Tzu Chi Merit Organization (Singapore) held the Tzu Chi 53rd Anniversary cum Buddha Day Celebration on the second Sunday of May this year, which coincided with Mother’s Day. The event was attended by nearly 4,000 people.
However, some elderly folks who are bedridden or physically challenged could not attend the ceremony in person. On 20th May 2019, a group of Tzu Chi medical staff and volunteers stepped into the homes of four elderly patients, bringing with them a Lucite Buddha statue, fragrant water and flowers. They held a mini Buddha Bathing Ceremony in each of the homes. During the ceremony, the children of the seniors presented flowers, served tea and bathed their parents’ feet to thank the latter for their love and kindness.
83-year-old Madam Goh was quite healthy until she fell down for the second time in October last year. Her injured right thigh bone recovered very slowly, and this affected her ability to stand and walk. She was referred to Tzu Chi Home Care Services after being discharged from the hospital. Since then, Tzu Chi’s doctors and nursing staff have been regularly visiting her to share health practices and provide care for her. Their efforts also serve as the best emotional support for her family members.
To welcome the arrival of the volunteer team that was going to conduct the Buddha Bathing Ceremony, Madam Goh’s son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Hong, had been waiting at the doorway since noon. Mr. Hong had also invited his siblings and their spouses to attend the rare and special gathering. Madam Goh sat in her wheelchair and went into the living room with her family to pray piously to the Buddha.
“May everyone stay healthy and safe,” murmured Madam Goh, as she bowed to the Buddha.
Mrs. Hong is a Vietnamese, and it is not easy for her to get used to life a foreign country after she got married. She said, “Fortunately, my mother-in-law treats me very well, and I am very grateful to her.”
"I have been living with my mother since young, and it has been a few decades. It is the first time in my life that I’m serving tea to my mother today. I’m overwhelmed with emotions," shared Mr. Hong.
He also revealed that he used to be very rebellious and disobedient when he was young and often caused grief to his mother. Now that his eldest daughter is in her teens, he realised that it was not easy to discipline her.
“The sufferings my mother went through in the past are what I am currently undergoing. It is not easy to raise children indeed!" said Mr. Hong.
A heart-warming family reunion
"Tzu Chi volunteers are always available, just like a 7-11 convenience store. Whenever my mother has any health conditions, they will always come if I ask them for help. This helps to relieve my stress and gives me a peace of mind,” said Madam Hu’s daughter, Ms. Ho, aged 60.
Ms. Ho has heard about Tzu Chi before, but she only came into contact with the NGO after her mother became a patient of Tzu Chi Home Care Services. She is touched by how the Tzu Chi medical personnel treat their patients like their own family.
Under the encouragement of Tzu Chi volunteers, Ms. Ho took part in Tzu Chi’s Buddha Day Celebration in May this year, where she felt comforted and calmed by the solemn atmosphere. On this day, a group of Tzu Chi medical staff and volunteers had come to her home to hold a mini Buddha Bathing Ceremony. Ms. Ho also invited her eldest sister and two cousins to join her and her mother in paying respect to the Buddha.
At an advanced age of 98 years, Madam Hu’s complexion looked radiant and rosy. During the one-hour ceremony, the elderly lady sat in her wheelchair, quietly watching everyone with a smile. She could no longer express her feelings due to dementia, but everyone could see in her eyes that she was filled with joy.
Despite being bedridden due to weakness in both legs, 94-year-old Grandpa Zhang still speaks with a loud and clear voice. When Tzu Chi’s medical staff and volunteers visited him, he was very excited to see them and spoke even more than usual. For the fourth consecutive year, the mini Buddha Bathing Ceremony held by Tzu Chi in Grandpa Zhang’s home brought much delight to him. The presence of all his family members, including his three daughters, sons-in-law, nieces and nephews crowded his small home.
The volunteers brought a bowl of fragrant water and flowers to Grandpa Zhang for him to partake in the Buddha Bathing ritual. After that, the rest of the family members followed suit. Grandpa Zhang has four daughters. He lives with his second daughter, who looks after him. His third daughter has a cheery disposition, and she often laughs loudly and cheers her father up. This was the second time she participated in the mini Buddha Bathing Ceremony in her father’s home.
Under the guidance of the volunteers, Grandpa Zhang’s daughters offered flowers and served tea to their father and also bathed his feet.
"Dad, who do you want to wash your feet?" asked his third daughter.
"Ah Zhen!" exclaimed Grandpa Zhang.
Not hearing her name being called, the third daughter said to her father, "Second sister will wash one of your feet, while I wash your other foot. Is that okay?"
Her humorous response sent everyone into laughter. The heart-warming love between the father and his daughters filled the small living room.
Don’t wait to do good and to repay our parents
On this day, the medical staff and volunteers also visited the home of a special senior citizen. She is the 90-year-old mother of Tzu Chi Singapore’s CEO, Low Swee Seh, Madam Chua, who is also a patient of Tzu Chi Home Care Services. Low’s uncle, siblings and neighbours were already at his mother’s home when the volunteer team arrived.
More than 20 people crowded the living room, where Madam Chua was sitting on a chair placed in the middle. Madam Chua is unable to recognise her children due to advanced dementia, and she also suffers from Parkinson's disease. However, she still appeared joyful and at peace during the simple yet solemn Buddha Bathing Ceremony.
Low is a successful entrepreneur. Despite his busy schedule, he still manages to care for his family very well. As the eldest son, he also shoulders the responsibility of supporting his entire family. In 2012, he set aside his business and became a full-time Tzu Chi volunteer.
As the CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore), Low has vowed to follow the footsteps of Dharma Master Cheng Yen to serve all living beings. He shared that due to his busy work schedule on weekdays, he couldn't afford the time to visit his mother, but he insisted on visiting her every Sunday.
"Although she cannot recognise us anymore, sometimes she would still respond to us when we call her “Ah bu” (which means “mother” in Hokkien),” said Low. After all, children are the most beloved to their mothers, and such love is deeply rooted in the latter’s hearts.
When he just assumed the CEO position of Tzu Chi Singapore, Low worked very hard each day to manage the organisation, and was thus not able to care for his mother any time he wanted to. He confessed that he felt very troubled at times for not being able to spend more time with his mother. But after pondering for some time, he decided that he should turn his limited love for his family into a greater love for all. And he chose to do more good deeds and dedicate the merits to his mother.
During the mini Buddha Bathing Ceremony, Low seized the opportunity to express his gratitude for his mother’s dedication. He said, "Although my mother no longer has a clear sense of awareness, I feel that she is still able to feel (what we have done for her).”
Under the painstaking care of her family members and domestic helper, Madam Chua remains rather healthy and does not look like she is 90 years old albeit suffering from cognitive decline. Low said that although his mother’s condition has been well maintained, he plans to move her to somewhere near his home so that he could see her every day.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen said that there are two things in this world that cannot wait: doing good deeds and fulfilling filial piety. And Low has achieved both.