Sharing and Gratitude

When I think of Mom’s life, it's filled with happy memories, fun times, laughs, and above all, an abundance of love and cheer. I feel sadness in that she has left our world to join another. But it's when I think about the future, about all the things we worked towards that she will miss, that I feel a greater sadness. I feel sorrow for the loved ones in our lives who never had the chance to meet her, for our children, her grandchildren yet unborn, to whom she could have brought her love and happiness.

In good times, she was a cheery friend. In bad times, she was a comforting confidante. And through all, she was a loving wife and mother. She provided the guidance we needed and the advice we sought.

When we were kids, Mom did her grocery shopping in Chinatown, with kids in tow. Our job was to carry the groceries, but we absorbed her shopping habits too. After I moved away, I used to call her whenever I stepped into a Chinese supermarket. Each and every time, I felt like I was growing up all over again. I filled with pride at having purchased the same foods she used to, the same brands she used to.

Just like Mom.

I’m 33 now, and I still feel her with me everytime I shop for groceries.

Mom is often described as always happy, but her happiness was directly tied to that of her family and friends. We are extensions of her: when we were happy, she glowed for us; when we hurt, she felt our pain even more. And she sacrificed so much for us.
In 1973, Mom married Dad and joined him in America. Together, they would boldly forge a new life in a foreign land, barely speaking the language. To help pay the bills, Mom worked tirelessly in a Chinese restaurant waiting tables. Come Christmas that year, a season to be with family, she was incredibly homesick. She put on a brave face in front of everyone, finishing her shift serving a Christmas party, and then hid in a back corner crying to herself.

It wasn't until the children had grown up, that she and my father had began to afford themselves the attention and comforts they'd given us all those previous years.
Throughout our childhoods, she taught us Chinese at home, after having worked long hours in the office and coming home to cook for a hungry family. She spent all her free time nurturing our Mandarin. When we entered into Chinese public speaking contests, she practiced with us night in and night out, with the conviction of an Olympic trainer. We always placed in the top three. That we all speak Mandarin fluently and have careers in Asia today is a direct reflection of her work.

In her short 57 years, Mom lived her days to the fullest she knew how. She was full of life, full of love, full of curiosity. She was active, playful, colourful. She really had that zest for life. Though the cause, the sudden timing, and the utter unfairness of her passing has shocked all of us, we should take solace in knowing that she passed peacefully and painlessly.
A week ago, I had a dream. Though most of it was blurred as I awoke, certain parts remain clear. My family was in some kind of darkness or peril, and a gorgeous butterfly appeared and led us to safety, to light, to beauty, to happiness. As she flittered along her merry way in my dream, we realized it was dying. It had sacrificed its own short, short lifespan and spent it instead bringing us to the light.

A man – a counselor of sorts – simply advised us to let her go peacefully, and that though her time was shortlived, it was beautiful, happy, and full. I started weeping uncontrollably, thankful to this act of selfless sacrifice, and I cried as I awoke that morning. It was clear to me: that butterfly symbolized our mom.

Her life was short, much too short, but in it, she did the most meaningful things for others. She cared for those around her and showed us all the beauty of life.

Throughout her life, she basked in the sunlight that shone upon us, instead of cowering in the shadows cast by the fear and uncertainty that we so often are distracted with. She encouraged us to go out into the world, to experience what it had to offer, to provide back what we had to offer it in return.

Mom spent a lot of time worrying too. Worrying for her husband, her children, worrying about the well-being of her siblings and her friends. She really cared for and took care of those around her, and it was very much appreciated.

Mom was someone who appreciated everything she had. Part of her appreciation for life was for those who took care of the people close to her.She was constantly thanking those around us – our classmates, colleagues, friends – for taking care of her loved ones.

And today, she's smiling upon you all for taking the time to pay your respects, and thanking you for supporting us in this time, in our past and in our futures. On her behalf, we give you our deepest, most heartfelt gratitude. Thank you.

Mom will be remembered for the joy she brought us, the love she shared with us, the world she made a brighter, better place. We will no doubt carry on living in her spirit.

I urge you too to remember the positive influences she had on your every day in your life, to remember the bright aura she radiated. I urge you even more to to go forth into the world and pay it forward.

Mom does know best. If we all took Mom's advice, this world would be a wondrous place indeed.


Anonymous said...


I am so sorry and extremely saddened to hear about the loss of your mom. My deepest condolences and sympathies. It's never easy to lose a dear and very much loved family member.

My heartfelt condolences and sympathies to you and your family.


Anonymous said...

Ben -
So sorry to hear about your mother - you painted such an amazing picture of her in your post.

Your words have helped me realize how precious life is, and how much we take it for granted.

My deepest condolences,

Ben said...

Thanks, you two. This was (as you might have figured) the speech I gave on April 12. The continuous tears have given way to only sporadic bawling fits, and we're trying to pick up the pieces and move forward positively. Not easy, though.