Sister Ang Wei Dai is a Tzu Chi commissioner. Despite her sickness, she maintains a healthy state of mind through active volunteering.
“The hard times are over. From now on, things will keep getting better,” said Ang who believes that when she is healed, her life will improve.
Born in the 1950s in a small kampung, 76-year-old Sister Ang Wei Dai had to discontinue her education at Primary 3 due to her poor family background. At a young age, she had to help with the household chores such as fetching water and raising the poultry.
Through a matchmaker, Ang was married before turning 21-year-old and had to work as a seamstress to earn a meager income to support the family. Unfortunately, her ex-husband was hot-tempered and often demanded money from her to satisfy his gambling habit. He even punched and kicked her when she resisted. The domestic abuse even landed her in the hospital on two occasions.
Ang had her first child at the age of 36. When her third and youngest child was two years old, Ang began working nightshifts in an electronics factory to make ends meet. She had always hoped that her ex-husband would turn over a new leaf, so she put up with the endless arguments and family abuses just to keep the family intact for the sake of her children. Her daughter, Zhuo Fen was still shaken when she recalled the unpleasant days. Zhuo said, “We would hide in the room when our parents argued because we were terrified.”
Her ex-husband did not turn for the better and their marriage ended. Life became harder for Ang as a single parent who had to raise three young children under the shelter of her brother’s warehouse before applying for a government housing much later. During those days, she was working as a noodle stall helper and chicken rice stall assistant during the day and continued to work in an electronics factory at night. Deprived of sleep, Ang merely slept for two to three hours every day.
One day, Ang passed out at work and was rushed to the hospital. She was diagnosed with kidney stones and hospitalized for a month. Ang's sudden collapse had left her three children feeling helpless without their mother around. They even thought that they might lose her forever. The incident was such an ordeal that every time when they thought of it, tears would flow down their cheeks. Fortunately, after many years of hard work, Ang finally managed to bring up her children into adulthood. She felt comforted that they are filial, well-mannered and did well in their studies.
A Joy to be part of Tzu Chi Family
Being a diligent person, Ang had long decided to become a volunteer in her retirement. On one occasion, she passed by a Tzu Chi community recycling point in her neighborhood and saw many volunteers dressed in neat uniform, busy sorting recyclable items. Out of curiosity, she stopped by to make further inquiry.
With guidance from the volunteers, Ang soon joined Tzu Chi and started volunteering in recycling efforts. Besides recycling, she would also actively participate in other activities when called upon, especially her favorite food preparation activities. She explained, “As I am not well-educated, I can only participate in activities that does not involve reading and writing.”
Ang also participated in many street donations to raise fund for international relief. Despite suffering from knee arthritis, which prevented her from standing for long periods, she put up with the pain as she wanted to help as many disasters’ victims as possible through the fund raising. During Master Cheng Yen’s dharma discourse on the law of karma and the principles of causation, Ang was enlightened to the fact that her sufferings were the result of the actions she had taken in her previous lifetimes. She gradually let go of her resentment towards her ex-husband and even visited him at a nursing home with her children from time to time. Her shift in attitude has left her ex-husband in deep awe.
Joining Tzu Chi has opened a new chapter in Ang's life and added more meanings to it. Besides her children, Ang is now receiving additional love and care from the brothers and sisters in Tzu Chi. The Mutual Love Group Leader, Sister Siow Chiew Duan, was like her own daughter, always visiting her to show care and concern. When Ang encountered any problem, she would call Sister Siow or seek help from a Tzu Chi member who lives nearby. In 2017, Ang completed her training and was certified as a Tzu Chi commissioner with the Dharma name Ming Wei.
Ang underwent two knee surgeries in 2018 and 2019 and regained her ability to move around freely. However, a sudden illness sent ripples through an otherwise quiet life. In April 2020, Ang noticed the presence of mucus in her throat and tinges of blood were seen when she blew her nose to expel the mucus. She did not give much thought to it until May 2020, when she noticed blood in the mucus when she woke up to clear it after experiencing a sudden nasal congestion while asleep.
Ang listened to her daughter’s advice to seek medical advice and was later diagnosed with sinus cancer. Faced with a sudden life-threatening illness, Ang took it in stride and completed 33 sessions of electrotherapy and 3 chemotherapy sessions with the good company of her children and the encouragements from her Dharma friends.
"After I recover, I’ll be back to help in the kitchen and recycling point!" exclaimed Ang with anticipation.
In order to return to Tzu Chi as soon as possible, Ang fought hard to recover from her illness through maintaining a stable bodyweight and listening to Dharma teachings. She forced herself to eat although food has become tasteless after the electrotherapy sessions, which have also left burn marks on her neck and shoulders.
"It's the wrongdoings in my past lives that I have to go through all these in this lifetime," said Ang who perceives that all the sufferings she had experienced were manifestations of karma. However, she readily accepted what she encountered and chooses to lead her remaining years with optimism.