Honour you father and mother so that you may live long in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you. (Ex 20:12 NJB)
For all the accusatory finger-pointing that I had directed at others, I am blameworthy of hurting Mum too. All the weeks that I had looked after Mum when she was acutely indisposed, I especially regretted an incident where I reproached Mum for being slow in getting up from bed for her breakfast.
I had prepared her meal and tried to coax her to get out of bed. She must have been in pain or still feeling drowsy from the effects of the painkillers. When I checked on her fifteen minutes later, she was still in bed. I was sleep-deprived. The open sore on my buttocks made sitting very unpleasant. I got impatient and annoyed.
I do not remember now what I said to Mum but up till today, I am still haunted by the pained look on her face – pained not from her illness but from the disappointment of how unsympathetic I could be to her condition. At a time when she needed me most, I had convincingly failed her.
She looked at me blankly after that and immediately I could hear her thoughts, “Did all those years of looking after you as a baby and then as a paralysed son mean nothing?” Or perhaps that was my scruples talking aloud inside me.
Honour your father and mother, as Yahweh your God has commanded you, so that you may have long life and may prosper in the country which Yahweh your God is giving you. (Deut 5:16 NJB)
I regretted that incident and another time, before Mum became ill, when we had a disagreement over an appliance that she had bought. I raised my voice and screamed at her. We did not talk for the whole day after that. Later in the evening, when we were having dinner together, I could see the hurt in her eyes. She cooked me a good meal anyway.
As I saw Mum slowly slipping away, I had wanted to apologise for all the things I did that had hurt her. I did not. There will always be another time, I reasoned. She never got to hear those apologetic words that would have soothed me now. This is something that I needed to do to find my own peace. I am truly remorseful that I will never get the opportunity to apologise to Mum again for those outbursts.
This I can never make amends to anymore. Mum surely would had forgiven me soon after each altercation. But can I forgive myself? My conscience pricks me each time the Fourth Commandment crosses my mind. Every time I think about Mum, thoughts of how I had inflicted emotional pain on her would come back to haunt me. Nothing I do now can change that fact. This is a guilt I will have to live with for the rest of my life.
For Moses said: Honour your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. (Mk 7:10 NJB)