…as long as I’m living my Mommy you’ll be.
Almost everyone is familiar with that book by Robert Munsch. And most everyone has shed or continues to shed tears with each reading of the small book. It is a tremendous example of filial piety.
Filial piety is a term that seems to be largely unknown or ignored in our society today. It means that we are to be good to our parents; to take care of them. It is considered a key virtue in Chinese culture as well as in Christianity.
Chinese culture traditionally has a high regard for one’s elders and parents especially and venerates them in life as in death. It would be a mistake to refer to this as ‘ancestor worship’; rather we are to remember our parents in death and Chinese households would gather once a year to visit the ancestral graves, to pray for their happy repose and to share a family meal. This too happens in Hispanic cultures on All Souls’ Day. It is something Catholicism encourages, in accordance with the Fourth Commandment.
This video, like Munsch’s book, provides a terrific example of filial piety:
I’m including some selections from Part Three of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the section on the Fourth Commandment:
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you. (Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16)
2215 Respect for parents (filial piety) derives from gratitude toward those who, by the gift of life, their love and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace. “With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?” (Sirach 7:27-28)
2218 The fourth commandment reminds grown children of their responsibilities toward their parents. As much as they can, they must give them material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress.
2219 Filial respect promotes harmony in all of family life; it also concerns relationships between brothers and sisters. Respect toward parents fills the home with light and warmth. “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” (Proverbs 17:6) “With all humility and meekness, with patience, [support] one another in charity.” (Ephesians 4:2)
Call your parents.
Write your parents.
Visit your parents.
And if they are no longer living, honor them by visiting their graveside. And take your children.
I have few fears in this life, but as my children grew older one unexpectedly reared its head: the fear of dying unremembered and alone. This wasn’t something that bothered me as much prior to my having kids as I liked having alone time to think or to read, but as my kids have grown this fear…this need to not let this happen…has taken root. As the video shows, how can we expect our children or grandchildren to respect, honor or care for us at the end of our days if they do not see us model the same thing towards our own parents?
Yeah, I know. It’s more complicated than that. They live too far away. We all can come up with a million excuses, many of them valid. I can’t speak for you nor do I know your situation. All I can do is remedy my own heart, my own house. I keep coming back to this question from the Old Testament:
“With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?” (Sirach 7:27-28)
What can you give back? That’s up to you. I only know my answer.
“Everything I can.”