My worst fear in life is to lose my mother.
I still remember when at the age of eleven or twelve I had to live separately from my parents, since they were in exile in Cambodia and wanted me to stay in Vietnam to learn the language. Every night when I went to bed, I thought about my mother and the day she would die. Tears filled my eyes, and I decided I would die together with my mother. I would jump into her grave to be buried with her.
Now, I am a mature person, mother of two teenagers. My love for my mother is still so deep and strong, and I often wonder what I will become when my mother passes away. I would most likely not follow her in death, since I now have children whom I love as much as my mother loves me.
Every time I look at my mother's hair, grayer by the day, and her more and more wrinkled skin, my heart aches and the moments close to her become more precious to me. I realize that I have wasted so many of these cherished times near her. My mother and I tend to disagree and argue a lot. She has different tastes and different ways of thinking. I have now come to accept what my mother likes and the way she thinks. I worry that anything that might upset or dismay her could make her sick and shorten her living days.
The moments near my mother now are the moments of contemplation. I always watch myself and formulate my words, actions, and attitudes toward her so as to make sure that I do not hurt her feelings, so that I will never have to plead for her forgiveness after having inadvertently caused her sorrow as in the past.
My mother's image reflects a tragic era in Vietnam, my homeland, mixed with unforgettable tender and beautiful memories. My mother and I are of two generations that lived through the Vietnam War.
I will never forget the time spent under the bamboo groove, in the shade of areca nut trees and other fruit trees back home. I remember the sunrise on the Hau river, with the water glistening in the morning sun. The boats glided by carrying smiling peasants dressed in black who hung on to their conical hats. I can still see myself as a little girl swimming in the river, holding on to the trunk of a banana tree. In the afternoon I sat on a long bamboo chair, eating corn and watching a bog sow nursing her litter of piglets.
We were born and grew up in Vietnam, nurtured by our Motherland. Our nourishment was fresh water and the crops of that land. Wherever we go, our homeland is always with us. The ones who love their mother will love their homeland, for the Motherland is the very womb that brought us into this world. If we were to forget our roots, our mother's pain and suffering in bringing us into this world would have been in vain.
I know for sure that one day my mother will be gone. However, her image will forever be imprinted in my homeland. I will follow her example by giving my children a mother's love, the love for our homeland. If they did not feel their mother's love, they would never feel the love of the motherland. Without understanding the Vietnamese language, they would not feel the emotions expressed in Vietnamese songs and words. Until they learned to speak, read, and understand that language, they would always feel alienated from the Vietnamese community.
People who, like me, grew up in our homeland have the duty to fertilize these small plots and nurture their growth. Let us work together to expand the boundaries of Vietnam beyond the S-shaped peninsula, to reach out to the entire world.
Buddhist Mother’s Day (Vu Lan)