A broken wrist
Can you imagine what it’s like to be nursing a broken wrist on Christmas Day? It’s humbling, to say the least; your hand loses control, but it’s also God’s odd way of making you feel loved.
Two months before Christmas I broke my right wrist. Living alone and not allowed to drive a car, I became housebound, dependent on the kindness of others to give me a ride to church. Being right-handed I could not properly feed myself, let alone cook, but a niece sent me holiday dishes I could eat with one hand (no need to cut anything). Best of all, I had lots of time to sit in silence, listening to my hand, so to speak. Hadn’t I been complaining that with so many mundane things to attend to, I hardly had time to do nothing with the Lord? Now I had no choice but to content myself with things I could do sitting down or slouching on a sofa—like listening to music, weeding out files in my laptop, watching tv, exercising my injured hand.
Listening to Tchaikovsky’s Hymn of the Cherubim while gawking at Hubble space telescope images on YouTube, I found myself writing a haiku: “In swirling masses/ of clouds, stars, fire, nebulae,/God plays hide-and-seek.”
Sorting out the pictures folder in my computer, I chanced upon a photo of a gathering of senior citizens, all with black hair except me. So I wrote another haiku: “Color your white hair!/Botox your wrinkles! They shout./No way! I’ve earned them!”
It was sad to hear about cancelled flights on Christmas day due to typhoon Ursula—think about aborted family reunions! This resulted in yet another haiku: “In earthquakes and storms/ dolphin calls and breaking news,/ hear God whispering!”
This year, I recalled, I was sorry that my immobility prevented me from preparing gifts for our family reunion, thus I consoled myself by writing one more haiku: “Merry Christmas, all!/ Spring, summer, winter—who cares? He’s born every day.”
Last Christmas, I soaked and massaged my hand in hot water at least five times—as my doctor advised—to relax the muscles and speed up therapy. “Fifteen minutes each time, do it as often as you can, even every two hours,” he said. A boring but pivotal exercise, I thought. Bending and stretching my hardened fingers repeatedly really hurt—and not only physically. For what bubbled up from the hot water were the words, “You’re getting old!” Ouch! That‘s painful! But from the pain rose yet another haiku: “Distal radius things/ snap like branches in autumn./Winter is coming.”
Baby Jesus, what will my winter be? I thought as I played Josh Groban’s“O Holy Night” over and over again. Decorating my home with my hand like this, I only managed to hang a set of Christmas lights, and place a wee ceramic Baby-Jesus-in-a-manger in my altar. But I know that it is so much more than many people in the winter of their lives can have. It dawned upon me then that the most moving Christmas day I have had (in my adult life) was the one I spent years ago with the wards at Mother Teresa’s home for the dying destitute in Tayuman. I had only meant to visit briefly and offer a donation, but I was surprised to find the compound brimming with beggars. Mass was being celebrated by then Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Rosales.
A Sister informed me that it was their day for beggars, and that they had invited all those homeless families sleeping around the Luneta grandstand to the party. I mingled with them, first to observe, but later on found myself being almost moved to tears by it all. They were so happy—beggars of all ages and old wards alike—savoring their packed Jollibee lunch and laughing over the antics of Ai Ai de las Alas (who I heard provided the lunch and the live entertainment). For that day, they didn’t fear hunger, poverty, or loneliness, because it was “bertdey ni Baby Jesus.”
On the way out I dropped by the Immaculate Conception church next door to give myself some time to absorb all I had observed. Back there with the barefoot nuns and the poorest of the poor celebrating the birth of the Savior, I smelled the manger. And it gave me hope—hope that someday I would be free of the burdens that kept me from being an eternal child—like Mary. Without Mary’s childlike submission to the will of God, would there be Christmas?
Remembering that memorable Christmas day while nursing my powerless hand, I thought, “I haven’t changed. I’m still an adult, a busybody flitting from project to project, deadline to deadline, like a spinning whirligig that wouldn’t stop. I’m still far from being a carefree child. If I hadn’t broken my wrist I wouldn’t be able to sit still. What a mule I am!
Helpless, I realized that I needed Someone to protect me from myself. With that realization, I uttered a little prayer to the Mother of God, in the form of a haiku: “Which one is harder:/a serpent’s head or my heart? Dear Lady, crush it!” And that’s the truth.