Madam Nayagam : The lady who lived for God

She saw God in all her perils

Many people pass us by in life but only certain individuals leave a lasting and vivid impression in our minds. Those who impress us during our childhood seem to leave a permanent imprint in our memory. Sometimes these memories are pleasant but at times they can be bitter and disturbing and haunts us for the rest of our lives.

As the years pass, as we grow up we may encounter many obstacles in our struggles to seek success and happiness in our lives. Many of us become very successful but the memories of these individuals who had impressed us during our childhood remain vivid in our minds.

One such person to me is Mdm.Nayagam, a grand old lady from the parish of St.Joseph,Batu Gajah.Her recorded age is 90years but according to her children she may be100years old and they recently celebrated her 100th.birthday with friends and relatives.

At a time when women rarely go to work but stay at home to take care of the family and children, she was forced to work as a hospital attendant at the age of 35,which she did till her retirement at the age of 55 in 1973. She was widowed at the age of 53 but as her husband was sickly and of little help in supporting the family, she single-handedly struggled to bring up her 9 children, one of them mentally and physically retarded from birth due to Down’s syndrome.

Children with Down’s syndrome rarely survive until adulthood. It is notable that her handicapped son, fondly called Benny is still very fit and lives with her at an age of 57.His well being speaks volumes for the love and care she had given him all these years.

I used to know Mdm.Nayagam from my childhood days as her sons were my schoolmates and we studied and played together in the neighborhood. Even at that age I was impressed with two main characteristics that she possessed - her profound faith in God and her unselfish love for her handicapped son.

Her very strong faith in God was a pillar of strength and source of inspiration in her struggles to bring up her 9 her children, including Benny. It was this unshakable faith in God that provided her solace in her times of peril and solitude. I remember her going to church for weekday mass almost every day without fail. During those days in the fifties and sixties going to church was not an easy thing. The mass used to start at 6.00 am and she had to walk about 3-4 miles every morning which she religiously did without fail. Sickness and rain did not stop her from attending mass and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. I must admit that Mdm.Nayagam’s devotion to the Eucharist was mainly instrumental in influencing many of us as children,to attend daily mass without fail.

Many elder parishioners and surviving priests and brothers who had worked at St. Joseph ’s Church know this practice of Mdm.Nayagam. The most prominent person who would bear witness to this is none other than our Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, whom she knew when he was a boy. The Archbishop, who has visited her on several occasions, does not fail to drop by to see her whenever he is in Batu Gajah. Her commitment to God was so deep and it never diminished with time until she her legs started to fail her in her eighties.

Today she may be physically frail and unfit but spiritually strong. She continues to recite her rosary and receives her holy communion every week at her house. She keeps praying for her children. Throughout her life she had always looked up to the Church whenever she had problems and she was never turned down. The Church doors were always open, both physically and spiritually unlike today when they are closed most of the time for various reasons. We have come to a stage when we have to even lock up Jesus in the tabernacle for fear of being hijacked or stolen.

The second characteristic of her that impressed me was her unselfish love for her handicapped son. Despite all her troubles she never neglected this unfortunate son. In fact she paid special attention to him. Bathing, dressing, feeding and washing up a normal child is already a big task. You can imagine doing these for a handicapped child for fifty over years. It was a tormenting task but Mdm.Nayagam accomplished all that unselfishly for the love she had for him.

She did not see the chores in those daily routines nor did she curse God for giving her a handicapped son but she saw God in him, which took away any pain and agony of that task.

Today she sits on a wheelchair. She may be senile and her memory has failed her but you can see the calm, serenity and satisfaction in her face. She conveys a look of contentment for having lived a life of dedication to God. She had been a true servant of the Lord for almost a century.
At this advanced age, Mdm.Nayagam may be of no use to anyone in this highly materialistic world but she remains a shining example of what a follower of Christ should be – humble and ever willing to accept the challenges in life with full trust in Him.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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