It will never happen to me!
Mama (an endearing term for grandmother in the peranakaan household) was an illiterate as many in her age group in Asia was. She was my mother’s step-mother, barely fifteen years older than mom. She wore the light kebaya(embroidered blouse) and colorful sarong(skirt)
Can you imagine her in her sarong and kebaya, chasing the shuttle playing badminton at the age of over 60 with her grandchildren? stretching for the ping-pong (table-tennis ball) and screwing the ball trickily to win over the youngsters? Riding on a horse in New Zealand in borrowed jeans at the age of 70 and falling unhurt backwards off the horse on her “sanggol” (hair bun tied at the nape of her neck) ? We, not she could have suffered a heart attack that day! When kongkong (grandpa) had an assignment in London for a stint of 6 months as the first Asian director of a large British trading company, she accompanied him and within a week learned to speak and read simple English to enable her to read road signs and to shop and live in London while kongkong was at work. She traveled across the USA with me for six weeks in her very light sarong kebaya and did not need a jacket when the temperature was 12 degrees C outside. Mama was game for many things her peers would have pulled away from or shunned. She played checkers and chess (Chinese and western) and she was a good sport which her grandchildren and step-grandchildren enjoyed. She loved card games and spent whole days playing the Peranakaan card games in small time gambling with her peers once a week to keep her brains in tip top condition.
She was a born musician and could play without notes or tuition, the traditional peranakaan tunes on the old fashioned accordion which kongkong had bought for her and which she also used to play to accompany him while he played western romantic or classical favorite melodies on his violin on the terrace of the extended family home as the sun set. She always whistled a happy tune. She was the best organizer for the grand dinners my kongkong had at his home for the monthly board of directors’ meetings when shiny silver cutlery, gold trimmed porcelain ware and crystal cut glasses were used and the best European wines flowed, while the grandchildren like little monkeys sneakily peered through the French windows of the long dining room from the outside to catch a glimpse of proceedings inside.
Life should have been good for mama. However, she was lonely after kongkong died and she became gray headed. She suffered later as an invalid with a nurse and a dog as her constant companions. She missed her children and grandchildren whom she had carried, cooked for and cared for as they were growing up. It extended even to her grandchildren. They were too busy for her –in booming business, advancing careers, heavy participation in church work, catching another paper qualification and coping with their own and their children’s growing pains.
It did not occur to them, not till after she had joined kongkong in heaven, that she needed them. She did not need their financial support, but longed for them to spend time with her, loving, praying with and encouraging her, lending a ear for her aches and pains. Since then, how many times have we heard “Those were good times with mama, how we miss her, the family celebrations are no longer the same as her children and grandchildren never learned to cook the delicious spicy Peranakaan dishes, family traditional menus (tok panjang) we all enjoyed at Chinese New Years, at grandpa’s and grandma’s and other’s birthdays and at first month celebrations for newborns into the family. We remember all the fun times at badminton and table-tennis or chess when no one was around and she responded to our needs for companionship.” Too late.
V3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.
V4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God
V5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.
V7 Give the people these instructions, too so that no one may be open to blame.
V8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
V16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.
Paul exhorts Christian families to be as self-supporting as possible. He insisted that children and grandchildren take care of the widows (including senior widowers) in their families. The responsibility for caring for the helpless naturally falls first on their families, the people whose lives are most closely linked with theirs. Paul stresses the importance of families caring for the needs of widows, and not leaving it for the church. The church should also help support those who have no families and the elderly, young, disabled, ill, or poverty-stricken with their emotional and spiritual needs.
If there are families caring for their own helpless members, they carry heavy burdens. They may need extra money, a listening ear, a helping hand, or a word of encouragement. Interestingly, those who are helped often turn around and help others, turning the church into more of a caring community. Don’t wait for people to ask. Take the initiative and look for ways to serve them. Almost everyone has relatives, family of some kind. Family relationships are so important in God’s eyes. Paul says, that a person who neglects his or her family responsibilities has denied the faith. Are you doing your part to meet the needs of those included in your family circle in these tough times? Does your church provide an avenue of service for those who need help?
This responsibility for caring for the seniors and relatives is not mentioned often in churches as we are now in the I, me, mine and ours age with self survival priorities. Are we Christians or non-Christians in our attitude to those who need help – especially our family members? What would you expect when you are gray? Jesus said “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. Matthew 7:12.