First Birthday Without Mom, Journeying home.
Journeying Home With Mom’s Ashes in a Symphony of Ten Stories
Dedicated to Mom and her hospice team at MacKay Memorial Hospital in Taiwan, especially Dr. Hong-Wen Chen
By Ms. Huey-Min Chuang
On my birthday, I celebrate my mother -
2/2/1943 - 3/31/2011
Sixty-Eight years old and thriving in the afterlife.
Mom and I embarked on a journey home to divine Providence, our hometown in America.
From Formosa Island to Rhode Island, we were reminded along the way, that not even Death can separate us.
Each of us is a journeyman.
We are apprentices that never cease to experience life brought about by the lessons of LOVE.
"Let's celebrate each day as if it is your birthday mom, and taste beautifully dressed up cake," I said to mom when she could not get up and get dressed any more.
We usually did not hug or express love through physical contact. Mom expressed her love through food. No matter how complicated or laborious, she made each morsel from scratch and with wild imagination. We ate satiated, finger licking happy, whenever we were together. When she did not cook, we went to buffets and lunch specials. She would say, "There is always something for everyone, and plenty for anyone."
Towards the end of mom's life, she yearned to be held constantly. We spent hours in silence. The warmth of the unspoken and the knowledge that we were joined forever were simply enough.
A few years ago, Mom and I had a heart to heart chat. I gave her The Runaway Bunny, a children's book. I told her that although she may not have always been there for me in the past, we can begin anew.
Like the Little Bunny, I wanted her to simply love me for who I was, and to be there for me, no matter what.
As Mom laid dying at the hospice, I made her the same promise –
"Like the mother bunny, no matter when, where and how,
I will always love you and never leave you."
On March 11, 2011, Mom saved me from a plane that would have landed in the worst Japanese earthquake and tsunami in history. Her transfer from the hospital to the hospice delayed my return home to America, thus sheltering my life from disaster.
We build ourselves empires, where riches accumulate in our lives, and walls mark our boundaries. But change comes without notice, and loss happens in a blink. In total loss, we find out what is important. Mom taught me that.
Mom may have lost a continent, a city, her own bed, and eventually her freedom to move her body about. But through it all, she led me to a brave new world, where courage, inspiration, creativity, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, and human dignity are the pillars of Love.
She gave me a new Home. And this Home of ours is where Love is.
What happens to those we love after they die, you may ask? Mom continues to travel around the world. Together, we discover intriguing and favorite places, we say hellos and goodbyes to best friends and new faces, and we become part of the lives of others in new ways only limited by our imagination. She travels happily with me in her dressed up tea can. She sits proudly by my side at the head of boardrooms, when I deliver my acceptance speeches of prestigious awards. She is ALIVE in the retelling of old stories and in the making of new memories.
In one of our precious strolls in the hospice garden, I asked mom why the trees sported mossy-like beards. She answered, "Because they are very old and very wise. They will be here before and after we are gone. They are called Ron Zhu." I thought mom was much like the trees, enlightened in her humor and wisdom.
Mom remains in everything I do; deeply rooted - before, after, and in the every now of my each today.
One late afternoon, Mom and I found a single blooming flower amidst winter at the hospice. It is bright pink, just like Mom!
In the most unlikely of places, at the hospice, Mom and I experienced the joys and miracles of Life through conscious living and dying.
Mom was cared by a relentless group of heroes in our time of need at the hospice: Da Team -
Nurses, volunteers, physician assistant, washer women, pastor, social worker, and of course, their fearless leader, the hospice director.
Cape of Courage, Wings of Love and Feathers of Hope
For Mom -
"Tender were your words
When my heart was breaking.
Your hugs opened my wings
That travelled the entire world.
So immense was your Love
That the courage that carries me
From day to day without border
I made mom a Cape of Courage at the hospice. Whenever Mom was afraid or cold, she wore it.
Mom and I looked alike. I am happy about that. But there is much more that I inherited from her.
At 53, Mom received her American college degree in Art, which many thought impossible, even though she had other degrees already from Taiwan, and had been a successful school principal, teacher and an entreprenuer.
"Nothing is Impossible," she said.
In her youth, Mom had a moped accident, where her left leg was burned severely, which left a very large, unsightly brown patch on her skin as a reminder. She went swimming everyday regardless, even when she was exposed to ridicule and disgust by others.
"Never be embarrassed of yourself, for you must be proud of where you come from, so that you can be all that you can be," she reminded me.
These are the ten most beautiful words in English language that make up my mom's self-portrait.
Never, ever give up on Love. I learned.
You and I are like this -
Where there is right, there is left.
Where there is you, there I shall be.
Where there is Love, we never walk alone.
This is our infinite journey; you are at home with me.
And together, we journey on ...