If the role is reversed!

As parents, to care for a child from birth to adulthood is no easy task. Changing diapers, feeding, caring for them when they have a fever, bathing them, dressing them, spending those times with them, financially, economically.

Mothers especially, and when fathers play a lesser role in the physical tasks.  Fathers who share those tasks would understand the stress or the joy of caring for a helpless little human.

What if you’re the role has been reversed?  What if you are now caring for your parents; either father or mother or both?  Old and fragile like a baby and requires all the attention your parents gave you as a baby.  Are you doing it or sending them to some elderly home or hiring a nurse to do all the work without you sharing some of the tasks.

I am writing this while both dad and mum are resting after this early morning episode. This is the second episode which both my sister and I were afraid of because the first one we almost lost him. That was last year.

At 3.15 am my mum rang the bell I placed in their room so that she can call us for any emergency. I went to the toilet that time when I heard the bell.   I quickly got my sister and we rushed downstairs and there my father was in the toilet vomiting and he also had diarrhea.  He was throwing out so much of phlegm  and he kept throwing up until nothing was there.  It was painful for him.   My sister being the physical person would help clean him up and I quickly fetched whatever she asked for to discard soiled clothing, etc. I gave him hydration salt water and some warm oats to  fill his empty stomach. The episode went on about 3 times and we fed him after each episode.  It was really tough to see him so weak and yet stubborn, refusing help and to listen to our instruction.  Just like a rebellious little child, but sick and feeling helpless.

He wanted to lie down despite telling him to sit up and rest because the moment he laid down, he would throw up again. That went on until about 5 15 am.  After some gentle coaxing failed, we had to be firm and strict with him which he hated but when I asked him “is it difficult to understand when I ask you to just follow our simple instructions to help you”  He replied,  “Ok, I will follow.”  Of course, he forgot  after that and we reminded him again and again.

After cleaning him up and wherever that was soiled and dirty, we managed to calm his stomach and my partner who is a therapist gave him massages to help his muscles to relax, dad managed to sleep soundly.

I sat down looking at my mum seated at the dining table looking helpless and sad.  I said myself, this role has now been reversed and I cannot imagine how much they have gone through to bring us up. When this role was reversed eversince they started living with us, it taught me so much about myself and how much patience and  sacrifices they made, especially my mother.  My patience was tested when father behaved like a spoilt brat.  Sacrifices, I made, I made that choice even to give up a good career opportunities to be close to them many years ago so it remains as they are my parents.  I have been blessed many times over even with those sacrifices.  Many doors are open when one door is closed.  That is so true till today.

I pray my father to live a little longer so that he can enjoy his life and should he be called home, let him go in peace knowing that we love him.

Our role to be ‘parents’ is our natural duty because they could do it, so can we, as children.  They gave up their dreams, their time, their lives for us. We can do the same.

Money may buy many things and services but it can never replace the time and love spent with them as they have spent their entire lives with us and for us.  Even if they have not, they are still our parents.

My mother used to tell me much later in her life, “whether we eat rice or eat porridge, we are together.  It is not the money, it is the time.”

We are blessed our elderly do not cry because they are neglected or unloved, but they cry because they know they are loved.

Note:  I have to stress that I am not writing this to judge anyone. I am writing to share  my own experience. So, please share your experience (but no judging, thank you).


Deuteronomy 5:16

‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.

Proverbs 23:22

Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.




Scene in the pantry ….

Conversation in Hokkien and Mandarin..

A :       “whose tongkat (walking stick) is this? Looking at B at the wash basin area. Yours ah, B?”

B:        “Aiyo.   Don’t simply talk.   Chinese New Year coming. I want to wear short skirt n high heels wan ar….      ‘Choi! Tai Ka Lai Si!’  (means:  bad luck to wish her using the stick).

Then there was silence…

B:       It is Catherine’s..    I saw her use..

A:       I ask only. How I know.

B:       You simply talk. You die….

I stood up, took my walking stick and left…. didn’t want to know what else was said…  There were 3 other ladies there.


