Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord,
how oft shall my brother sin against me,
and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him,
I say not unto thee, Until seven times:
but, Until seventy times seven...
Matthew 18 : 21 -22
BY AUGUSTINE PANG
Interview with "Karen"
A great today's example of forgiveness
based on true story in Singapore
She took those words to heart. Even under the most cruel of circumstances, in a time of betrayal.
You would never have imagined how a happy marriage could end so tragically. When she spoke about it, the otherwise strong woman broke down and wept. Again and again.
Put yourself in her shoes.
You have three wonderful children. Your husband takes good care of the family. He loves you and the children, and works hard so all of you can live in reasonable comfort. In other words, a perfect marriage. What more could a woman ask for? Sure, Karen (not her real name), 50, had the usual worries, like her children's education and their careers. But her husband was the pillar on which she leaned. After all, they had been married for 28 years.
Then the pillar came crashing down.
"It was sometime in 1996. A relative was in hospital and needed extra blood. I offered to help. But a month later, the hospital called.
"The staff told me to go down. I was puzzled. I thought my blood group matched my relative's."
The staff and a doctor sat Karen down. They tried to be nice. But they had to ask that inevitable question.
"You're married, but did you have a boyfriend?" the staff asked Karen.
"No, why? I only have my husband," said Karen.
"Are you sure?" the staff asked again.
"Yes, of course," said Karen, sounding a little agitated. "What's wrong?"
The staff paused, and with a deep sigh, said: "I'm sorry, we've examined your blood and you've got HIV".
Karen could not believe her ears.
"How can it be? I only sleep with my husband and I didn't have any blood transfusion," she said, almost in tears.
The staff said: "Maybe we should test your husband's blood."
Her husband, a marketing manager, agreed to be tested.
A few weeks later, the results arrived. It was confirmed: Her husband had full-blown Aids.
Karen said: "I saw my world collapse around me ... I was very, very angry. He didn't say anything."
One day, out of the blue, she discovered the horrible truth: The man she loved, adored and cherished had, in moments of indiscretion, slept with other women when he travelled overseas.
And he had come back with Aids.
Worse, he had passed that dreaded disease to her.
She is now stricken with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, which leads to Aids. Overnight, Karen became a statistic in the Ministry of Health records. Of the 930 people living either with the full-blown Aids or the Aids virus, 73 are wives.
Innocent women who were betrayed twice over by their husbands, who slept with other women and then callously put their wives at risk. Most of these women got the disease from their husbands, a spokesman from Action for Aids (AfA) told The New Paper on Sunday.
Karen is one of them.
What did she do? Did she leave him? After all, she had every right to do so.
Karen did exactly the opposite. Instead of allowing her anger to fester, she rose above herself, above her husband's infidelity, above an uncertain future, and cared for him - until he died.
HOW DID IT TURN OUT THIS WAY?
"What's the point of asking. Why ask why? Can the whys make me or him live longer? The angrier I got, the more I didn't want to ask him.
"My children asked me to divorce him. But I didn't feel it was right. Marriage is for life, it's sacred.
"Yes, he did a horrible thing. But he gets punished, too. And his is not just physical torture. He passed the disease to me. He suffered mentally as well."
Karen is not any ignorant wife. She is educated, speaks very well and once worked as an administrator in an MNC. Her three children are in their early teens to early 20s. The family lives in a five-room flat. There was no hint of bitterness in her replies when she spoke to TNP on Sunday. In fact she still kept referring to him as "my husband".
Every time she recalled the good times she had with him, or what good a father he was, she wept. She recalled watching her husband wither away.
As the days drew on, her husband grew thinner and weaker. He left his well-paying job.
In the last six months of his life, he was in and out of hospital.
"I would visit him early in the morning before I started work. After work, I would be there, till 10pm. My entire weekends were spent there."
Karen's 15-year-old daughter said: "My mum would specially cook nutritious meals for my dad.
"Sometimes, he ate only a few spoonsful because he had no appetite. But she made sure he did not go hungry.
"And she talked to him, a lot, just to keep his spirits up. She was on call 24 hours a day, even though she herself had HIV."
Care-giver Ms Pang said: "She (Karen) hardly uttered a single word of complaint... To think that she is the victim."
Karen's husband came down with bronchitis. Towards the end, his lungs and heart failed him.
From a well-built 70 kg, he was reduced to 43 kg.
One early morning in December last year, he died in his hospital bed. He was 54.
"It's tough without my husband. I have to do many things which he used to do. The children still need their father. Now, I try to be both father and mother. It's not easy."
Karen controls her HIV-infection through medication. She looks perfectly normal, though she does feel weak sometimes. Now, she devotes her time to her children and keeps herself occupied with activities so that she doesn't have time to think of the past.
How long did the doctors say you can live?
"They say I can live till a ripe old age. But I don't think so. I don't feel weak, but you never know."
What's going to happen to your children if you die?
"The older ones will have to take care of the younger ones. Their security will be this flat," said Karen, pointing to the well-furnished and tidy flat.
I asked her daughter: "Don't you hate your dad for leaving the family in this state?"
She said: "I'm not angry, I just thought it was a stupid thing (to sleep with other women) to do. Since I can't retrace the steps, I just have to make the best of the situation."
Karen said: "As a mother, I don't plant bad thoughts into my children's minds.
"Why bring so much hatred to them? They might just grow up hating their father, and hating men. That's not how I want them to grow up.
As I left her flat, I asked Karen: "What keeps you going?"
"God. He's my strength."