Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Ever Present Hope


There is surely a future hope for you,
And your hope will not be cut off.
– Proverbs 23:18

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Let us now sing Hymn number thirteen –

The Fall of Hope

The fall of hope, the death of dreams.
The decay of passion, the end of light.
How mesmerising now the serenade of death.
How enchanting the requiem of despair.

Promises are but a platitude served to assuage fears of cruel reality.
Assurances are but trumperies deterring man from facing the inevitable.
Covenants only call us to live lives of sham and fa├žade.

A dash of despair and a cup of destitute.
Blotting out all dreams, except for the bleakest, dreariest nightmares.

No more laughter and enjoyment for this bitter, vitriolic self
No more comfort and rest for this beaten, beleaguered soul
Not that I am ever a dreamer. I am merely a child.

Perhaps someday, when light ever returns to this dark, gloomy scene.
Perhaps someday, when clarion calls of hope resound again in this blank, empty space.

Perhaps then shall life arise again.
Perhaps then shall this brief insignificant existence find meaning again.

– The Requiem of Death, by Reverend Deyja, Humnos XIII

--

A time for tears possibly, a time for cries for mom and dad who are no longer there. A glimpse into those blank gazes and frank faces, and one is nothing but certain that they are gone. To a better place perhaps, to the home called heaven, the home that they used to tell me so much about during bedtime stories. But now they are not here anymore to tuck me in at night, to tell me stories before bed, to give me those warm hugs and kisses. Perhaps I will see them someday, I know I have to. But what if I don’t? I’d miss them so dearly. Is this just another dream? Will I ever wake up again?

But wherever shall I go now, I am merely a child. The streets are so gloomy and the people are so cold. Perhaps I shall wander through the dark alleyways. There is always food in the trashcans. There is always shelter underneath the boxes and the rooftops. It may not be as good as mom’s cooking, or as warm as my old comfy bed, but it will still do.

It is raining now tonight. Perhaps God is crying for mom and dad too. It’s so nice to sit here in the rain, allowing the tears of heaven to wash away my own. Why am I still crying? Is it too much to want the pain to stop? In this silent alleyway, I’m here by myself. But I know I’m not alone. I’m so cold and hungry, but it’s alright. I know I’ll make it through. God will always provide for me. But it still hurts so bad inside. Is it because I’m too weak? Is it because I’m just a child?

Is this the pain of loss or the pain of disappointment? Does it hurt because they’re gone, or because God wasn’t there for them? Oh, I wish I knew, but maybe I shall find it out another day.

--

It’s a new day of bright and shine. Yet cheer and life are far from my heart.

A half-eaten sandwich and a near-empty can of coke. A good find, I should say, amongst the heap of well-mingled trash. I devoured them with speed and voracity, lest the pigeons should get their share of the crop. A stride out into the wide open streets reveals more to me than a night’s cold retreat, on that small passageway beneath the moonlight feet.

People dashing across the pale, concrete path, muttering and sighing, grumbling and heaving. Tall guys in suits, and school girls in uniforms. Late for appointments, busy with assignments, having no time for little old me. Perhaps it might very well be so. After all, work for money, and money for bread, isn’t that how the cycle of life goes?

If mom and dad were here all would be clear. If only they were here I would not fear. But I know it well they would never come, I’m nothing but lost in this big, gloomy slum.

People all around in dazzling array, painted coats and fashion clothes. But all in real it’s just dismay, tainted gloats and ashen woes. But maybe a small request a child can make, a tiny favour they’d surely not refuse. A few pennies, a little coins for a loaf of bread for a day or two. A humble plea, a fumbled petition, from a tiny being in that giant cycle of life.

--

There’s always hope in suffering, but those who have never learned suffering will never know what it means to hope.

As long as a person lives, there is always hope lurking around the corner. There is constantly that feeling that deep down inside, that things will be better, that if he dares to believe, there is a brighter future that awaits him.

But why does the human heart constantly hope? Why does it course so deeply in our veins that we are so willing to fight for it to the end?

Perhaps it’s something given by God. Perhaps it’s a reminder that even in this cruel world, there is someone out there who cares, someone who has not abandoned us, someone still watching and guiding us…

…or perhaps guiding others to us…to a new future that is ahead of us.

