by Gillian Kew
To set up our married lives, 23 years ago I moved from the UK to Hong Kong with my Chinese husband. Although I’d been away from my parents’ home for eight years, I’d always been a bus ride or train journey away, so this was a big step.
My mother had been unwell most of her life, and found even the shortest of journeys taxing. I assumed that future time with my parents would, inevitably, be limited to flying home.
How wrong I was. My husband persuaded me to talk to mum about flying to Hong Kong, saying he’d handle the money. At 60, mum had never been on a
plane, and my dad’s last trip had involved being pushed out of one with a parachute strapped to his back. Mum was concerned but agreed to come.
That’s where my friends stepped in.
My parents didn’t have a car (dad didn’t believe in credit), so my former nursing colleagues, Dawn and Linda, offered to drive them to and from the airport.
Arriving in Hong Kong safe and sound, they enjoyed one of many trips over 15 years, until their deaths. Mum brought her medications and inhalers — and my two friends, Dawn and Linda took turns transporting them to the airport.
When no one was available, mum and dad took two buses, riding eight hours across England to the airport. Their love was such that, even as mum was dying of lung cancer she determined to make one more trip. Dad was there to help her, needing a wheelchair and the paraphernalia for someone so sick they should probably be home in bed.
I thought of telling mum not to come, but she wanted to see her grandchildren and spend time with me. To her, it was worth it.
After that last visit, she deteriorated rapidly. Dawn and Linda took turns visiting her at home and in hospital, despite their busy lives. I visited her twice that year including at the end.
I’ll never forget her courage and determination not to let distance and ill health stop her from being a part of our lives. As a result, my children have a grandmother they remember with great love. I’m also forever indebted to my friends, who happily re-arranged their schedules to act as drivers and spend time visiting my parents, helping them to bridge the miles between us.
It may not seem much to most people, but these acts of kindness sustained me over the years. When I lost both parents within six months, my friends again responded, to support me. Linda even took it upon herself to regularly check on my single brother, who became depressed when left alone in the house with his grief. She helped him get over the worst, and begin to see a life for himself again.
When I think of courage and love, I think of my mother and my friends — they are the example I try to follow.