Fourteen years ago, my father died on Mother’s Day, and the meaning of the holiday changed forever. When I was in college, my father battled pancreas cancer, and he took his last breath on that day in May. Years later, my mother, who was finally at a happy place in her life, died in an accident the weekend of Mother’s Day.
I’ve since had the habit of holding my breath during this time of the month, longing to hear my parents’ accented English and Chinese dialects and waiting for the grief to pass.
A Mother’s Prayer Answered
Even after having my own children, celebrating motherhood without my parents felt uncomfortable, especially on Mother’s day. However, I have made some progress in the grieving process. Now, I can make it through Mother’s Day without breaking down in tears! But it’s taken years of prayer to have peace. The bible verse that has helped most is Philippians 4:6-8.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I believe that God has answered my prayers by giving me a chance to re-learn and teach my children Chinese. Our Chinese language journey began two-and-a-half years ago when my 老大 (lǎodà / oldest child) was 2.
However, no matter how hard I study, I trip over words that were most comfortable to my parents. I know this challenge is normal when adults learn a language; my ‘broken Chinese’ is like my immigrant parents’ ‘broken English.’ But my 老大 tells me she prefers my “not-that-good Chinese” over English, because it’s our special thing. To my kids, Chinese is normal, comfortable, and not foreign.
The Purpose of Language
I wonder if 老大 may have a sense that language is much more than words. Language connects people near and far, friends and strangers, and different generations and cultures. It has the power to open hearts and heal wounds. I see my kids playing and joking with each other in their grandparents’ language, which once seemed impossible. And I feel joy, not sorrow, this Mother’s day.
These 12 bible verses in English, Chinese, and Korean about faith and parenting help me through each day.
Lastly, the following inspiring mothers are trying to teach their children an Asian language. Here are their stories:
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