Honour your parents | Sunday Observer

Honour your parents

When was the last time you thought about the sacrifices your parents made for you when you were young? Have you evaluated the impact they’ve had on your life? Haven’t you honoured your parents with more than just a store-bought card, dress, or even a new tool or appliance.

Years ago, when official work took me out of Colombo, I used to visit the nearby Buddhist temples, both old and new. What drew my interest were the different types of structures within the temple sites, such as, the hanging bells, architecturally designed buildings, walls and enclosures.

Most of them were donated by good-hearted Buddhists in memory of their departed parents. And, each of them contained a beautiful tribute.

These tender words of praise had been carefully carved into marble, and permanently displayed on the walls. As I read those tributes, I wondered, “Why wait until death to celebrate the life of parents?”

The legacy my parents left is more than a writing etched in marble; it’s the permanent etching on a little boy that will never be forgotten.

My father was a man of impeccable morals and had more influence on my life than any other man. He taught me character and integrity. He showed me how to be successful and how to compete fairly.

My mother was tenacious, a leader, and impressed upon me that family life was to be treasured. That’s why her home was more than four walls, a roof, and a street address. Mother made sure our house was a place that embraced relationships.

Spend time

Come to think of it, when I was a teenager, once I vomited my food - for the third time - during lunch. Mother mopped the floor each time I threw up. I don’t recall thanking my mother for doing it. Even when I was doing my first job, I never thanked my father for being seated near my hospital bed three consecutive nights when I was running a high fever. They never expected gratitude. They thought it was their duty. You need to give them the honour they deserve. First, spend time with your parents on their agenda, not yours. It means, visiting or calling them regularly when they are free. That was one important lesson I learned from my father.

I still recall watching him get up after dinner almost every other day and walk 500 metres over to his mother’s house. I accompanied him a number of times. I would sit there and listen to the tick of the cuckoo clock and the creak of my grandmother’s old chair. There wasn’t much conversation but she was overjoyed to see us. That was how my father honoured his mother.

Handwritten letters

In today’s fast-paced society this kind of commitment may be too much to orchestrate. As a matter of fact, there was a time in my life when I found it very difficult to stay in touch with mother.

There were high demands on my time, due to family concerns and official matters. Still, I tried to visit her at least twice a week to keep in touch.

A second way to honour parents is through handwritten letters. If you’re like me, you quickly go through the mail to find the stamped pieces, and then carefully inspect them to look for any handwritten addresses from a friend. In this junk-laden world, nothing shows appreciation like sitting down and taking time to write out a lengthy letter - on paper, not e-mail.

My father died unexpectedly before I had the chance to tell him everything I wanted to say, so I promised myself that I would not let that happen with my mother. Looking back on our relationship, I feel that I did everything I could to make sure my relationship with her was kept alive and that she felt appreciated and encouraged.

After she died, however, I realized I really could have done more.As I packed her keepsakes, and after going through the bottom drawer of her bedroom dresser, I noticed there were about 50 to 60 handwritten letters. Mother had saved every letter I’d ever sent.

Standing in her room, I wondered how many times those letters were read and re-read. To me, that’s a statement of how lonely the latter years of our lives can be and how important it is for us as children to keep that relationship intact. I regretted not sending more letters to her.

Tributes when living

A third way to honour parents is by writing and presenting a tribute. Within the next couple of weeks, sit down for an extended period of time and write out a tribute. List the things you appreciate about your parents; the way they have provided for you, cared for you, or showed love to you over the years. Include the traits you admire about them.

Is your father a hard worker? Is your mother hospitable? Is she a great cook? Does your father have a wonderful smile? Your tribute doesn’t have to be long; what matters most is that your words flow from your heart.

When you’re finished, type it and have it professionally framed. Then read it to your parents on a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary.

I promise, a tribute is a gift your parents will treasure for the rest of their lives. I first wrote a tribute to my mother in 1988, and I’m glad I wrote it when she was alive instead of writing it for her eulogy. At her funeral, I felt satisfied, knowing that I had told her everything I ever wanted to say. I had no regrets.

Somewhere down the line, we have forgotten our parents. It’s time we get back to our time-tested, good old culture.

Let’s all make an effort to make more time for our parents, express more love for them, and make sure they feel appreciated while we still have them with us. 

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