Lymphoma: A Journey to Salvation (1) // 淋巴癌:一個救贖的旅程 (上)

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“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.
艾瑪菲.雲妮從來沒有想到她媽子會說出:「我想受浸。」一個危及生命的疾病改變了她本來信奉佛教的媽子所相信的一切。

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…

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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.

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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

如果,現在問我說,我的靈命之路是從甚麼時候開始,我會說,應該是從「我『爺』的那條『鬚』,我『煮』的那鍋飯」開始。

「我『爺』的那條『鬚』,我『煮』的那鍋飯」是我媽的名句,那時候應該是我六七歲的時候吧,記得那時只要有人跟我媽「講耶穌」,我媽都會回答說:「我不認識甚麼主呀,耶穌甚麼的,我只認得我爺的那條鬚和我煮的那鍋飯!還有就是我是燒香的,最討厭就是你們基督徒,你們少來跟我說這些有的沒的。」

當時還很小的我從不曾接觸基督教,只知道每天和我媽一樣每天燒香頌經,但她的這句名句卻因為太有趣而深刻的刻印到我心上,直到上了基督教中學,聖經為必修科,一本《佳音》(即聖經) 越讀越有趣味,雖未領悟到個中真理,卻已先把當中故事記得滾瓜爛熟,聖經的成績竟然比我的中國語文還要好,成了我考試成績最好的一科。自那時開始,我開始拒絕我媽要我燒香頌經的要求,我開始上團契,與老師早上讀經,心向上帝,但非常不乖,更別說虔誠。偶爾我也會跟我媽提到聖經,但她一貫的抗拒,我也就由得她。如是者過了好多好多年,直到我24歲……

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淋巴癌對我來說是一個極可怕的名字,更是恐怖的夢魘,但,它也是我一家救恩的開始。那是一個炎夏,我媽在我小學六年級時曾經發現的良性淋巴腺瘤轉化成淋巴癌,而且發現得太遲,確診時已經是4期末,醫生斷定只剩下兩三個月的壽命,最長不超過半年。在一連串的彷徨與恐慌中,我能求的,只有我的主,我的父上帝。在我媽漫長的抗癌住院歲月中,我唯一能給她倚靠的,就是一節又一節的經文。第一個我放在醫院她床頭的,是一個刻上「神所賜、出人意外的平安必在基督耶穌裏保守你們的心懷意念。」(腓4:7) 的小木牌,我希望在我不能相陪的每個夜裏,這節經文能叫她得平安。

其實我心是害怕的、焦急的,因我媽不信主,也抗拒基督,不可能進入上帝的國,而且那時候的我青澀不已,連上帝的道和真理都不瞭解,更別說向她傳福音,我能做的,除了日夜為她禱告,就只有求助於我的教會及我那信奉天主教的舅舅一家,由教會的牧師、醫院的駐院神父及我的舅舅舅媽輪流為她傳福音,我的理念是,雖然我們宗教有異,但敬拜信奉的都是同一位父上帝,只要我媽願意聽,哪一位傳的福音也是一樣。而我,則每天不斷禱告,願父上帝賜下恩典,施以神跡,讓我媽得以痊癒,讓我可以跟她再過一次不同的節日,讓我們一張可以拍一張一直都沒有機會拍的全家幅。

感謝上帝,經歷了兩年的眼淚與祈求,我的禱告得到了神確切的回應。在2002年母親節前的復診中,醫生發現我媽的癌細胞突然消失不見,於所有的化驗報告中她的癌細胞指數全都變成「零」,醫生也說這是醫學上沒辦法解釋的事。對,醫學上是無法解釋,但上帝可以!

「For with God nothing shall be impossible.」(路1:37)

上帝以神跡作回應,我內心無限欣喜,我媽也因著上帝所賜下的這份神跡改變了她對上帝的態度,她開始願意接近神,她願意跟我回教會,她自己也不再燒香,改為頌讀玫瑰經及以主禱文禱告。

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上帝恩賜的快樂日子我們足足過了一年之久,我們全家人也終於拍下了彌足珍貴的唯一一次全家幅,她還可以和外婆及小舅舅到處去旅行,而我,也終於如願地再一次和她共度一年裏的所有節日,母親節更是過了兩次之多。但在過完2003年母親節之後的第一次復診,她身上那些本來已經完全消失不見的癌細胞一下子全都跑回來了,還要馬上住院,到後來,醫生也只處方止痛藥,不再為她進行任何化療療程了。

在最後的一個月,媽子長期處於昏迷之中,我害怕至極,因她從未承認上帝。那時候的我們蒙主垂憐,醫生護士們因著對我媽那份非一般病人的疼愛,對我也格外開恩,醫院設下的探病時間對我如若無文,那是我第一次經歷不眠不休的二十四小時禱告。經歷過一次上帝恩典,讓我的信心更堅定,我知道,上帝一定會憐憫我及我媽,不會要我們在她離世後分隔異地,祂更不會把她拒於天國門外。

那是我媽昏迷兩個禮拜後的一個晴天,她突然蘇醒,她醒來的第一句話把我整個人完全震住,因她的第一句話是:「我要受洗…… 天主教。」接下來是一連串的恩典,本來不是當值中的神父突然出現在醫院;本來在內地的舅舅突提早回港能夠做我媽的代父母;本來神智不清的媽子突然能完整的背出整篇玫瑰經。最後,受洗儀式在以主禱文禱告中結束。那句「我要受洗」是她那次清醒唯一對我說過的話,而我媽,在受洗儀式完畢後便再一次陷入昏迷,但我終於放下了心頭中唯一叫我恐懼的那一塊大石。

如是者她又再昏迷了好多天,然後有一天,醫生跟我說是那一兩天的事了,叫我要作好心理準備。我在床邊默默守了一天,無間斷地,邊掉眼淚邊和她說了差不多二十小時的話,直至半夜,我突然很生氣,我開始問為甚麼?為甚麼她就不可以再一次睜開眼看一看我?為甚麼她就不肯再叫我一聲?現在竟然說走就走?我不忿,那一刻我決定,我要跟上帝談條件……

想繼續閱讀艾瑪菲.雲妮的見證的下半部,請點擊這裡

Imagine credit: flickr.com/janafalk

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