Mum, when will I see you again?

God is a God of surprises.

Dad and Mum came from two different worlds. Dad was born in a devout Catholic family in China, while Mum was born in a Buddhist family. Mum’s dad (my grandfather) was the leader of a gang in Hong Kong. Though his life was complex, he was a good man. Mum has four siblings, but they all had different mothers. Seeing my grandfather had so many women in his life, mum determined not to marry a rich man or a gangster. Through the match maker, Mum met Dad. Dad was poor but a simple and honest man. After dating for three months, they got married. Dad was a devout Catholic, he encouraged mum to join the catechism classes and eventually she got baptised.

Life was difficult in those days. Both Mum and Dad had to work to raise their eight children. Dad worked in a cloth shop, while Mum worked in a garment factory as a sewing machine worker. Mum was always proud of her work rate. She sewed more clothes than other workers. Therefore, she could earn more money than her co-workers and a lot of people working in the office in those days.

Some years later, Dad started a toy factory. Our financial situation had improved. They sent us to Auckland, New Zealand for a better life and education. In 2012, Dad suffered a massive stroke which left him paralysed. He couldn’t move or talk anymore. Mum couldn’t look after him at home. We had no choice but to send him to an aged care facility.

For every day over 7 years, she visited him without fail. She cleaned and fed him. She kept talking to him even he couldn’t respond verbally. She didn’t even want to go for holiday because she felt bad leaving Dad alone in the nursing home. Mum showed her unconditional love to Dad.

When I prepare couples for weddings, I would ask them to reflect on the wedding vows that they are going to take during their wedding ceremony, ‘I, ___, take you, ___, to be my husband/wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.’

Mum truly fulfilled the vows that she professed. She is a living Saint. One thing I learned from my mum is faithfulness - you don’t leave when your loved one is in trouble. Sadly, dad passed away on 3 June 2019. My siblings convinced mum to go overseas for holiday. She came to Australia to spend the Christmas with me just before COVID-19 started. That was the last time I saw her. People have been greatly affected during the time of pandemic – death, sickness, financial difficulty, travel restrictions etc. Perhaps one of the most painful things is the separation from family members and friends. I haven’t seen mum for almost 2 years. We are physically distanced but stayed connected through video calls. I do miss her. I want to hug her. Mum, when will I see you again?

Mum’s favourite scripture quote which reflects her life and family: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

BIO: Father Harry Chan was born in Hong Kong. He went to high school and university in Auckland, New Zealand. He joined the Franciscan Order in 2006, was ordained a priest in 2012 and appointed as a chaplain at ACU Brisbane Campus in 2015. He is a keen basketball player and a Liverpool FC soccer fan.

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