Friday, 30 March 2012

Of Children...God- or Otherwise

When I first met Jeannie 27 years ago, she had endometriosis. This is a very painful condition caused by abnormal growth of cells (endometrial cells) similar to those that form the inside of the uterus, but in a location outside of the uterus. Endometrial cells are cells that are shed each month during menstruation. The cells of endometriosis attach themselves to tissue outside the uterus and are called endometriosis implants. These implants are most commonly found on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, outer surfaces of the uterus or intestines, and on the surface lining of the pelvic cavity.

In short, the condition is exacerbated by menstruation. Her right ovary had already been removed and needless to say, her child-bearing prospects were diminished. The irony is that pregnancy is a natural "cure" for endometriosis as opposed to gonadotropin drugs that artificially induce menopause. Jeannie was put on Danazol which in itself was a problem. The contraindications of the drug is arguably worse than its efficacy! She exhibited all the classic side-effects. This was no way to start a marriage but we persevered; it made us stronger as a couple and the fact that I was willing to accept a possibility of not having children probably proved my commitment to the relationship. The side-effects of Danazol itself would test any husband-wife relationship!

I could write chapters in a "How-To" manual for couples facing endometriosis but this blogpost is not about endometriosis per se. It is about children. 

Even when faced with the prospect of not having our own kids, we both felt adoption was out of the question; it just was not the same. Fortunately, against much odds we managed to have Krystyn and then J.J. but this blogpost is also not about them. 

Agreed as we did on so many aspects of life there was an obvious difference when it came to "extended family" in the form of "god-sons/daughters/sisters/brothers" and such. I was never big on such things but to big hearted Jeannie, love is not "zero-sum". So it came to past that we became god-parents to a number of children including one we fostered from The Pure Life Society.

When Jeannie was still alive it was obviously she who did the "parenting" while I was for the most part, a supportive observer. They called her Mummy while I was admittedly more the "khai yeh" in name than spirit. Nevertheless, they were by and large good kids and we saw them grow through the years.

It did not take long after Jeannie's demise for it to dawn upon me I had "inherited" a bunch of god-children. Immediately after Jeannie passed, there were notifications to be done, grief to share, the funeral to arrange, an obituary to be written, wrecked emotions to manage...consolation to succor. Yet, through it all, because of the extended family there was a comforting fellow feeling that somehow alleviated the grief. Each remembered Jeannie in their own way and all wanted to share in giving her a send-off she would have wanted. I could no longer be the godfather in name only and unwittingly the role grew on me. It is now coming to half a decade since Jeannie left us yet she remains the common factor and indeed the bond that cements the relationships. It is from this that I have even developed a sense of responsibility towards our godchildren especially from the aspect of their major life changing decisions. 

One of them recently converted to Islam and decided to marry a 24 year old Malay private in the army; she is a 36 year old divorced mother with a 10 year daughter and a reasonably successful career. The 12 year age difference speaks for itself and coupled with the fact of the fiance's limited education and English language skills, the odds are stacked against a successful union. Also, they had known each other well only for three months before deciding to marry. Even if this was an arrangement at soul level, chances are it is to learn lessons in heartaches and disappointments.

Nevertheless, she has decided to defy the odds despite my efforts to convince her otherwise. I was not even trying to tell them not to get married but to wait at least until year end. To get to know each other better. Why the rush? My objections are based not only on the above but on many other observations and knowledge of the circumstances of their decision. These I shall not mention here but they have nothing to do with race or religion; not directly anyway. We even have a Malay godson, Saiful.

What does a godfather do in such situations? What can he do? Nothing actually. So what is the point of being a godfather? As it appears...none!

My Darling Jeannie, my work with our kids are yet undone but with the godchildren, I am increasingly convinced the work cannot be done.


Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet on Children:

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


Unknown said...

Dear KS Cheah

Thank you for this moving post. I am awed by the depth of love you and Jeannie shared and the way she endeavoured to be the best mother, god-mother, wife and friend to all who knew her.

Surely the legacy she has left behind will be a source of strength and wisdom to those she loved.

May you continue to love be it as a father, godfather or friend that in doing so, others may remember how Jeannie loved them too.

Take care and god bless you and yours always!

Warmest regards

KS Cheah said...

Thanks for the kind words MWS. You know what I meant.