Bairi Lii, my beautiful mother

Mother’s Day is coming around soon. Advertisements are all out to get us to buy something special for our mothers. Mothers should be honored! I remember leading my mother in prayer, thanking God for her mother many years ago. She burst out in tears. I have never seen my mother crying, other than when my dad passed away. Her reaction shook me. I knew very little about my grandmother. We have hanged her photo on the wall but she was a grandmother whom I have never met. This led to some deep conversations with my mother.

The conclusion that we came to was, even when my grandmother was not loving to my late mother, we are grateful that there was my grandmother. We would not have my mother and there will not be me, if my grandmother had never existed. Life is precious and our history does not have to define our future.

Despite the ill treatment during her growing-up years, my mother was a brilliant, creative and strong woman. I missed her often. When I look at beautiful pot plants, it would remind me of how much she loved pot plants. She would talk to them and tell them she loved them. Her logic was that singing and talking to her plants would make them more beautiful because the plants will be happy. Either she had green fingers or her method really worked. Her plants were fat and beautiful.

I want to take time to honor my mother in this blog. At my mother’s funeral, a friend suggested we can do a book to remember my mother by. To talk about what she meant to us. We never did. Naturally, we were too grieved to even want to go into those memories then. It has been more than10 years since Mum has passed away. Maybe it is time to revisit some of those wonderful memories.

My one warmest childhood memory of my mum is whenever I was sick, she would carry me out from the room to brush my teeth. I was sick quite a lot when I was little. Somehow that speaks of her love for me. She will always cook porridge for us whenever we were sick and made sure that we take all our medicine, even if it means she would wake us up in the middle of the night to give us the medicine. For this, I honor my mother for being so dedicated to us, her children. This is a photo of my son, Daniel, when he was little and had a fever. The patch that was on his forehead was from my mother to cool his fever down. I love how close and happy they looked here.

I pray for all the walls that stand between us and our children to come down in Jesus’ name! Holy Spirit, please come and mother us and help us to mother our children well. Bless our communication with our children and grandchildren. Keep our hearts soft daily and remove any resentment or bitterness because of the pain and expectations of motherhood, Father God. We love you, Jesus and we love our mothers.

Daniel and Por Por

We were not doing well financially when I was little, but I always remember whenever my mother buy fruit home or any kind of special food, she would always let us children have our pick first, before she eat whatever remained. I don’t remember her complaining that we ate too much. She was happy watching us eat whenever she could buy something home for us. My mother was a very generous person. Even when we had little, she hosted one of my cousins for about a year, as he had no money to give as a student to rent a room. No matter what the situations might be, my mother would always make the food special to us. She was a very resourceful mother. I honor her for that!

I used to think that my mother was the brightest person on earth. She had an answer for every question I asked (well, almost all the questions). Bari Li, that is my mother’s name, was a clever woman. I believe that if she had been to school, she would have come back with all “A” in whatever she studied. She was passed to someone else to look after as soon as she was born. Her own mother did not want to take care of her. After a few years, (it was when World War Two was just over) the Nanny who was taking care of my mother stopped receiving money from my grandmother. No news was given to her for many years. Good thing this Nanny and family decided to keep my mother. Her daughter became my mother’s older sister. They loved her, but she had never been to school, just like her adopted sister. Girls do not go to school because they will be married and will belong to the husband’s family one day. That was the thinking of Chinese parents in the 1940s.

My mother learned languages quickly. She could speak Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese, Malay and read Mandarin (by reading the newspapers). She started speaking a little English to my husband, Dave, in the latter part of her life. My grandmother took her back when she turns to be a teenager. Reluctantly and almost heartbroken, my mother left the family she loved for an unknown future. My mother was plunged into a new language she had to pick up because my grandmother only spoke Malay. She was from Indonesia and did not speak any Chinese dialects.All my mother knew was Cantonese back then. I cannot imagine how harsh it must have been for my mother to be uprooted from people who loved her and having to learn a totally new culture and a new way of communication. Her mother would often beat her with big sticks, until they break over her body, she told me. All it took was a complaint from her older sister. She worked hard each day, but all the money she earned would have to be given to her mother. If she wanted to, she could not run away. But my mother never gave up on life. For that, I honor my mother for her courage and strength.

