Dear sweet friend,
There were so many incredible moments during the weeks we spent as a family while my mom transitioned. These moments were filled with lessons from above that moved me and my siblings to a greater understanding of my mom and dad.
They grew up in China, and only knew people of Chinese background. They also had come to learn that America was a land of opportunity. When they arrived in America in 1949, both the Chinese and African Americans, along with other minority groups were not well regarded, nor treated with respect. They only knew what they had been exposed to and to fear the unknown. They wanted to more like the ‘successful’ Americans, and not like the ones who were being mistreated.
They had never been exposed to African Americans and so I can understand now how they had developed a mistrust and judgement of them as a people, but at the time I could not understand why my parents didn’t like blacks – Hay-zens, my parents would call them.
They tried to hide their prejudices by hiring our first and only babysitter – a thin, elderly black woman named Mary Washington. I loved her. She would listen to me practice my piano everyday at 4 pm. She’d stop all her work, and sit and listen. And when I was finished, she’d let me sit on her lap and she’d hold me. Looking back, I understand why my mom and dad had hired her. My mom was a chemist at a local hospital, and my father was just starting off at his first job as draftsman at a reputable local architecture firm. Money was tight, and they could afford to pay an elderly black woman. In their act of being frugal, they taught me as a little girl, to trust and love everyone, no matter their color.
But their prejudice against blacks became obvious when my niece chose to marry a black man and she was expecting a baby. My father cried, “I’m going to have a black grandchild…! What are we going to do?”
“you’re going to love her, dad,” I would tell him.
Our very first hospice nurse was a black woman named Diane. She was kind, quiet and loving. But my father would have nothing to do with her. He wouldn’t allow her to touch my mom. As much as we tried to reason with him, he refused her care. The next nurse they sent was another beautiful black woman. And our spiritual counselor sent from hospice was a tall, soft spoken, wise black man. My father had no choice. He listened and learned and over the course of just a few days, he changed. He began to see the beauty and love that he was to learn from people who only wanted the best for our family as my mom made her transition to another place.
And my mom got to feel the loving care her hospice team provided. These angels were of all different colors, but of the same beautiful heart, and they all spoke the same language – the language of love and kindness.