Lymphoma: A Journey to Salvation (1) // 淋巴癌：一個救贖的旅程 (上)
“I want to get baptized” was a sentence that Ammathy Winnie Lui would never imagine her Buddhist mom say until a life-threatening illness turned everything her mom believed in upside down.
If you ask me when my spiritual walk began, I would say it began with a catchphrase that my mom created from a play on the Chinese words for “Jesus” and “God”.
That catchphrase literally means, “my grandpa’s beard (same pronunciation as “Jesus” in Cantonese) and the pot of rice I cooked (same pronunciation as the word “God” in Cantonese)”. I remember I was about 6 or 7 at the time and someone tried to tell my mom about Jesus. My mom would respond by saying, “I don’t know God or Jesus; I only know my grandpa’s beard and the pot of rice I cooked! Also, I believe in burning incense to my ancestors so stop telling me nonsense. I hate you Christians.
I was still young at that time and had never come across Christianity. I only knew that I was supposed to burn incense and recite Buddhist texts everyday just like my mom did. My mom’s catch phrase was so catchy that it stuck in my heart. During my teens, I studied at a Christian secondary school and the Bible was a mandatory subject. The “Gospel” got more and more interesting as I continued to read it. Although I didn’t understand all the truths contained in it, I knew all the stories from back to front. My score on the religious studies subject was even better than my Chinese. It was actually the best score on my report card. From then on, I began to stop joining my mom in burning incense and reciting scriptures. I started joining a care group and I studied the Bible with my teacher in the morning. Although my heart looked towards God, I wasn’t very well-behaved or devoted. Occasionally I would mention the Bible at passing while chatting with my mom, but as usual, she was reluctant to listen and I just let her be. This lasted until I was 24 years old…
To me, lymphoma is a very scary term and even a demon that haunted my dreams. But it was also the beginning of my family’s journey to salvation. During a very hot summer one year, the benign tumor on the lymph glands that my mom was diagnosed with when I was still in sixth grade had turned into lymphoma, and it was diagnosed too late. It was already at the end of stage 4 and the doctor was pretty sure that my mom only had 2 to 3 months left. Not more than 6 months. In the midst of a series of anxiety and panic, all I could do was pray to my God, my Heavenly Father. The times my mom was battling cancer in the hospital, all I could give her to lean on was one Bible scripture after another. The first one I put next to her bedside at the hospital was a small wooden sign that read, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). I hoped that during the nights I could not stay with her at the hospital, this scripture would bring her peace.
Honestly, I was really scared and anxious because my mom was not a believer and I thought she would not enter into God’s Kingdom after she passed away. At that time, I was still an early believer and I didn’t even fully understand God’s truth myself, let alone shared the gospel with my mom. All I could do was pray for her day and night, and seek prayers from my church and my uncle’s Catholic family. I relied on the pastors at my church, the resident priest at the hospital and my uncle and aunt to share the gospel with my mom. My thought was that while our religions are different, we believed in the same Heavenly Father. As long as my mom is willing to listen, it didn’t matter who was sharing the gospel. As for me, I prayed ceaselessly for God’s grace and miracle to heal my mom, so that I could spend one more year of festivals and holidays with her and take a family portrait that we never had the chance to take before.
Thanks to God, after two years of tears and prayers, my prayer was answered. In 2002, before Mother’s Day, my mom went for a checkup and the doctor said that her cancer cells were suddenly all gone. Her cancer indices on all the reports were “zero” and even the doctor said that this is unexplainable by medical science. Yes, medical science could not give us an answer but God did!
“For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)
God answered my prayers with a miracle. I was so grateful and joyful. It was also this miracle that changed my mom’s view towards God. She became more willing to draw closer to God. She was willing to go to church with me. She stopped burning incense and instead, started reciting the rosary and praying the Lord’s Prayer.
God’s grace gave us one full year of happy days. My family finally took our precious one and only family portrait. My mom even traveled with my grandma and uncle. As for me, I was granted the wish to spend every festival and holidays that year with my mom. We even spent Mother’s Day together twice. But during the checkup after Mother’s Day 2003, her cancer cells returned and she needed to be hospitalized immediately. At the end, the doctor only prescribed painkillers and did not let her undergo any chemotherapy.
My mom spent most of her final month in a coma. I was extremely afraid because she had not accepted Jesus yet. At that time, by the grace of God, the doctors and nurses showed my mom an extra dose of love that is more than what the usual loving doctor-patient relationship warrants. They were very lenient with me, allowing me to stay past the visiting hours and that was the first time I prayed 24 hours straight. Having experienced God’s grace once, my faith was strengthened. I knew that God would show me and my mom mercy and not let us be separated after she passed away. Moreover, He would not refuse to let her into His Kingdom.
After two weeks in coma, on a sunny day, my mom suddenly woke up. Her first word shocked me, because she said, “I want to be baptized as a Catholic.” Grace just came flowing in afterwards. The priest who was not supposed to be on duty suddenly showed up at the hospital. My uncle who was supposed to be in China came back early and together with my aunt, they were able to be my mom’s godparents. My unconscious mom was suddenly able to recite the whole rosary. Finally, the baptism was concluded with the Lord’s Prayer. That line of “I want to be baptized” was the only thing she said to me consciously. After the baptism, my mom fell back into a coma once again. But I felt as if a giant rock has been lifted from my chest.
She continued to be unconscious for a few more days and one day, the doctor told me it was a matter of a day or two before she would pass away. He asked me to be prepared. I stayed by her bedside that day, ceaselessly crying and speaking to her for 20 hours until the middle of the night. I was suddenly very angry. I started asking why. Why couldn’t she just open her eyes and look at me one more time? Why wouldn’t she just call my name once more? How could she just leave like this so suddenly? I was not pleased and at that moment, I decided I would negotiate with God…
For Part 2 of Ammathy’s story, please click here
「For with God nothing shall be impossible.」(路1:37)
Imagine credit: flickr.com/janafalk