I couldn't shake a sad childhood image of my mother so I wanted to understand better what was going on a and I reflected back in time. An image popped up when my mother was in her thirties and I was probably 3 or 4 years old. We lived in a traditional Taiwanese style old house which was left from my mother’s late husband. It was an old, dark, and cold house. I remember spending endless time alone in that house, feeling incredibly lonely.
Life must have been very hard for my mother at that time. Her first husband had died unexpectedly and left her with four young children. Her in-laws bullied her all the time. She married again - my father - and gave birth to another 3 children. My father had a very short temper. Whenever pressure built up, he threw some scary tantrums.
My mother could have been depressed. However, she isn't. She is happy and optimistic most of time. I have always been amazed where she gets all this strength to deal with these tough challenges life brought her. One day I finally realized, it is the love for her children that gave her all the strength to carry on her life and this love showers her with joy.
My mother had mentioned many times that it is the love for us that keeps her going. However, I couldn’t really understand it until recently when my father passed away. Around that time I finally understood what it means to be sucked into a hole of sadness. However, when we experience this sadness and try to understand what is really there, we understand it is love! We feel sad for the loss of our loved ones, and we feel sad when our loved ones are going through tough times. We secretly wish to suffer in their places. In my little and innocent heart I thought then that if I suffered in their place, our loved ones would escape their fate. How childish and misplaced this love is!
Four decades have passed; today I finally understood why my mother’s image keeps popping up in my head. It was at that time that I decided to suffer in my mother’s place! I was innocent and naive then. Only today I realize it was a futile suffering! Not only did I not take away my mother’s suffering, on the contrary, I added more burden and worries to her!
Apparently, there are two kinds of love. One is the silly love - the compassionate suffering - that I embraced to help my mom. The other kind of love is the one that kept my mother going. True love is not only infectious but also gives us the strength to face our life.
Do you love your parents? Do you love your children and the people around you? What kind of love is it? Is it uplifting or is it the suffering kind? May we all be in a position to put the suffering and sacrifice behind us and embrace true love. Love brings joy, and strength, as well as tears. We allow ourselves to cry for the suffering of our loved ones and also respect their learning and fate. May our love bring joy, light, and strength to others!
By Su Zhen