To eat or not to eat…

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fast and abstinence, a prelude to forty days of Lent, a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Today is also the Eve of Chinese New Year, where feasting at reunion dinners is a prelude to tomorrow’s celebration.

Since we wanted to adhere to fasting on Ash Wednesday, we had an early reunion dinner yesterday. As in the previous year, we had intended to fetch our two mums, both widows (one eighty and the other ninety years old) and both not so mobile, over to our home for dinner.

We had planned to hail a cab to pick up my mum first from her apartment downstairs, before proceeding to the nursing home to pick up my wheelchair-bound mother-in-law. To our dismay, we spent half an hour frantically searching for my mum everywhere. We were so relieved to find her waiting at a nearby bus-stop! Apparently she had misunderstood our instructions, as she sometimes did.

We spent the afternoon playing mahjong, which delighted both our mums. The occasional mahjong entertained them, kept their minds alert and improved the coordination in their eyes and hands. Incidentally, it was while playing mahjong two years ago with my mother-in-law when we discovered that something was amiss. She couldn’t align her tiles properly nor could she win. Shortly after, she was found to have a blood clot in her brain, a minor stroke. We thank God that her condition has improved.

It was difficult having to keep an eye on both our mums. They were also hard of hearing and it was amusing how we had to talk loudly for them to hear us. And as much as they loved eating and were once good cooks, they could only eat small portions yesterday. Their memories were fading and they couldn’t remember as much as before. We deeply sensed their frustration. Ageing certainly recognises no boundaries.

Spending time with them yesterday, albeit for several hours, reminded us to appreciate our own mobility, our senses and the fragility of our lives. As Genesis 3:19 reminds us “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” How apt for today’s imposition of ashes on our foreheads.

Guess who won hands down at our mahjong game yesterday?

My ninety-year old mother-in-law.          By R

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