A Loving Mother with Needlework
Mother's Day is coming again. This year I miss not only my mother, but also my mother-in-law, my second mother.
On March 10 this year, my mother-in-law went to be with the Lord in her sleep. In her memorial service, James' older sister showed everyone a beautiful sweater knitted by their mom. At the graveside service, James' younger brother recited the poem "You Zi Yin" by poet Meng Jiao of the Tang Dynasty. I found an English translation on the Internet to share with you:
A Traveler's Lament by MENG Jiao, translated by Betty Tseng
"A loving mother busied herself with needlework
On clothes for a son who was going away;
On the eve of his departure she sewed thread after thread,
Worrying that his return would be delayed and late.
How could the love of grass only inches tall
Ever reciprocate spring after spring of sunshine day after day?"
Skillful Hands of Mommy (My Mother)
Mommy is what I called my beloved mother. At the end of August 1973, the day before I left Hong Kong to study in the United States, Mommy accidentally burned my favorite silk blouse while ironing. However, Mommy quickly tailored the burnt collar from sharp corners to rounded corners, and turned my tears into laughter. The next day we embraced and said goodbye. It was the last time we saw each other.
Two years later, Mommy suffered a heart attack and died in Hong Kong at the age of 48. Another Chinese saying described how I felt: "The son wants to provide but the parents are no longer there." For years, I was tormented by the thought that I failed to fulfil my childhood promise to buy her a house and take her traveling. I never had the chance to take care of Mommy as she aged (she didn't). But the most regrettable thing is that she had never seen my husband and son.
"Why did I leave Mommy for the United States?" There was a knot in my heart for many years. I couldn't forgive myself until I became a believer in 1989.
The Story of Mama (My Mother-in-Law)
Mama is what I called James' mother after we got married. Mama had a happy and easy-going personality. It is hard to imagine that she lost her father at the age of 6 and was raised by her widowed mother and widowed grandmother. (Both lost their husbands in their twenties.)
In 1948, Mama took a boat to Taiwan to marry her fiancé. She did not expect her separation from her mother and grandmother would be permanent. Mama got married, taught school, and raised four children. She walked with her husband through many challenges, including moving to the United States in 1968.
In 2000, James' father passed away after a stroke and Mama experienced tremendous grief. Attending seminary at the time, James visited her weekly on a weekday and read the Bible with her. Mama was a skeptic about resurrection (although she was a Catholic) but eventually she believed in Salvation through Jesus Christ and understood and accepted the sovereignty of God.
In 2003, James took Mama to join a senior fellowship in a Christian church. Mama was invited to start a Chinese painting class in 2004 and taught until she was 92 years old. Mama lived a meaningful and joyous life by participating in Thursday fellowship and Sunday worship, teaching Tuesday Chinese painting class, and enjoying time with her children, grandchildren and friends.
Unless we were out of the Bay Area, James and I visited Mama every Sunday. It was always a special time instead of just a routine. Mama loved to sing hymns and praise songs. After Sunday dinner, Mama and James sang one song after another while I played the piano. We read the Bible, talked about happenings during the week, and prayed together. Every Monday morning, we took her for a walk around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, year after year.
She loved looking at photos in her family albums. Many times she would suddenly say, "Winnis, thank you for bringing James to church so that Baba and I can also know the Lord Jesus."
I remember a time when James and I were going to Europe to train disciples of Christ. As usual, Mama walked us downstairs. Before we left, she hugged me tightly and said, "Winnis, thank you for taking care of James all these years." I hugged her back and said, "Mama, thank you! I love you!"
Thank God that James' younger sister and her husband moved Mama to live downstairs with them three years ago. During the Pandemic, James' sister helped Mama to zoom with us every Sunday until two weeks before her passing.
On the afternoon of March 5th, our brother-in-law called James and said that Mama was approaching her end. We rushed to San Francisco immediately. Mama was in bed with her eyes closed, but she still responded to her favorite songs: "Whom I Have But You", "Jehovah is Love", "Sing a Heavenly Song", and "Thanks to God for My Redeemer".
Gifts from Mothers
Thank God that I have two mothers who love me. Mama lived for 98 years and Mommy was only alive for 48 years. I have learned that nobody can control how long we live. But whether our life is long or short, we can still make the best of our lives because living is the grace of God.
I love Mommy because she encouraged me and sacrificed for me. I admire Mama because she pursued the development of a healthy true self throughout her life, and was the pillar of her family. Mama used her words and examples to build a healthy and happy marriage and family.
After Mama believed in the Lord, she even lived out a Christ-centered life in faith. Other than her own children, grandchildren and friends, she served faithfully in church, leaving many precious gifts to the next generations.
Reflecting on Mama's life, James realized how God had looked after her all her life, even when she left China for Taiwan and then moved to the United States. In Taiwan, Mama believed in God when some nuns visited the school she taught in. Through the hard years of immigrant life, God kept her faithful in attending Mass every week. Although she did not know Christ before understanding the Bible, she held on to God's love and faithfulness.
What can a mother leave for her children? The apostle Paul once wrote to Timothy, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." (2 Timothy 1:5)
Please visit ParentingABCtoday.com for additional resources.
Happy Mother's Day!
Winnis Chiang, LMFT and founder of ParentingABC.com, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American born children.