My caliper was sent by my wonderful sister Bella to the city to get the screw replaced

How did I react, you might ask.  Nothing.  I just sat and let the conversation flow. 

That is the model of their world.  I am used to this already.  Since young, I have been listening to such comments and some directed at me personally.  It was hard to swallow when one was young and vulnerable; especially when one was searching for meaning of life and self identity.  What more when one was searching and looking for self acceptance.

Yesterday, when that happened, I asked myself inside, “what am I feeling?”  My reply was, “Nothing.”  It just tells about what those 2 ladies’ thoughts were.

I had always been told to be sensitive of what others thought of me.  My whole life was based on judgement of others until I wanted to kill myself for being so imperfect.

I was so frustrated until for a few years, I was so ill, I almost decided to live with such miserable fate.  The calling within (Thank God), questioned if there were others who could live better than I could emotionally, mentally, I could too.

It was hard learning to be ‘thick skinned.’  Been shamed, ridiculed, laughed at, mocked at, the works, I just gave up fighting.  In the end, I won.  How?  Well, trust your Calling Within. 

That faithful inner self that is connected to our Maker.

Along the road of life, there were teachers, angels, mentors, strangers, situations to help me realised who I truly am and can be.  My weakness became my strength.

With yesterday’s scene, some would tell me “Don’t be sensitive.”  Or would just zip their mouth, afraid I might be mad or angry.  I went home praying and telling myself, that’s who they are.  FULL STOP.

Judging would not make a difference.  Getting angry or upset will not do any good nor change the situation.  Just let it be and let it go.  They are my teachers.

I have learnt over the years to be compassionate, to have empathy, to be kind.  Hey, I am no angel because, I tend to judge others too at times.

Yesterday taught me and reminded me not to judge others as I would also be judged.

This is one portion of what my life is all about and also the type of people I am surrounded with in this world. The colour characters of human beings.  Self acceptance and its imperfections play a very vital role in my life. 

I am grateful for the lessons yesterday!  I did find it amusing too..     😛 

WWYD if it happened to you?

I welcome comments and feedback.


My Father’s simple advice

After work I  stopped by  my regular mamak (Indian Muslim) shop to buy their favourite roti pratha and the Tarik.  The roti canai man asked me “Where is Tata and Pati?” “Why so long, don’t come?”

“They are at home and I am here to ‘ta pau’ (pack) for them.”  Immediately, he prepared my orders.  The Teh Tarik man also  asked, “Tata and Pati want teh tarik?” and I nodded. He replied “Ok”

It was heartwarming every time I hear strangers,  waiters and food vendors call my parents, ‘Tata, Pati’ or Atok, Nenek or even Kong Kong, Poh Poh…..

My family have always been blessed with good friendships and relationships with strangers who would be there in our times of need.  These are the blessings of which my father always taught us since young, that “No matter what people do to us, we must always be good.  It is because we will receive the blessings when the time comes.”  He is right.  Even at 85, he still holds fast to his philosophy of always treat people good even when they treat us otherwise.

My father does not hold grudges.  He gets angry for a while and then he forgives and forgets, literally.

When we were poor and had very little, he would always say we are grateful we have a roof and some food on the table. A man with simple needs and simple demands in life.   I have never heard him complained about not having enough.  To him, what he had in front of him was suffice.  He was also one of those who did not like quarrels and fights at home.  He always would leave the house when my mother wanted to punish me and that was one of the things I used to resent him for.  He was not there to support and help me.

He was away for 4 years when I was only 6 years old. I had a hard time coping without a father.  However, mum and I would travel by bus or train to visit him in the North part of the country during the holidays.  I would write him letters every day since I was 7 years old and that got me interested in letter writing until the keyboard got me lazy to write (ha…ha…ha…).

He would open his door to help anyone in need.  I remembered him helping the community he was living with by building a playground for the children there.  He was a strong and keen in building things.  I think he got some friends to help him.  I only remember certain things he did there.

To him, hurting people hurt ourselves and God is always watching what we do.   He never asked for recognition nor fame.  He would shy away when people complimented him. He would say,”Oh.. we must help one another.”

