Friday, 24 April 2009

Hanging out with Harold

Harold is 78 years old. He is a Chinese-Guyanese Jesuit in Georgetown. For about the last twelve years, he has been slowly dying of what looks like septicaemia. His feet are disintegrating in an uncanny echo of the bound feet of his female ancestors in China many years ago. Since I first met him in November 2008, he has shrunk.

Harold is Georgetown's greatest critic. The energy he spends on choler is not remarkable, until you stop to think of his life. He is living every moment with the kind of pain, accumulation of discomforts, malodour and indignity that would drive me to whining wretchedness in minutes. The tedium of lying alone in a wooden, cluttered room, all day, for years. The scaling of stairs that are equivalent to a severe rock-climb to most of us sluggards. The three weekly visits to a 1950's time-warp of a hospital. The lying on the margins of presbytery life, listening to your own world continue without you. I have NEVER heard Harold complain about any of that. Instead, he argues fiercely with the Bishop's policy. He critiques his colleagues' use of their leisure time. He gives pithy short shrift to Guyanese politics, and bemoans the degradation of Georgetown's formerly beautiful canals and historic buildings.

Harold says Mass with vigour and verve. He is a curmudgeon where most of us would be a cripple. He invests himself more in his socio-political surroundings than I have ever done. He does not have a simpery-'saintly' bone in his body. I do not think he could say himself how much his anger springs from illness, and how much it is his bastion, his armour, his protection against desolation.

1 comment:

  1. And I bet spending a bit of time with you guys brightened his day x