A Brief Story of Our Mother
My mother’s birth name is Tran Thi Ai; her Buddhist name is Nguyen Ai. She was born on December 20, 1934 in Vinh Hoi Village, An Nhon, Phu My District, in the Binh Dinh Province. She spent her youth in this beautifully romantic coastal province located in the central region of Vietnam. This area is now known as Vinh Hoi Village, Cat Hai Commune, Phu Cat District, Binh Dinh Province.
My mother was the sixth child in a family of ten children. Her father, Trần Hoành, was a leader of the village. Her mother’s name was Trần Thị Nhĩ. My mother was born into a family with Confucius beliefs, which were also infused with principles of Buddhism. In her childhood, her parents took her and her siblings to the Linh Phong Buddhist Temple where they took the Three Refuges and Five Buddhist precepts. The Dharma seed was instilled in her through words, actions, and examples. She was always soft-spoken, gentle, patient, modest, and willing to make sacrifices.
Our parents were married for a little over 60 years through a pre-arranged marriage. Their love grew with time and they had six daughters and no sons. Based on the old tradition of the Vietnamese, it is very crucial to have a son in the family to carry on the family name and values and to take care of the parents when they are older. Thus, our parents adopted my brother, Thảo X. Bach. Soon, my mother conceived and gave birth to me, Phe X. Bach -- an unexpected child. I was born on day of a full moon in the month of July, 1976. It is a very special day in Buddhism, as we celebrate Ullambana, the Parents' Day in the Buddhist calendar. Today, the day we escort our Mother to the Pure Land, is also a full moon day, exactly one month after the Ullambana Buddhist celebration (this date coincides with the Supermoon, a rare phenomenon that the Americans often call Good Havens). It seems like my mother arranged her own departure; it is such a convenience for her family and for all the people around her as she is calmly and peacefully ascending to the Amitabha Land.
To us, our Mother is beyond wonderful. It seems impossible to fully describe how much my mother loved and cared for us. Her love is a sweet miracle. My mother is a pure stream, as shiny as a thousand stars, as peaceful as the sounds of bells and prayer. She is a Bodhisattva, as vast as a rice field, as great as the taste of fresh air from our village. She is as great as the scent of herbs, as great as a Vietnamese lục bát poem. My dear Mother! We don’t have enough words to describe you! Your love is immense and it overwhelms our lives. How can we use the limits of language or the finite words to write about the infinite love of our mother? The day our mom passed, our hearts just broke and filled with sorrow. But we tried to keep our calmness to recite Amitabha Buddha’s name to pray for our Mother as her last wish to join the Pure Land.
We were in the realization of impermanence, and at ease when our own children began to understand important concepts in Buddhist teachings. After nearly 24 hours of our Mother's passing, I went home and picked up my son at the hospital. I was hungry and about to eat some food, when the thought of offering a bowl of food to our Mom first before eating myself brought tears to my eyes. The tears just kept flowing down my cheeks. My wife comforted me, but the one who reminded me that this life is impermanent was our own 9-year-old son, Khang. He said, "It is normal, daddy. Everyone dies. Our grandmother died, you will die, mommy will die, and I will die, too. Don't be sad." Because life is impermanent, that is why our Mom and us are actively loving, living, and contributing more to this life. Our mother lived a very beautiful life, and so was her passing. It was beautiful in the beginning, it was beautiful in the middle, and it was beautiful in the end.
Comes and goes as the moonlight always shines above our head
Departing in peaceful rhythms with the Buddha’s Name.
(Đến đi trăng sáng trên đầu
Thong dong tự tại nhiệm mầu Phật ngôn.)
We recognize that, our mother still lives in us, her children and grandchildren, as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said, "MOTHER, YOU CONTINUE WELL IN ME!" Our Mother’s hope, ambition, trust, love, and virtues will live on in her children and grandchildren. We will continue what Mom lived by her examples, speeches, and actions. So, Mom, please take your leisured journey to the realms of Amitabha Buddha.
Mother is vast -- the realms of compassion
Just the cloud flows over the mountain to escape its impermanence
Amitabha Buddha is your native land
(Mẹ mênh mông cõi từ bi
Mây qua đỉnh núi thoát ly vô thường
Di Đà đất Phật quê hương)
Our dearest Mother! Dad, all of us and our families are paying our last gratitude and respect in this earthly realm in the chanting of Amitabha Buddha.
Nam Mo Amitabha Buddha
Nam Mo Amitabha Buddha
Nam Mo Amitabha Buddha
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