I give tribute to my father today by writing this to appreciate him and to remember the simple philosophy he has.  It is a tough act to follow even for me.  Pa,thank you for being my father. I love you and I am glad I can take care of you at this age.

You believe you are strong till today because God is watching over you and every thing is planned by Him.  Even at this age, you still hold on to being good and be trusting. “Always do good and have a clean heart.”  That is your simple advice.




Make a Difference

“The right attitude can help us overcome life’s handicaps.”

I HAVE had encounters with strangers who approached me because they were curious about my physical condition. They couldn’t figure out why I looked so cheerful despite my disability.

Many years ago, I was approached by a gentleman while sitting in the car, waiting for my father who was running some errands. The car door was ajar. He shared a little about himself. He was a successful consultant, financially stable, had a girlfriend but he was still unhappy. Something was missing inside of him. He said that he should be happy with all that he had achieved. He was curious why I was in sitting in my dad’s car, singing to myself.

He asked: “Aren’t you depressed having a leg like that? Why do you look so happy?”

That took me by surprise. I tried to understand what he was trying to tell me. I explained that there was nothing I could do to change my disability and that I had learned to be happy with what I have. Complaining would not help me one jot. So I try to make the best of every situation. Of course, life can be difficult because I have to face all sorts of trials. As long as I am in a crowd, I would be looked at differently.

He also shared with me how strangers helped him without asking for anything in return, which surprised him. In his world, everything had a price tag. He related to me one rainy day when a woman offered to shelter him with her umbrella as he headed to a telephone booth to make a call. He was touched that she did not mind getting her clothes wet to share her umbrella with a stranger.

He began to encounter more people who were different from him. I was one of them.

That incident left an imprint on my life. I was in my early twenties then, and often wondered about the purpose of my existence. I believe that man was sent to me to help me see my worth.

He had everything going for him, and yet he was struggling to find meaning in life. He wanted to live life fully, and not just exist. He thought that by achieving material success, he would find fulfilment. But he found that it was not true. I provided an opportunity for him to look into himself.

We chatted for a while and he left with what I had said to him. He told me that he had a lot of thinking to do.

That conversation gave me a little encouragement which I needed badly at that time. I went home awed by what had happened: a physically-abled man actually came to me to seek some answers. I was glad my father took his time otherwise I would not have had the opportunity to make a difference in that man’s life.

 There was another unforgettable encounter when I went to repair my braces or calipers. The man who was repairing it was a wheelchair-user. He was a drug addict who had given up on life. One day, he was so stoned that he slept on the railway track. A passing train crushed his legs.

 He may have lost his legs, but he found a new lease of life. He even got married and worked among the disabled.

He spoke to me one day and said: “You know, I really admire your bravery.”

I was taken aback and asked what he meant.

He replied: “You are the only girl I know who dares to wear skirts and shorts with your calipers on. I’m sure people would stare at your leg. Most people would cover their braces.”

I looked at him and said: “I have no reason to be ashamed of my braces and my leg. I’ve never felt the need to hide my braces.”

He nodded and smiled. He told me that I was strong and encouraged me to keep up the spirit.

During a visit to Penang years ago, I dropped by a bank to withdraw some cash. As I was waiting for my number to be called, an old lady who sat next to me initiated a conversation. She asked me where I had my caliper made.

She explained that her granddaughter was also a polio victim and was told to wear leg braces but they didn’t know where to get the braces. I gave her the address and she thanked me and told me that I was a brave girl. I asked her why.

She said she had seen few disabled persons like me walking around town. Most of them would stay home as they were reluctant to come out. She was glad to have met me. She wanted to encourage her granddaughter to come out of her shell and try to live a normal life.

Today, I realise I can make a difference as a disabled person. I have survived trials and traumas, and come out stronger. I can touch lives in simple or profound ways, and contribute to society, too.

I do not want to be like a tree that stands firmly on the ground but bears no fruits, with branches that cannot give shelter to birds, and no leaves to provide shade during a hot day. Just standing there, not living. Dried up and given up. I may be broken many times over but I’m not beaten.

