How do you tell someone thank you — do you take time to say it in person? Do you write a letter, the old-fashioned way? Do you look for an opportunity to bless them back?
When the thank-you is for something like a gift — even if it’s a very generous gift — we have pretty well-ingrained protocol for how to respond appropriately.
But when it’s a thank-you for someone spending every waking moment dedicated to you, for your entire life? There aren’t as many guides on that one.
Good parents make countless sacrifices so that their children can have better lives, sometimes better than their own. There are plenty of single moms and dads out there struggling to pay bills and find a way to keep plugging on, and it’s not easy work.
For Chen Zhaolian, the work was difficult, dirty, and dangerous. In 1997 her husband passed away, and she was left to provide for her two children, a boy and a girl aged 17 and 7, respectively.
“My brother and I didn’t understand how difficult a situation my mother was in,” her daughter, Ma Er, told Shiyan Evening News. “I realized when I grew up.”
“I didn’t know much about the society at that time and I was just frightened.”
Illiterate and untrained, the devoted mother did what she could: collected garbage and cleaned the streets. Most of what she earned went to her children.
“When we were young, no matter how poor we were, my mother would buy new clothes for me and my brother to celebrate the Spring Festival,” Ma Er said. “But she didn’t buy herself anything, even a pair of socks.”
Because of her mother’s sacrifices, Ma Er was able to go to school, then university, and then get a job. At 28, she planned a gift for her mother.
“Now I am grown up; I can take over this task,” the daughter said. “My mother has worked very hard to raise us.”
She knew that one of the things her mother never had was a photo of her and her husband. They’d been poor, and that sort of thing simply wasn’t an option when they’d been married. Ma Er wanted her to have the opportunity to feel special.
“Every woman wants to wear a beautiful wedding dress. My mother simply never had the chance,” she said. “So I decided to make it happen for her. I’ve wanted to do this for years.”
The three-hour photo shoot in September yielded many keepsakes. Ma Er donned a suit and posed with her, and Chen wore makeup for the first time in her life. She cried as she held the bouquet.
Ma Er lives closer to her mother now and teaches dance classes. Despite her financial position, her mother continues to work, though now she’s also a cook.
“We asked her to stay at home, but she insists on working,” the daughter said. “Maybe because she’s not used to being idle, or because she wants to continue to make contributions for us.”
Either way, Chen is an excellent example of a mother’s undying love.
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