deceased mother.
She has delusions, the latest being that she wants to marry her best friend's brother who had died long ago. Perhaps, she once had a crush on him.
The best time of the week was when my sister, Teresa, started singing Salve Regina, and got her singing.
She can still sing some lines by heart. After I left them, the music of Salve Regina stayed with me. Even though I do not know the words, the soulful music of old hymns that she used to sing when we were young has the ability to touch places in my heart that words cannot reach.
She did not say goodbye, did not appear to know who I was or that I was leaving for the airport. I thought it was better that way. She did not have to be sad at seeing one of her many children come and go, as she used to be. However, after I left, Teresa said that she did know that I had been.
I could cry at any time when I was there seeing my mother but the tears have dried up. I puzzle at why the tears came when I read those words. I think it is because I find it hard to believe that Jesus loves me, let alone that He loves me so much.
My sister, Betty, is one of the many unsung heroes, the carers of people with dementia. Her life, and that of her children, especially her daughter, Josephine, who has mild cerebral palsy, is put on hold, while caring for our mother.
Why does God let some old, frail people linger on and suffer, and why do others die so young? It makes absolutely no sense.
Some say that some old people have to suffer purgatory on earth, for their sins. What sins could my mother, who has borne 13 children, and not caused anyone serious harm that we know of, possibly have? On the flight back, I came across these lines in Patrick O'Sullivan's book God Knows How To Come Back Home: '... maybe one reason why numbers of old and frail people 'shut down' and linger on, in some kind of a coma, for quite some time, is because Jesus has 'anaesthetised' them, so he can break the cycle of unresolved agenda that has been running for generations in their family.
To all outward appearances, such people are lingering on meaninglessly; but inside, they might well be the battleground where a new page of history is being written for their family.
That is why if ever we should visit old people in this condition, it is an excellent move to be fully present to them, 'communing' with them in spirit, so that, if needed, their spirit can draw energy from our own loving attention.' If I had read them on the way there or whilst there, I could have tried harder to be more fully present to her.
If I were God, everyone would be given about the same life span. George in my parish told us he once said to God, 'If I were God, there would be no poverty, wars, refugees ... what a wonderful world it will be!' God replied, 'the most wonderful thing about the world is that you are not God.'
We can run away from our pain, block it out, refuse to face it, pretend it is not there, hide in drugs, alcohol and other distractions, blame it on God, or we can bring all our failures, even our failure to feel his love, and all our brokenness to Jesus on the Cross, to experience how much he loves us, for his love to redeem and transform us, to bring us to Resurrection and that essential emotion it produces. In JRR Tolkien's words, 'The Resurrection produces that essential emotion: Christian joy, which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at once, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.'
Just give Jesus a chance to let you know how much he loves you.
Susie Hii is a writer and author of Happy, Healthy, Holy.