Before Mother’s Day officially ends here, I feel like it’s right that I share an experience in my life where my mothers love had touched me very deeply, without her even meaning for it to do so.
They always say that in your greatest time of need, the people you love will flash before your eyes. I think this statement rang true when I was in Taiwan at the start of 2014. I was still serving my tour in the Army at that time and was in the darkest and densest parts of the Taiwan forest at a lonely 2 AM with three other men, tired and cold. It was the start of spring so the weather was a chilly 10+ degrees Celsius. It was horrific for me, because the objective seemed so far away. We had done two missions but there were three more to complete. I wasn’t even halfway there and I already felt so depleted.
And then the worst possible thought came to my mind—the thought of my family, their smiles and their warmth. It was the worst possible thought, because at such desperate moments, this image tore me apart. Without much warning, damp tears flowed down my cheeks and turned cold before they reached the corner of my mouth. I did this quietly. I could not possibly give away the fact that I was breaking down in the middle of a mission, my face still thick with camouflage cream and the men around me falling into a restless sleep. No one was going to save me at this point, emotional distress is not something that is readily sympathised with.
I look back at that moment now and realise how defenceless I was, how utterly lost I felt and how little my life seemed to amount to. And at such moments, all I could think of was my family. At my lowest point, my family smiled their hypothetical smiles, and I was touched to tears.
It was thirty odd hours before the mission ended and we didn’t get a single wink of sleep the whole time. After stumbling out of the forest, I realised that my handphone had reception! Back in camp and in the jungle there was no signal, so for two weeks I had not talked to or heard from my parents.
I called my mother. It was a very natural choice, one that I instinctively carried out. I could have talked to my friends, check the news or surf pointless nonsense on the internet but none of these things vaguely occurred to me. In the most deprived time, the very things that are important to you will suddenly be prioritised. It is a beautiful realisation of the people you truly need in your life.
Every time my mother talked to me at home but I didn’t respond, every time I ate half her cooking and threw the other half away, every time I came back home late with two missed calls from her on my phone came flooding back to me with surprising clarity as I waited for her to pick up the phone. What could she be doing? Probably in her office typing a paper, going about her normal life and not realising what I had just gone through. But it was ok, I just needed to hear her voice to know that she was ok, and for her to know that I was doing fine after two weeks of not hearing from me. I just needed her to pick up the phone.
She probably wouldn’t remember this phone call, and why should she? It wasn’t a remarkable phone call when put out in words, but when she picked up the phone:
“Eh 儿子，你好吗？(Son, are you ok?)”
It was the only voice on earth that I needed to hear. It warms me up to this day.