Respecting Elders

by Patrick Liew on March 8, 2012

Ma and I talked for a while about going back to her hometown, a once quaint little village where I spent many happy days in my childhood. Kulai was a place where we had many relatives – so much so that as a child, I sometimes thought we owned that village.


We had not been back for quite a long time and my Ma felt strongly that we needed to spend time with her aunts, many of whom were living through the late evening of their lives.


On 1 March 2012, we found time to make the pilgrimage, to return back to a place that had given us many fond memories.


We went first to the home of one of my aunts. This was a lady that my Ma could not get along with at one stage of her life. Watching the two ladies interacting with one another, I sensed that they had buried their past resentments. At that moment, there was a sense of peace coming upon my heart


Next, we visited an eighty-six year old grand aunt. Although the conversation centred around trivial matters while we were walking through her garden, I felt my Ma and her reconnecting as they talked. Ma wanted her to know she was remembered. There was a care and concern that words could not describe and one which was unnecessary to articulate in that situation. It had to be felt and it was indeed felt by my grand aunt.


Our final stop was a moving experience for me. I saw another grand aunt coming out with the help of a walker frame. She was so excited to meet Ma; I sensed her mind was moving faster towards Ma than her physical body could take her.


When Ma and her started talking, it was like the rest of the world had no more place in their lives. The two of them were so deep in conversation, everything else might as well have disappeared.


Ma was like a little girl again, sitting at the lap of a favourite aunt and listening to tales of time past. It dawned upon me, Ma was not just listening, she was paying respect to an elder – a value that is highly regarded by the Chinese but one which has been gradually diminishing over time.


When I look back on this pilgrimage, I can’t help reflecting upon the need to respect our elders.


Our elders brought us up and taught us many of the principles and values that we needed to live life. They built the world around us and we enjoy the fruits of their labour as we go about our daily affairs today.


There is more that we can learn from them – no matter how educated and smart we think we are. They have a wise teacher that spent more time with them than us. This teacher is experience, and there are many lessons in life that can only be picked up through experience.


We should respect our elders because we too would like our next generation to do the same for us. It is through this ongoing cycle of respect that we can build a kinder, more loving, and more caring community. We can look to the future with hope and optimism even as we look back on beautiful memories.




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