“It’s a secret I’ll keep beyond the last day of my life.”
Those words stayed in my mind and haunted me for awhile. It made such a deep impact on me that I had to ask for permission to craft the story behind them.
Let me start from the beginning.
My story began in a chance meeting with an elderly person. It was relatively uneventful until her parting words hit me hard and deep in my being.
While talking to that wonderful stranger and finding out about her family, she told me proudly about her son.
“He’s a good boy,” she said, “Went to law school and did very well. So well that he had a few job offers even before he graduated.”
I asked her, “It must be hard for you, isn’t it? To support your children and watch over them for so many years?”
She replied in a nonchalant way, “Yes, but that’s the job of every parent.” Looking at the lines on her face and the expression, I knew she had gone through many a difficult time.
“I’m happy that he’s getting married soon. More likely than not, he’ll be spending more time with his future wife and starting his own family.”
Her subsequent words reverberated through my mind. “My house will be quieter and emptier without him.”
As she spoke those words, she was looking down on the floor. It was as if she was struggling to come to term with a vacuum in her heart.
Feeling uneasy about where the conversation was leading to, I changed the subject. We went on to talk about many other subject matters and then about my recent travel overseas.
It struck a chord with her and got her talking about her son again.
“Some years ago, my son had to go to the US as part of a student exchange programme. We were excited for him but at the same time, was troubled by it.
“We did not have the money to pay for his trip and we did not have the heart to tell him.”
“So, what did you do about it?” I asked her, more out of curiosity than concern. I had mixed feeling subsequently about mooting the issue.
She replied and again in a calm and casual manner. “I surrendered my endowment policy. It was supposed to give me a lump sum of money if I had kept it for another 4 years. The money was meant to help support me for my retirement.
“On top of that, I pawned my jewellery and the heirlooms given to me by my mother.”
Again out of curiosity, I asked her, “Did you manage to redeem them later?”
Her reply saddened me, “No. I went to a particular pawn shop that gave me a better price. However, the condition is that I cannot redeem them.”
Then she looked into my eyes and said some words that went straight into my soul. “They are gone forever.”
I immediately protested, “Now that your son has grown up and is on his own, you should let him know the sacrifices you made for him. He ought to know what you’ve done for him.”
That was when she told me, “It’s a secret I’ll keep beyond the last day of my life.”
I hope those words struck a chord in your heart. They inspire you as much as they did to me.
My friend, somewhere in the past, there are people who went out of the way to help you. He or she may not have made a fuss out if it.
He or she has decided to forget about it, sweep it aside, or keep it as a secret.
It may not mean anything to him or her and there was no expectation of a response, let alone recognition or reward.
Still, you owe him or her to revisit the incident and say “Thank you.” It’s a way of paying it backward so that you and that person can be further inspired to pay it forward.
Somehow, I feel there’s somebody waiting for you for that moment of closure.
Will you stop looking at your digital device and pick up the phone now?
I hope this message will find a place in your heart.
By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.
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