She understood what freedom looks like. My mother had never stopped me from having friends over or any of my siblings going out with their friends. Mother was a very social able lady. She loved talking to our friends, cooking for them and hearing what we were up to. She loved to travel. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about my mother, missing her, whenever I am travelling. I wished I could take her around to some of the new places that I was visiting. I know that she would have loved experiencing new things, taking in all the wonderful sights of places and people. She inspired me to live for each day to the best I can and not dwell in the pain of the past.  To this, I honor my mother for being such a positive woman and forward thinking. She never wasted her time on self pity. People might not have been kind to her, but she would still give her best to us, her family. She worked hard; she helped to provide for us and she would encourage us to go for what we want to learn to better ourselves. 

My mother was a very creative person. Each Chinese New Year, she would try to make her own decorations. I remembered her making plastic lanterns, sewing floor mats, making colourful patchwork as blankets, which we kept for ourselves and treasure today. One year, she made straw crafts and finished a beautifully crafted straw hat for me to walk to school and back with. It was white and pink. I wished I had kept that. An artist does not have to be famous, but is someone who enjoyed his or her own creation. I see my mother as an artist. She helped made wedding gowns as part of her job. One Chinese New Year, she sewed 15 new dresses for me! She somehow had collected enough materials to make each dress for me (I was a pretty skinny little girl back then). I will never forget that year. One new dress for each day of Chinese New Year! I was so proud of that.

Cooking was pretty much like an art to her, too. I loved my mother’s cooking. Unfortunately, I did not learn any recipes from her. She does not like us to hang around the kitchen whenever she would cook. From cooking over charcoal with no refrigerator to us moving out to living in the city and there was electricity for us to use, my mother has always done all her cooking manually. Looking back, it must have taken her hours to go to the market, prepare the food, and cook them over the fire. Yet, she was always busy doing something. Our home was never dirty, whether our rentals were with cement floors or wooden floors. Mother loved cleanliness and wanted to do all things well. She was a perfectionist. She loved to learn to make beautiful things with her hands. If you came to our home, when she was alive, you will see little beautiful hand made things by my mother. I honor her as a Creative lady that God has created to bring beauty to her world.

Mother only came to know Jesus in her fifties. She had a powerful encounter with Jesus in a dream and saw angels around her hospital bed during the critical moments of her life. At every opportunity given to her, she would share what Jesus had done for her and what he meant to her. She would look forward to going to church every Sunday. When there were Bible studies, she would be there, and she love signing to the Lord. She might not have a perfect pitch, but she was never shy in singing loudly to her Saviour. Even when she had to pull her legs up and down the 4 storey place, she was living with my sister. She would never give up on attending church services. When she could no longer walk, the only thing that she regretted was not able to go out on Sundays. She used to love the time of taking Communion or a prayer time with the church worker whenever she visited my mother. When I was in Kuala Lumpur, my mother would pray and worship Jesus with me. Tears would trickled down her beautiful face. I know she is having all the Sunday services and more with Jesus personally now. To that, I honor my mother for being a lover of Jesus.

There are a lot more stories I can tell you about my dear late mother. I will never tire of talking about her. You might have some wonderful memories and not so wonderful memories of your own mother. Or you might not know who your mother is. Whatever your childhood was like, you can have a God who would love you like a good Mother and a good Father. The Holy Spirit, the Living Spirit of God, would love to nurture you. Love on you. Be the Mother you long to have. Have you ever wished that you could talk to your mother about how to parent your own children? I do – a lot! I can’t go to my mother to ask her questions or for advice anymore, but I can always go to the Holy Spirit to ask for help. Whenever I miss my mother, which is a lot, I will go to Jesus and ask Him to tell my mother how much I miss her and love her. If your mother is still alive, try giving her a few more phone calls or face-to-face time if you are in the same city. Let us honor our mothers while they are still alive. One day, these brief moments we had with our mother will return and bless our own hearts.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there! For all the trouble you have gone through for your child or children, I honor you. For all the sleepless nights that you have been worrying about your children and all the tears you have cried for them, I honor you. For the selfless sacrifices you have gone through for your children and many of them, no one may ever notice, I honor you. For all the prayers you kept offering up on their behalf and keep forgiving your children when they rebelled against you, when they said words that were unkind to you and when they forget your love for them, I honor you for not giving up on them.

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