The Family Narrative
I have never suffered in my life. But my parents did. Trials and tribulations they went through, indeed.
There are many parts of their stories which I do not yet have the freedom to tell so this will be short. But they were betrayed and misunderstood by people closest to them. They owed a huge amount of money and had nowhere to turn to. Many times in their lives they were driven to desperation. My mother wanted to kill herself many times.
What impresses me most about the trials they went through was not so much their ability to ride through the storm, although that was amazing in itself. I was most impressed with how little these emotional hurts corrupted their hearts. They never turned away from the people who betrayed and misunderstood them. They exercised so much grace and forgiveness in the reconciliation and restoration of the relationships. Most of all, they did not become bitter and distrusting. They hardly talk about the past, complaining about what they suffered. They lived in the “now”.
My mother would sometimes tell me family stories, but my dad does not. If we do not probe, he would just keep them inside of himself.
But earlier this week, we got him to share. It was 清明节 so we went to the Columbarium, and we wanted to listen to the family history to commemorate the event.
According to an article written by Bruce Feiler, a strong family narrative is what makes someone resilient. In his article, The stories that bind us, the most powerful type of family narrative is the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’
I think that my family narrative is the oscillating family narrative. My parents went through so much difficulties. They wanted to give up so many times, but they did not. They endured.
I know that there were times in my life when I wanted to give up on my marriage, but I thought to myself – if my mother, despite what she went through, did not give up, what reason do I have to give up?
I will not give up on my life, because to do so, will be to make light of what my parents endured to give me life.
When the boys are old enough to understand, I will tell them the family stories, so they will know, indeed, that they are part of a narrative from long ago, which has endured till now. The life which each of them now live, was bought at a high price, and they must continue to make the family proud.
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