I belong to a worldwide movement called Wwoofers Australia. It stands for ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’. Even though my place is not a farm, it still has a large vegetable garden with a long list of chores to get on top of.
Volunteers come here from all different countries to help out in any way they can. It is all based on trust and exchange - they help me and I help them, by putting them up and providing meals. I’ve been doing this since I moved to this house nearly 15 years ago.
Last November mum was in a bad way. Early that month she had broken her hip and leg, followed soon after by a bad attack of gastro. She was barely eating. I was feeling overwhelmed trying to spend time with her every day, as well as keeping on top of all the other things - the garden, my own work, general admin and so-on. Around that time I received an email from a young Korean student - a member of Wwoofers Australia - offering to volunteer and help out at my place. A week later, Dayoung arrived.
We hadn’t finalised a specific length of stay but decided we’d play it by ear. I didn’t realise at first, but now I clearly see that she really was an angel that flew in to our home. At first Dayoung started with the never-ending weeding, then some art projects. In time, she showed interest in visiting mum, so I took her along on my visits, and through patience and observation, Dayoung learnt how to help her. She knew what mum liked to eat, how much to offer her, and of course, to remember to smear all mum’s food with tomato sauce. Even though Dayoung is gentle and soft-spoken, she wasn’t shy to remind the staff to take mum to the toilet, or to take her out of the wheelchair onto the recliner to rest.
The weeks passed and Dayoung was still staying with us. She became more and more confident with mum, and I was feeling less and less tired, and happier.
But not only did Dayoung help with mum, she helped me manage to get away on some holiday breaks.
One thing I try to attempt each year is a 10 day silent mediation course. I find the solitude, with no distractions - no speaking, no phone, no reading or writing, just watching my own crazy mind - to be a priceless experience. I had already booked in months earlier, but as the date approached, I became more and more doubtful that I would go. Mum was still frail and barely eating post her hip surgery, and I was worried to leave her.
But then came the words of encouragement from Dayoung and my family.
Gil and Yasha: Nana will be ok. We’ll look after her. If need be we’ll call the emergency number at the meditation centre.
Yes yes we’ll look after her, Dayoung agreed. ‘I’ll go there every day and help her’.
My sister, Celina was also encouraging: You’re going, don’t think twice!
With Gil, Yasha, Celina and Dayoung behind me, I felt much calmer and motivated.
And so I went. With every passing day, I breathed a sigh of relief that no-one had called the meditation centre to speak to me. I wondered how mum was, and how Dayoung and my family were managing. It was a strange feeling not having any contact at all, but I felt secure, mainly because Dayoung was there, devoting her time to mum. Finally the 11 day course came to an end, and I returned home.
Dayoung had lovingly tended to mum like a mother with a new born baby. She had stayed with her for hours on end, making sure she was comfortable. She had slowly and patiently fed mum chicken soup with soft, cut up pieces of chicken (with lots of tomato sauce). She had offered mum buttered crackers with tuna, sliced down the centre, so mum’s single front tooth could manage biting them.
Against all odds, mum developed an appetite.
Dayoung gave with total love and good-will, and we all benefited. The day after I returned home, our angel left to organise her studies and tend to her own life.
She promised to return.
She did - several times since. And each time I had another opportunity to get away.
Bless you, Dayoung.
Dayoung and mum, soaking up some sun in the courtyard