I wish I could call myself a self made girl…
…But I am not. The present day version of yours truly is a recollection of qualities and lessons ingrained in me from a young age. More accurately, my caliber as a woman has been strongly shaped by her “walk of the talk”. Shaped by the woman who carried me and another 4 children in her womb for 9 months (at a time). Who, in her quiet yet determined spirit, raised me to be who I am today. My mother.
screw what people think
For as long as I can remember, her reply to my concerns about people’s opinion of me has been: “haiyah, don’t care la”. After long-term observation, I realise this is a quality three generations of women in my family share. Maybe even four, if I had the privilege to know my great grandmother.
By example, mama taught me to keep the good and discard the bad. Upon careful analysis, I discern this to play a huge role in mama’s seemingly endless joy. Like my grandmother, she has the gift to psyche herself. An ability I hope I inherited to the same degree.
One thing most people can agree on is mama’s incredibly high tolerance for pain. In fact, one lesson she imparted to me when I was young was that women undergo childbirth and have periods. Both of which might cause pain. Therefore, pain is a sensation women will be accustomed to.
It came as a shock when other mothers send circulars for every scratch and paper cut they encounter. Because, mama has her lips zipped tight until she is bed ridden with pain. Literally.
love and sex
One fine day, I asked, “ma, what if a guy is in a relationship, and he meets a prettier girl. Does he leave his current partner for the more attractive one?” To that, mama replied, “Ping, you don’t know what love is”.
That instance was when I first learned that love extends beyond superstitious physical attraction. Over the years, I gathered my own understanding of what love is, the journey kick started by that one faithful day.
When I asked the dreaded million dollar question, “where do babies come from?” she painstakingly explained every bird, bee, detail, nook, and canny of sex. It took awhile to wrap my young mind around the concept. More than 20 years later, I appreciate that we can openly discuss the topic, like peers.
When mama was a young woman working in a rubber estate, events led to threats from troublemakers towards the Christians. Mama trekked across the estate to the housing of affected families to encourage them. At night fall, the rowdy individuals appeared to taunt the residents and mama stepped out to make peace. She did this in the dark, alone, at night, in a secluded rubber estate. If that isn’t courage, then I don’t know what courage is.
Later in life, when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, one of the first things she said was: “I don’t fear death. Because I know I belong to Jesus.” Every step of the way, the treatment, the pain, she took in stride. Her faith and courage never wavered.
She stares levelly at life and its challenges. Her shoulders are squared, arms crossed, like Michelle Rodriguez in Fast and Furious. She squints her eyes and says: “you’ve got nothing on me.”
My father once told me amidst his reminisce of their dating days, that the quality that attracted him to mama was her simple childlike faith.
In regard to her heartbreaking diagnosis, she said: “if this underlying condition draws you closer to God, then it is all worth it”. “The mustard seed faith (Matthew 17:20)”, she shared, “emphasises not the size, but the resilience of the faith”. Early this year, our prayers were answered. Mama has now gone into remission. All glory be to God.
I told the guest at my wedding that like most girls, I struggled with body image as a kid. So mama said, “every girl wants to be pretty. But with Jesus at the centre of your life, it won’t matter even if you aren’t. Somehow, you just won’t care as much”. I called that moment “the light unto my path”. The truth is, that is just one story from an archive of stories about her influence on my life. Strangers on the internet suggested I keep my speech below 5 minutes, so I picked this sole event. However, 5 minutes does no justice to the magnitude of her faith.
On top of her underlying condition, mama has another cross to bear: an autistic son. The mother of another autistic child once confided in me with generous praises for mama. She never flinches, never wobbles, is never fearful, aunty said.
Amidst embarrassing screaming, spitting and agitation, mama stands tall with her head held high. Her grit overflows. She never gives up on bro, patiently teaching him the basic skills in life. Sweep the floor, brush his teeth, write his name. Her fervour never fails.
When I think of mama’s tenacity, a bible verse comes to mind: She is clothed with strength and dignity. She can laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25).
And she truly is a PWG- Powerful Woman of God, and also a PWP- Powerful Woman of Prayer. Her initial instinct to any situation is to get down on her knees and pour her heart out to God. My impending simulator sessions or exams had her ardent in fast and prayer. Many times, I think that all I have achieved today is merely an outcome of my parents’ fervent prayers and undying faith.
I recall a time when I contacted her with concern about her health. Her watsapp reply was “talk later, parliament voting has started. Need to pray”. Because, you know, priorities. Stage 4 cancer versus praying for our nation. Prayer for the nation, duh.
the end result
Perhaps, it is no surprise that from her womb sprung this thick skin, wannabe iron woman with a little too much resolve in her system. My success and accomplishments are build on a myriad of mama (and papa)’s sacrifices, love and prayer. The frustration, the pain, the disappointments, just so I can be who I am today.
The english language fails to properly apprehend the magnitude of a parent’s hard work and love.
To which, all I can say is, thank you.
Happy mother’s day!
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of the household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honour her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gates.