Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Jun 06th
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Home Feature Stories Great Love After Asia Tsunami More Than a Doctor - Mushan

More Than a Doctor - Mushan

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More Than a Doctor
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Sumanthra, 45, was in the business of selling salt. As a result of the tsunami, he lost his wife, three daughters, and seven other relatives. When the tidal wave came, his nine-year-old son Mushan clung to a piece of driftwood; he was discovered and rescued two days later. Their home was destroyed in the disaster, so they were staying with Sumanthra's brother.

Sumanthra had a soft-spoken, gentlemanly demeanor. He had been to Malaysia and was fluent in both Malay and English. Tzu Chi volunteer Lin Tsui-lian, who was from Singapore, was able to converse with him in Malay and make him feel more at ease.

"I'm more worried for Mushan," Sumanthra said. Of his wife and the three daughters that had perished in the tsunami disaster, only his 18-year-old daughter's body had been found. When nighttime fell, he would hear his son repeatedly ask, "Where's Mommy? Where are my sisters?"

What Mushan wanted to comprehend was much more than the details of where his mother and sisters had literally gone, but who would have the heart to explain to him what death is actually all about?

Gazing sympathetically at Mushan, suddenly it dawned on the volunteer--Mushan was the same boy they'd spotted wandering aimlessly near Doole's seaside house.

Tzu Chi volunteers recalled seeing Mushan that afternoon in his shirt, shorts and white cap, just pacing to and fro in front of a destroyed home. He would stare desolately at the ground, then look out to the open sea as if hoping that it would provide him with an answer. He held a playing card in his hand, which he tore up into shreds a moment later.

Dr. Hong You-ming, internal medicine specialist at Hualien Tzu Chi General Hospital, discovered that the wounds on both of Mushan's legs had not yet scabbed over, so he took out his first-aid kit and dressed the wounds. Then he held Mushan close to him and wrapped his arm around the young boy's shoulder, trying to console his young, tormented soul.

Dr. Hong, a father himself, is a spirited person with a child-like face. When he first heard how Mushan had been searching for his mother, his eyes welled up with tears. But he knew he had to contain his sorrow if he wanted to adequately console another person's grief, so he told himself to try and make Mushan smile, "I can be your big brother."

Everyone tried to shower Mushan with care and love, but his eyes were still lowered and silent, with all traces of any previous boyish innocence gone.

"What do you like?" volunteer Lin Tsui-lian asked shyly, hesitant to pry open any wounds in the young boy's heart. Little did she expect that her question could actually get a gleam in his eyes and a trace of a smile on his face. Mushan began talking about his fondness for sports and playing with marbles...

Oh, how the volunteers wished they could have grabbed a box of marbles out of thin air and given it to Mushan right away, so that he might be distracted from the incessant pain of losing his mother!

After the volunteers explained to Sumanthra how to use the family first-aid kit given by Tzu Chi and apply the medication on Mushan's wounds, they bid farewell and prepared to go visit other survivors. Sumanthra took out a bottle of sandalwood oil and gave it to the volunteers to show his appreciation. He thoughtfully applied some of it on each of the volunteers' hands as a gesture of blessing.

When the volunteers turned for the last time to wave to the father and son, Mushan had already climbed onto a fence, with a clear and focused gaze in his eyes. He continued to look at the volunteers until they had disappeared from view.


" Let us not ask for good health, only clarity of mind. Let us not seek for everything to go our way, only the courage and strength to persevere. Let us not wish for lesser responsibilities, only for the ability to shoulder more. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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