I can make a difference for myself and among able-bodied people when I speak up or make my way into the able-bodied world.

My existence as a disabled person does make people wonder what their own lives are all about. That gives me a new sense of purpose and puts a spring into my every step.


Published in The Star (as Shining Star)


This poem was written during my darkest hours of my adult life.  
It helped me relieve some of my pain and in a form of a prayer for help.  
 dark pit 001                         (Art by Nicole Chan)

 Dalam kebingungan, aku mencari ilham

Semua yang indah tidak kupendam

Hati yang duka selalu bertanya

Bilakan bahagia akan menjelma


Ku sentiasa berasa duka

Dalam dunia yang penuh pancaroba

Alangkah indah jika duka tiada

Hidup bahagia, ketawa senantiasa


Akan tetapi bahagia ada padaku

Ia terbenam dalam jiwaku

Bolehku capai jika ada kemahuan

Pasti kebahagiaan akan ku tawan


Kepercayaan diri mesti ku hargai

Dalam dunia yang penuh misteri

Kefahaman hidup perlu ku pelajari

Segala kepahitan pasti di atasi

 Percayalah diri, kuatkan iman

Sentiasa bertakwah hidup pun aman

Segala yang ada kita serahkan

Kepada Tuhan kita amanahkan


 (Written by Catherine Lim 1992)

Respect is a two-way Street

“The way you treat people shows your respect for them. In turn, you earn theirs.”


‘Invisible’ help: We need people like street sweepers and garbage collectors, who deserve some respect and recognition, too.

ONE morning as I was driving to work, the radio was on and one particular comment by the host of a programme caught my attention. The host said that you can judge the type of man a CEO is by the way he treats a waiter.   I guess, to some extent, it is true that how we treat others reflects on our character. Do we accord due respect to street sweepers, garbage collectors, toilet cleaners, waiters and the like?

I was reminded of an encounter I had at a food court some years ago. I used to visit this place at a shopping mall when I wanted a change for lunch. During one visit, I browsed the stalls one by one before deciding on my favourite dish – prawn noodles. After collecting my food, I looked around for a cosy spot.   I do enjoy having my meals alone, and this is something many people find difficult to understand. I consider it quality time – with myself – as I have the chance to savour my food, and enjoy its colours, smell and taste. Ah, the bliss of solitude!

As I sat there quietly enjoying my noodles, I noticed a few cleaners clearing the trays, bowls and glasses left by the lunch crowd. After I had finished eating, a cleaner came and quietly took my tray away. I looked at him, smiled and thanked him. He seemed too shy to respond. As he continued to wipe the table in front of me, I thanked him again and went on my way.

A week later, I was at the same food court and went through the same ritual of ordering my food and looking for an empty table. I ate my meal and the same cleaner came to clear my tray. Again I smiled and thanked him. This time, he smiled back.

A couple of days later, I went back to the same place for a bowl of assam laksa. As I was walking towards the food court, I could see a man waving at me from afar. He was indicating that there was a vacant table. It was the cleaner I had greeted and thanked!

As I neared, he started wiping not only the table but the seat as well. I felt so undeserving and humbled by that simple gesture of a stranger whom I had done nothing for except smiled at and said thank you to. I looked at him and he smiled shyly. I said thank you to him once more and he quickly walked away.

(By the way, after that day, I never saw him again. My regret was not asking his name and affirming him for a job well done. My hope is that God will bless him and that his life will be better because he deserves better.)

That day I learnt a valuable lesson about respect for another human being. No matter who a person is and what kind of work he does, he deserves respect and recognition. Not only will it make his day but mine as well.

We always forget that a simple smile or nod or even friendly eye contact can communicate respect and recognition. These are basic things we have been taught since young. They give dignity to every human being. Because I smiled and thanked the cleaner, he did something for me which I never expected.

But nowadays, things are very different. Many adults do not show simple manners like smiling or saying “thank you” when someone holds the lift or opens the door for them. They just walk out, as if the door was being held by an invisible person.