--

A couple stopped and bent down to face me. Turning my head down to gaze at the ashen gray pavement, I tried to hide my tear soaked, grief tainted countenance. A few awkward moments elapsed before I finally mustered enough courage to look up to them. I tried to speak but found myself choking on my words, letting out some garbled phrases and incoherent syllables.

Unable to say anymore, I merely stretched out my hands towards them, gesturing for a kind offering of a penny or two. Oddly, a kind of sadness and compassion was etched upon their faces. For that brief moment in time, as my eyes met theirs, I could feel something different in those gazes that told me that they weren’t the usual people I’d find plying the streets.

“Are you alright, little boy?” the man asked me gently.

“M…m…maybe…”

“Where are mom and dad?”

“T…t…they’re g…g…gon–“

At this I broke down to tears. Burying my face into my lap, I wept alone silently while the couple looked on. They must think I’m stupid. But…I just can’t help it. Ah, forgive me for being so weak.

A pair of hands lifted my face and pressed it against a chest. A pair of arms wrapped around my shoulders and a neck pressed against my forehead. I was caught off guard by the lady’s reaction, but welcomed it freely as I continued to sulk and whimper in her warm embrace. She reminded so much of mom, her gentle cuddles and her comforting hugs. When the thought of losing her stung me again, I broke down into louder sobs.

“It’s okay. You’re safe now. I’m here. I’m here.”

The most reassuring words that I’ve ever heard coming from someone I barely even knew. Was she playing a bluff, or was she for real? Deep down, I knew it couldn’t have been an act. But did it really matter? At that moment, it just felt so good to be in her arms.

Are they your angels, God? Will you take them away too? Please don’t. If there’s anything I’d ask for now, God, please don’t take them away

--

Uncle Lufu and Auntie Feid are really sweet people. I am truly grateful for them. The choice on their behalf to adopt this miserable, troublesome, ordinary and unsuccessful child has really been a large step of faith on their behalf. I deeply wonder about the reason that gives them the courage to embrace me and invite me into their household. There is just so much love in them. I really pray hard that I do not disappoint them.

The feeling of being in this household is like being at home again with mom and dad. There’s so much joy and openness in the atmosphere, as uncle and auntie would often care for me as they would their own son.

Not being able to contain my curiosity any longer, I asked them honestly, “Uncle Lufu and Auntie Feid, why are you caring about me so much? You barely even know me.”

“Well, there was once a man called Jesus who walked this earth, teaching mankind how to live each day with grace and love. And He said, ‘Let the little ones come to me, because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these’.”

“You, dear child, are part of these little ones who will belong to God’s Kingdom. You’ll see one day, of the wonderful things that God will do through you.”

I questioned further with even greater inquisitiveness, “But isn’t God’s Kingdom up there in heaven?”

“No, dear child, it has always been right here, on this earth.”

“B…but isn’t God’s Kingdom supposed to be good? Why is there so much evil and bad things going on around then? Surely this can’t be God’s Kingdom”

“Well, you know what, dear child. God is in the process of making all things new again. Right now, we see all these things happening because God has not yet finished His building plan.

But one day, we will see His goodness and mercy cover the entire earth. And you know what the beautiful thing about it is? We will be back to enjoy it! But until then, dear child, we hold on to this hope. And with this hope, we can have the certainty of our paths and begin to show love to the people around us.”

“Wow, that’s so amazing. B…but will I ever see mom and dad again?”

“I’m sure you will, dear child. I’m sure you will.”

--

At night, Auntie Feid tucked me in to bed, just like mom would always do. After a series of hugs and kisses, she turned out the lights, and quietly left the room. I saw the old, wooden door of the tiny, yet homely bedroom slowly close, gradually shutting out any traces of light from the outside from penetrating into the room.

I lay still in bed that night, the back of my head resting upon that snug, fluffy pillow as my eyes gazed out beyond the window to the immense, starry expanse. I caught sight of a shooting star, blazing through the skies and piercing through the clouds, steadily falling closer towards the earth until it vanished into the horizon.

Numerous thoughts flickered on and off as I stared into each starry host.

