My childhood friend posted this on his Facebook: “Today is Mother’s Day. I suddenly miss my late mother and open the photos on my cell phone. I am startled. Oh, did I ever take a picture of my mom? There are thousands of pictures, but as I browse through them, there is no mom. Children’s pictures, grandchildren’s pictures, wife’s and my pictures—all taken from various occasions, but mom is not there. I found only a few. Just random pictures… I miss my mom so much, but she’s just not here.” Both me and my friend, we are approaching 70. We all miss our mothers so much that it hurts.
To say I’m an undutiful son wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Of course, my mother probably didn’t think of me that way. In her early forties, after sending my father to heaven, she bravely carried on. She didn’t know much English and hadn’t learned much, but she worked hard because she had children to raise—a miracle of immigration. After my father’s funeral, she never cried in front of us three brothers. We thought she didn’t love our father, but we were wrong. She was hiding her tears from us. Even when she came back from work late on Saturday nights feeling unwell, she still went to church on Sundays and went to work early on Mondays. If we told her to rest for a day, she would say, “I feel worse lying down at home.”
When I tried to bring my mother and mother-in-law from Chicago to Atlanta, where I had settled in, both of them said, “Why should we? We like our church here. We are not going.” Both of them had husbands who were pastors, so they probably knew that having pastor’s families in the church wasn’t helpful, so they made that decision.
Later, my mother moved to Denver where my younger brother live. My younger brother retired in his early fifties. I was curious why he retired early, but later I found out that my mother was in the early stages of dementia. My brother didn’t tell me about it for a long time so as not to burden me. After the dementia progressed, I visited her. When her mind was somewhat clear, she asked, “Why are you here? What about the church?” Before my mother passed away, I saw her for one day and returned to New York on Saturday. My brother asked, “Do you really have to go when mom might pass away today?” I said I had to go because my responsibility on Sunday, and I just left. I planned to go back on Monday, but my eldest daughter said, “What if grandma passes away today? Go right now.” So I went to see my mother on Sunday evening. I was next to her for about an hour, but I fell asleep because I was tired. My brother told me to go and sleep. I slept for about an hour, and then my mother passed away. I’m the eldest son, but I couldn’t even stay by my mother’s side for an hour when she passed away.
When looking back on life, there are indeed many regrets. However, it’s said that if a person realizes everything they need to, they are ready to die. Confucius and the Buddha both said so. Even in the Bible, the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, saying they could gain wisdom like God. They ate the fruit of that knowledge and were expelled from the Garden of Eden. So, it’s God’s will for people not to know everything. We live with many regrets. Fortunately, the apostle Paul said, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
I hope that I won’t have too many regrets in the final years of my life. I want to become a father whom my children remember fondly and miss after I’m gone. Sometimes, while raising my children, I wondered what my parents’ thoughts and feelings were like. Whenever I have those thoughts, I always think that my children are much better than me. Now that they are adults, I don’t tell them what to do anymore. I’ve come to realize that my role is not to nag, but to acknowledge, affirm, love, and pray. I hope my children understand my heart, but even if they don’t, I won’t be too disappointed. Looking at my children with a heart of repentance for any wrongs I’ve done to my parents, I can only be grateful to God.
For those whose parents are still alive, it would be good to take many photos so that they have no regrets when they miss their mother and father.