New World Development

Couple lost sight, found each other

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am

A girl and a boy caught each others' attention at the dawn of their lives in 1952, learning only one another's names. They crossed paths again in the dusk of their lives as two elders who both lost their lifelong spouse and their sight to old age. They are now living in a home for the blind, where they recognised each other when their names were called out.

Lai Kam-chung, 84, and Wan To-wan, 77, have been living in the Jockey Club Tuen Mun Home for the Aged Blind, and relying on each other for direction and companionship in their pitch-black world, for the last 10 years.

The two first encountered each other 60 years ago at a North Point open-air food stall they both frequented for lunch. A devout Christian, Wan was an 18-year-old girl working for a church. Lai was a soft-spoken 25-year-old working at a night club with often coarse colleagues. 'He was not like the other boys,' Wan recalled.

The two saw each other often enough at the food stall that they began to greet each other with a nod. 'We never spoke. I only learned his name when his colleagues would yell: 'Lai Kam-chung, let's go!'' At Wan's impressionable age, the name stuck with her and would become the key to their reunion decades later.

The youthful infatuation never developed further than a nod across a food stall. Wan married a pastor, whom she bore five children with. Together, they moved to Malaysia as missionaries. Lai ended up marrying a girl from a laundromat who delivered uniforms to him and his colleagues. Lai is also a father of five.

Both Lai and Wan lost their spouses to old age more than a decade ago. Wan said she cried day and night for three years, which damaged her eyes and caused her to go blind. Lai said he woke up one day without his sight and never saw light again.

Lai moved into the home in 1996, and Wan two years after. After Wan had been in the home for three years, the fateful reunion occurred during an activity, when the elderly residents had to go around in a circle to introduce themselves. Wan stood next to Lai, and upon hearing his name quickly asked: 'Are you the Lai Kam-chung who often ate at the North Point food stall?' The rest is history.

'I am not easily trusting, so I relied a lot on Lai Kam-chung in this new place because he was someone familiar,' Wan said.

Now, the two often save a seat for each other in group activities and sometimes do musical performances together, Wan singing and Lai playing the harmonica. But the story is one of friendship only. Wan's heart is with her late husband.

There are 11 homes for the aged blind in the city. The Jockey Club Charities Trust donated HK$166.3 million to the Society for the Blind to fund the redevelopment of its Yuen Long home, and temporarily expanded its Tuen Mun home for blind seniors to meet a shortage of housing.