Fall 2021 newsletter
Hang Tran, Cambodia
It had been a few days since the elderly woman had been seen by folks around here. She was known as Om, meaning “elder auntie.” Rain or shine, Om would sit under her patched umbrella in front of the Missionaries of Charity house, selling bottled water or soft drinks out of a small portable cooler. She stored her gears in the missionaries’ house.
Om had passed on. I went to her family to offer my condolences and pay my respects. Her home, like most other homes in villages, has limited space. It is customary that tents are erected in the alleys or sidewalks of neighborhoods for wakes and funeral ceremonies.
Looking at her picture, memories of our past conversations and her toothless smiles came back to me. Om loved to speak her Cambodian language mixed with French with me. She often reminisced about her youth in schools modeled after the French education system, and her survival stories during the Khmer Rouge time. Her family handed me some incense, which I lighted and which lifted up my prayers and thanksgiving for the gifts of Om’s life.
This happened more than a year ago, before there were social distancing and restrictions on the number of people that can gather, which keeps changing depending on the COVID situation.
Around the same time of Om’s wake, Sothy, one of the staff of the Missionaries of Charity, was nearing the delivery date of her yet-to-be-born child. However, she was experiencing lots of pain, and her water broke prematurely. She was rushed to the hospital, but there was no room available.
Like other incoming patients, Sothy had to get in the queue by camping, literally, on the floor in front of the occupied rooms.
Having a difficult labor did not help either. Anxious relatives were waiting in the hallways discussing the situation. Several hours later, after the doctor had done something for her, a baby boy was born.
I was so relieved to hear the good news, and after work went to the hospital to visit mom and the newborn. Miraculously, both were unscathed!
Many different things in life happen unexpectedly. Despite the very different circumstances, what mattered most in both cases was to be present with both families, as each was going through a major life event.
I felt privileged to be able to say farewell to an old friend leaving this world, and to welcome a brand-new person entering a different world.
One never knows whom one might meet along the journey, does one? Om and Sothy, in dying and living, have conveyed to me the incredible message of steadfastness and perseverance in adversity. They truly were messengers for me and reminded me of the Gospel verse:
Do not be forgetful of hospitality, for through this,
some entertained messengers without knowing it (Heb 13:2).
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Your generous donation will support both my ministry of caring for differently abled young people in Cambodia and the Missioner Sustenance Fund that helps to keep me and my fellow lay missioners in mission. Thank you!