My sister and I tell ourselves to perform an act of kindness every day and it has become a habit. Once she helped the supermarket workers push a long line of trolleys.   Of course, they were surprised and other shoppers wondered what she was doing. I was proud of her because that started our day on a positive note.

I was also very proud of what my niece, then six years old, did. We were in the washroom when she noticed a lady throwing tissue on the floor, instead of into the bin provided. She turned and commented about the lady. Embarrassed, the latter picked up her tissue. Did it really need a child to point out the adult’s irresponsible act?

Once I told my niece to express appreciation to the “kakak” who helped keep the washrooms clean – and she did, by thanking her. If you were the kakak, wouldn’t that have made your day better? I think that sort of affirmation and appreciation made her feel that her job was important – which it is indeed.

Do we take for granted people who take on jobs that most others don’t want? Without these wonderful people, we would not have clean toilets, clean tables, clean roads, and garbage-free homes. Without them, our lives would be chaotic. Do we give them the respect they deserve? Do we give them the respect that we believe we deserve?

We are all CEOs and how we treat a waiter reflects our attitude. I have deliberately taken jobs washing dishes, served and worked in community service, and have learnt about people’s attitude and my own. Lots of people think their money can buy everything, including respect. Wrong! Respect really has to be earned!

I still have lots to learn about respect but these lessons I encounter every day are my best teachers. Who knows, the waiter, toilet cleaner or that stranger could become a CEO or someone who might even save your life one day – all because you smiled at him/her. I believe what goes around comes around, whether you ask for it or not.


 “Everyone in society should be a role model, not only for their own self-respect, but for respect from others.” – Barry Bonds


Catherine Lim

Published in The Star
Thursday July 19, 2012

The Other Side of Life



“Berdych has achieved a lot since we met a couple of year ago.  From a shy, quiet man to a confident, still the caring and humble gentleman.  He has given permission to share his thoughts (he wrote it himself).  It is an honour to have his story published here.”

I had learnt a lot after my first experience as an observer Reach Out Klang Walk of Kindness and Fun.  It touched my heart as volunteers willingly shared their love with the street people. The caring and food distribution at least can help reduce them suffering from hunger.

In this world, nobody wants to be poor and homeless. Every street man must have his own reason and story to why he sleeps in the street. They are the people who may have been abandoned by society.

I feel the saddest when I saw their children having to follow their parent’s path and life. The children have no toys, no way out, no alternative, no money, no school and no future. Some of them even have no parents and family members. It definitely needs more effort and hard work for street children to achieve their success in their journey of life compared with those children born from rich family. It is hard but I still believe they have the opportunity if society is willing to help.

We can’t deny there is unfairness in this society. Every person has their own starting point and background. We cannot compare with each other. How we want to live our life is depending on our mindset.

I am from a medium income family. I need to rely on my own hands to succeed in my life. My mindset and emotions are very important. If my whole life I think negative, my whole life’s journey will be negative. If I am complaining this and that, I will be blaming the world how bad my life is. If I choose to make positive difference in the world and make a change in society, then I will become a warrior of society.

Being born poor does not mean you will be poor your entire life. Being poor does not mean you cannot achieve your dream.

God gives you a lower starting point to see how tough you are, how independent you are and how brave you are. For those people who look down on the street people, I hope you understand that one day you might be poor and homeless. You are lucky now as you are born with everything you need and is comfortable. If everybody is given a same starting point, I don’t think you would have the ability to face the challenge and destiny as what poor family children do.

It is our responsibility as a human being to care and help others. Don’t only care for yourself, help yourself and think only of yourself. We will change other people’s destiny if we do some good.

We should spread the sending of love to every corner of the world. Every child has their own ability and potential. We should educate and give the same opportunity to them. Do whatever you think you can to make somebody’s life easy and channel them to the right path.

They are my heroes- Catherine, Bella and Fred showing a very good example. They are always the front men in charity. They have a very merciful at heart and nice to people. I can see they live a simple life but very meaningful and fruitful life. I hope there are more and more people concern about others. Don’t be so cold and ruthless.

Everybody must hold the principle that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

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Written by Berdych Tan Teck Chai