Sunday, 15 April 2018

Jean Tan's marvellous walk of hope and faith.

I know her. I watched her perform. I even commended her for a touching performance. Her name is Jean Tan, 32. 

What I didn't know was the journey she took to get to where she is today and the journey ahead of her. 

According to the world, she was born ugly. Her birth was not so much cause for celebration, but disbelief. 

Her mother, Mdm Png (64), cried for her second born of three. 

Jean had "a severe cleft that sliced through her palate and lip." The doctor's prognosis was that she "would have problem hearing and never be able to articulate her words clearly."

But that had never stopped her to pursue her dream and live an overcoming life. Love, perseverance and pure grit pulled her through.
She is a singer-songwriter with three albums under her belt and even performed a song for the 2015 Southeast Asian Games. 

But the journey has been long and hard. 

At 8, her parents separated and her mother has custody of the three children. 

At 12, reality sank in when she had to contend with people's stares. She said, "I remember walking home from school one day and passing through a void deck. This little girl came up to me and said, "Oh gosh, you're so ugly. No one will marry you."

When a heart breaks into pieces, it is always love that labours on tirelessly to pick every piece up and Jean found such unconditional love in her mother. 

She recalled: "But my mother never made me feel like there were things I couldn't do. I joined the choir, public speaking competitions and cheerleading competitions." 

I guess however tough the obstacle, an overcoming spirit is what brings out the timeless beauty of a life. 

At 16, Jean went through a major operation to fix her protruding jaw. And at 17, she went under the knife again to correct her slanted nose. 
She recalled that the operation was an ordeal. 

"During the 12-hour jaw operation, doctors sawed down her jaw bone, pushed it back and locked it in with screws. For a month she could not open her mouth or speak. Her mother would feed her liquids via a syringe, five times a day."

Lesson? Just three.

1) "I cried that night," said Mdm Png when she saw Jean in the delivery room. "But the next day when I held her in the nursery, I told her the journey ahead would be long, but we would do it together."

I have learned that there is always a day and a night in a life's journey.

The night is an awakening. A dawning of a heartbreak when reality crashes in. It is also a time to step back, retreat from everything you once thought was important but realised in the still of the night that they were not, not even by a long shot. 

Undeniably, the darkest part of the night is the loneliest, the bleakest. But it is also the time where the breaking of dawn awaits. 

Then comes the day, the first light. It is a time where clarity crystallises and reality retreats. It is a time where you come to embrace things that truly matter, not the material but the immaterial.

Jean's mother exemplifies it well. Her love, hope and faith in her daughter not only refreshes their journey together but deepens and nourishes it. 

I always feel that a desiccated soul craves for everything, it is never satisfied. But a soul in the quiet stream of love desires nothing except a warm touch, a reassuring smile and a long embrace. 

That's what Mdm Png gave to her daughter and it made all the difference.

2) Jean's life never let up. She said: "After six operations, I thought I'd never have to visit a hospital again. But there I was facing a new series of challenges." 

It was another challenge concerning her health. She was diagnosed with an autoimmune kidney disease. 

It reports that "her condition causes her kidney to leak protein and her body to swell. When it acts up she can find herself 20kg heavier, and her organs bloat, making it hard to breathe, eat or walk."

But this is what Jean said: "But I pushed myself through each step and tried to be thankful; thankful to be alive...thankful for the next step." 

And her next step - in the midst of all that - is, I guess, marriage as she got engaged last year.


3) Jean now takes immunosuppressants - her fourth type of medication - to control her condition. 

But even as she confronts her illness with no cure in sight, Jean is not one "to dwell on what she cannot control."

She said: "Resilience isn't about banging your head through an obstacle. Rather it's about allowing yourself time to rest, recharge, and to try again." 

To be honest, I seldom come across an association of "rest" and "recharge" with resilience. Maybe they are virtues that are often overlooked. 

Resilience always gives the rousing image of one coming back from a setback (or trauma) stronger with greater hope and resolve to overcome.

But we often forget that the bouncing back is just the tail end of a determined struggle to pick up the pieces, tend to the wound, push back the obstacles, and see things in fresh perspective. 

We can't fight if we don't heal and we can't stand up if we don't mend the heart. And healing and mending take time. We need the rest and recharge to take the first step in a long, transforming journey ahead. 

The first step is no doubt the hardest, but every step thereafter only adds to one's resolve, courage and perspective. 

Indeed, the refreshing inns of life where we take a break from all the distractions not only deepens our resilience, it also broadens our journey's horizon so that we see beyond the adversity to our eventual overcoming.

I therefore wish Jean the very best in all that she does, in her music career and the new exciting phrase of her life as she finds enduring love, unsurpassed peace and deep joy in the hidden corners of life that we often take for granted. Cheerz.

No comments:

Post a Comment