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‘We Make a Living by What We Get; We Make a Life by What We Give’

holding hands
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston S. Churchill. (Image: debowscyfoto via Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

Ten years after my father passed away my mother finally agreed to come and live with us after a lot of persuasion. I was 40 and my mother was 70 at that time.

There were four children in the family, three girls and one boy; I was the youngest.

On the day that she moved in, my mother insisted on bringing two bags of freshly ground flour with her. It turned out that she had hidden 2,000 yuan in the flour bags; she had saved that money to buy a car for our son. How she could have saved that amount of money was totally beyond me.

After she moved in, my mother took over all the housework, including the cooking. I no longer needed to go out food shopping; with my mother’s help, we had a very relaxed and cozy home life.

Gathering

Two weeks after she had moved in, my mother wanted my husband to invite his classmates, colleagues, and friends over for a home gathering. At the time, people generally gathered in a restaurant instead of at home due to their busy lifestyles.

My husband followed my mother’s wishes, even though she had to work two full days in a row to prepare snacks, pastries, and other items for the gathering.

Everyone loved her cooking, and many of our guests hadn’t tasted food like that for a long time. Mother invited them all to come back again. The gathering was a huge success; we talked a lot, and only drank a little. We were able to discuss many topics that aren’t usually discussed in a public place or a restaurant.

Our house became a busy place after that. My mother really enjoyed herself and said: “This is how life should be; people need to have close relationships with one another.”

(Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Our house became a busy place after that. My mother really enjoyed herself and said: “This is how life should be; people need to have close relationships with one another.” (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Neighbors

One day I answered a knock on the door. I was a little surprised to see my neighbor from across street holding a plate of freshly washed cherries. We’d had a falling out a couple of years ago and hadn’t spoken since.

She said: “I brought something for your mother and hope she likes it.” I found it odd, and she blushed and went on to say: “My kids loved the stuff your mother made.”

I saw that it was my mother doing little things that was helping us to build a relationship with our neighbors. After that we made friends again and her children started coming around to our house a lot and treating my mother as if she were their own grandma.

My mother not only cared for my neighbor across street, but also for people around us and others in the community. She made friends with the parents of my husband’s friends, and watched their little grandchildren.

(Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

My neighbor, who hadn’t spoke to us for years, came to visit us with freshly washed cherries. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Promotion

When my mother learned that the son of my husband’s co-worker had lymphoma, she insisted that we give them money. He wasn’t very close to my husband, but my mother was adamant about the money.

She said: “When other people are having a difficult time, we need to do what we can to help. We must learn how to give before we can receive.”

Six months after she had moved in, my husband got a promotion through his co-workers recommendation — by popular votes. My husband said: “Your mother got those votes for me.” We discovered then that we were indeed having much warmer relationships with people around us.

My mother, an illiterate woman from a rural village, could quietly win hearts that we could only dream of winning, because of her willingness to give.

I remember she used to say:

‘You have to be kind first for others to be kind to you.’

It was such a simple logic, but it was too complicated for us to practice.

(Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Six months after she had moved in, my husband got a promotion through his co-workers recommendation – by popular votes. My husband said: “Your mother got those votes for me.” (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Excursion to the park

My mother suffered from motion sickness, so she wouldn’t travel by car. One weekend I decided to do her a little favor and take her to the zoo, as she had never seen an elephant.

She wanted to walk, but I thought it was too far at her age. Finally she agreed that I could put her on my bike and ride to the park. I got off my bike to cross an intersection and we were stopped by a young policeman.

He was ready to write me a ticket for breaking the law. My mother heard what was happening and wanted to get off the bike. I apologized to the policeman and explained that my mother couldn’t ride in a car.

The policeman realized that the law only prohibited young children from riding bikes like this, but it didn’t apply to the elderly. He immediately saluted us, signaled all the cars to stop and let me push my bike across the street. Wow, I was so moved — I’d never received this much respect in all my life.

A little bit of caring for my own mother allowed me to gain so much joy!

(Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

My mother wanted to walk, but I thought it was too far to walk at her age. Finally she agreed that I could put her on my bike and ride to the park. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

End of life

After she had been living with us for three years, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. A physician friend of ours suggested that due to my mother’s age, she should avoid having surgery, and let the cancer follow its natural course.

My husband and I discussed it and agreed that it was the best option for my mother. We took her home, and told her the truth. She calmly accepted this, and said: “That is the right thing to do.”

She, however, wished to go back to the village.

I was with my mother for the last part of her journey. I carried mother outside to the fresh air when the Sun was out.  She always smiled if she was clear-headed. I gave her medication only to help keep the pain under control.

One day, she told me that my dad was thinking about her. I held her skinny hand and told her that I was having a hard time letting her go.

But my mother smiled and said: “You have to let me go.”

When she withdrew her hand, my heart was breaking!

(Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Mom got cancer after living us for three years. I held her skinny hand and told her that I was having a hard time letting her go. But my mother smiled and said, “You have to let me go.” (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

The funeral

On the day of my mother’s funeral, there was a huge procession — including everyone from the village, and our friends and neighbors in the community.

The procession moved slowly out of the village, and many onlookers wondered whether this was a funeral for a high ranking official or the parent of an official.

No, my mother had no formal education nor a government appointment. She was only a simple peasant woman with an enormous giving heart.

(Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

On the day of my mother’s funeral, there was a huge procession—including everyone from the village, our friends and neighbors in the community. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Translated research by Monica Song and Kathy McWilliams

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