Hope…the thing that keeps us going…

Hope…for the things that have yet to come…

Someday…I will do great things…

Someday…God will make all things new again…

Someday…I’ll see mom and dad again…

I turned my head until my eyes caught hold of the ceiling. The layers were peeling off and multiple scratch marks were etched upon its surface, perhaps reflecting the age and use of this building.

As I close my two small eyes, I could wet, hot streaks streaming down my temples, and cool droplets pooling in my ears. Truly God, you are so good. In you God, I place all my hopes and dreams.

A few silent moments slipped away, and I fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

--

They say that only time (and God) can heal the deepest sorrows. It’s now three years since I’ve lived with Uncle Lufu and Auntie Feid. So many things have happened.

I got into my first year of high school. It was a pretty tough year, adapting to the new environment, social pressures and heavy workloads, but I’ve learned to enjoy it. I didn’t seem to have many problems with studies and fitting into the social circle, though when pressed regarding my family background, I tended to be a little stuck at times and resorted to change the topic of discussion. Of course that didn’t sit quite comfortably with some of my schoolmates, but I got around it somehow.

But I felt really nervous that day as it was Parent-Teacher Day. I thought I did reasonably good in my assessments and had been behaving fairly well in class throughout the year. But still, you never know what the teachers might think of you. Uncle Lufu, Auntie Feid and I were in the waiting room outside, waiting to see my teachers, along with several other parents. The wait seemed like ages, as I surveyed the room indifferently as my ‘parents’ engaged with the other parents in an apparently humorous conversation, with bursts of laughter every now and then.

I heaved a long sigh as I looked at my watch, tapping my feet impatiently on the ground as I muttered and moaned softly to myself. When is this all going to be over? I don’t like this uneasy feeling. And I’m hungry too. When can I eat?

All forms of laughter were cut off by sudden shrieks of terror echoing through the school corridors. The sounds of thundering footsteps were accompanied by a few loud bangs. We all ran out to see what the commotion was all about. To our shock and horror, two of the school kids were on a killing spree, randomly targeting and shooting anyone that crossed their paths. The rest of the children were running for their lives, with the two gunners trailing closely behind them. The concrete pathways were stained by a trail of crimson, the once pristine ground stamped with bloodstained shoeprints.

As we continued to gaze in fear and terror, one of the schoolkids took note of us and turned back towards us, aiming the muzzle of his deadly weapon at our bewildered bunch. He pulled the trigger and let loose a deafening roar. Uncle Lufu crumpled to the ground, his chest pierced by the fast, lethal round. Auntie Feid screamed in disbelief and bent down to help Uncle B, but he immediately brushed off her help, calling for us to make a run for it.

Realising the danger of the situation we were in, I grabbed Auntie Feid’s hands and made a run for it, with the rest of the parents and kids alongside us. The hunter continued the chase, letting off a few more shots towards us. I narrowly evaded death as a bullet zoomed past my shoulders, burying itself deep into the hard, concrete wall.

As we ran, the loud blares of police sirens broke through the chaos of the moment. Thank goodness, help had arrived!

Finally, the exit was in sight. We ran out the doors into the wide open fields, relieved to have escaped from the slaughterhouse. The gunner had stopped chasing us, possibly frightened by the presence of the law enforcement officers.

When all the children, parents and teachers had safely evacuated the school building, the police moved in to subdue the perpetrators. Several more gunshots were fired and then deafening silence lingered in the air.

I turned to Auntie Feid and heaved a sigh of relief. “We made it, auntie, we made it!”

Yet, I sensed that something was not right. She looked at me and only managed to give me a weak smile before collapsing to the ground. I stood and watched in horror at the events unfolding before me, before reaching down to help Auntie Feid. I slid my hands behind her shoulders and saw a fresh, crimson colour staining my hands.

I cried out for help. The nearby paramedics, conscious of the present crisis, rushed over to her side with their emergency kit. They rolled her over to her side and began applying pressure to attempt to stem the bleeding. But she had already lost copious amounts of blood and was beginning to pass out.

I gripped her hand cold, clammy hand tightly, urging her not to let go. Her face grew pale, as her breathing became increasingly heavier.

She began whispering barely audible tones as she slipped deeper into unconsciousness. I drew closer to listen to her muffled speech.

