Elizabeth Elida Edward is a burn survivor. 13 years ago, she and her two older siblings were trapped in a fire. She was only two then. While she made it, her two older siblings didn't.
But since then, from 2 to 15 today, Elizabeth struggled with integrating into society.
The fire had left her disfigured and crippled. For many years, she hid her disfigurement behind a mask - an expressionless mask.
After the fire, she was hospitalised for 6 months, and ever since, she has been in and out of hospitals in Sarawak and Kelantan, and recently, under the Hallym Burn Foundation (which helps burn survivors), Elizabeth received free treatment in Seoul, South Korea.
It reports that "her hands became deformed...She could walk, but her left foot was disfigured and she was often in pain, which made regular school attendance impossible."
Her mother, 42, recalled that "there was no skin on nearly all of her body. Doctors had to patch up her body with skin from her scalp." (if you are a parent with children, this is deeply heartbreaking).
In a world where physical appearance counts, Elizabeth's classmates were understandably afraid of her. She said she only had two friends, but has since lost contact with them. And because of her mask, she was known not by her name "Elizabeth", but "girl".
Her mother explained: "People were always confused about her gender because of the mask, so I started calling her Girl. It has stuck as her nickname ever since."
Lesson? Just one...
Elizabeth said that she loves to go to school but she doesn't have many friends.
In fact, she went back to school in September and she will be starting her first PT3 papers. She is excited about it.
For more than 10 years, Elizabeth does not have a face to show the world. She hid what is left of it behind a mask.
But the treatment in Seoul changed that and she is now able to walk out in public without it. The world is now able to see Elizabeth as she is, her face, her smile, her gender, her femininity.
The world will come to know Elizabeth as Elizabeth and not as the amorphous "girl" any more.
I choose to write about Elizabeth this morning because she has a face that this world needs to see, a beauty no mask can hide.
Beyond the disfigurement, the pain and darkness experienced inside the mask for years, Elizabeth's unmasked face speaks of an inconvenient beauty that the world rather not speak about.
It is a beauty of the spirit that the world has no time for. It is a beauty that is too time consuming for the world to patiently nurture, discover and be deeply enriched by it.
The beauty that Elizabeth offers is truly of a value that money cannot buy.
No amount of cosmetic enhancement that the world can offer on a plastic surgeon's table or in a pharmaceutical factory is able to bring out that beauty because it goes beyond the superficial, the facade, the mask.
It has a penetrating depth that is not measured by the world's currency or fiat. And if the world has time for such a beauty, the world will be duly changed by it.
Because such beauty is silent, not loud, it is therefore enduring. Because such beauty is deep, not shallow, it is therefore transforming. And because such beauty is unassuming, never boasting or self-trumpeting, it is therefore inspiring, timeless.
I dare say that the we owe people like Elizabeth a debt of humanity for reminding us of our own humanity.
And in this world of insatiable appetites for the endless pursuit of innumerable things to be added on as ornaments to our skin, our name and our estate, there is nothing like a "rude-awakening" from Elizabeth's overcoming life to show us where we have gone wrong and how we can turn back.
For while the mask Elizabeth wears hide her physical disfigurement yet it cannot hide her beauty within, the mask we wear in society may enhance our appearance for a time, but it however cannot hide our ugliness, our insecurity, our bitter envy inside.
Let me end with what I started.
Elizabeth said her favourite subject is mathematics, and in her spare time, she "enjoys making arts and crafts, listening to pop songs and joining story-telling competitions."
She said with a smile: "I want to be a lawyer or novelist when I'm older. I love to write (I like her already). I write short stories and read stories online."
Here, I wish her the best in everything she puts her resilient heart and soul to. In my book, she has nothing to hide. She is just as normal as all of us. Her beauty is simply timeless. Cheerz.