“B…be strong, dear child. Don’t despair at my passing. There’s always hope in the midst of the suffering. There’s always hope in God.”

Tears began streaming down my face. I faced a similar scene three years ago when I gripped my mom’s hands as she died. I was reliving the nightmare once again.

“N…no…” I protested, “You can’t go.”

“Shhh…hush, dear child. It’s okay. We will see each other again someday. As long as hope is alive, we will…”

Her words trailed off. Her grip loosened. Her breathing stopped. She was gone.

I sat there, confronted yet again by the same blank eyes and lifeless visage that shook me over three years ago, one that I still shuddered when I thought about it again. Yet, there I was reliving every gruesome moment that traumatised and tormented me more than anything else.

In the midst of my grief and uncertainty, the police approached me. They broke the bad news regarding Uncle Lufu. He, too, had succumbed to his gunshot wounds and died before the medical team could get to him.

Oh, it was all too much for me to bear. Why…why did all of this have to happen? Why, God…why…

An intense pain gripped me and all of a sudden, everything became a blur as the world around me faded away into darkness.

--

In the same alleyway again, I sit alone, under the moonlit skies, scorned and derided. My heart is numb and my mind is frozen, betrayed upfront by so-called hope. A rainless night, a tearless plight. The heavens have shut their gates, as my wellspring of life has dried up.

Hope is nil in this wretched world.
All but a dreadful lie and a wishful blight.
A cute ideal in a neat little box.
Proving in the end to be empty and bare.

A smashed glass bottle I hold in my hand. The sharp, pointed edge I hold to my wrists. With one quick stroke, the glass slices through flesh, a sheer relief to feel again. Blood oozes out the gaping wound, streaming down the thin, slender arm, trickling to the ground in small, little rounds.

The bottle next I hold to my neck. One quick swoop shall make it complete. A miserable life shall come to an end.

“Stop!” I hear one crying to me. I look up and see a frightened girl my age. A strange, pleading look was carved on her face. I can only wonder what she wants with me.

“Leave me alone, in this filth-ridden slum. And let me finish what ought have been done. And bring a close to this unhappy existence.”

“No, I won’t, I won’t ever leave. Please don’t hurt yourself, what joy is in that? A life ahead you have yet to live, to find your dream and fulfil your destinies.”

“I’ve already walked this solemn path. Nothing but despair it has brought me to bear. So leave me dear girl, to my impending demise, so at least I can have pleasure, in life’s touching end.”

“There’s still hope I tell you, of life that’s to come. Have you forgotten the promise that God gave to us? That there will be life once again, though there is death. So why grieve as one without hope, and why relent as one without promise?”

“Hope is but for fools, dear girl, and promise is but for the simple-minded. What hope is there in this great loss I have? What hope is there in a world that is nothing but despair?”

“Hope is all that I have, I’ll have you know. For I, too, have fallen into death’s snare. I, too, know your loss and understand your pain. Hope is what keeps us going despite all odds. Hope is what keeps us together despite all troubles.

Please don’t give your life so freely to death, who welcomes it ever with wide open hands. For I believe, we have become united as this by present sufferings. And would you hope with me, then, for a better future that is ahead? Would you hope with me for a light that is to come?”

A moment’s awe, an instant’s wonder. I ponder it through, and consider it true.

The bloodstained glass I drop to the ground, and began to weep for my foolish pride. A pair of arms around me, and a neck to my forehead, reminiscence perhaps to true, faithful grace.

--

As the saying goes, there is always hope in the midst of suffering.

It’s a mysterious feeling indeed, this feeling called hope. It insists that despite all evidence to the contrary, there is something better that awaits us if we dare to embrace it, to fight for it and to stand up for it.

Perhaps it also reminds us that there is always a God who is watching over us, a God who not only guides us but guides people to us.

I guess hope is what makes humans…human.

We sat there under the vast open expanse of God’s firmament, two souls learning to journey together to discover hope, a hope that will one day come to bear.

There were tears from the skies again that night, drenching us in sweet heaven’s dew.

And we gazed upon a shooting star, piercing through the clouds and dashing across the night skies, disappearing at last into the distant horizon.

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