“A wise man makes a glad father, but a foolish man despises his mother.” – Proverbs 15:20

TWENTY FOUR is the number of hours in a day. And my mother watched the slow ticking of the clock for 24 years before she realized it was a bomb waiting to explode.

My mother married a man she never loved. She packed his lunch and ironed his clothes every day, like a good wife should. But in those 24 years, she was just an object to an unappreciative man obsessed with sex.

She would have left if it wasn’t for her three children. Her goal was to raise her children and quickly shun herself to become a Buddhist nun, who would rather serve God than a reproachful husband.

But she never pursued her plans. Being a good wife is an obligation, her mother once taught. Despite the cruelty of marital rape, she kept her mouth shut, even from her parents, and us, her children.

Over the years, she became numb with her husband’s inconsiderate exploitation. She would often shake unceasingly while her husband snored beside her. At least one person was happy in the queen-sized bed. But for the other occupant, the soft cushion was as cold as stone.

Despite her silent suffering, all she asked from her tormentor was for him to control his fiery temper and unobstructed paranoia, for it was that which terrorized not only the household, but the entire neighborhood as well.

During tussles, his voice was like thunder cracking across every corner of the room into every crevice formed in the old broken-down house. In a way, she was like that old house, in much pain but with no choice except to muffle its own sorrowful cries.

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She could have left her children in the hands of a madman she married stupidly. But she couldn’t leave because she would shame her parents and her children. Above all, her understanding of the word “sacrifice” was unprecedented.

Marriage is an honorable commitment. In her case, she committed because she thought the persistent lover was true to his heart. Right after marriage, the lover turned into a monster.

It wasn’t the excruciating pain that finally convinced her to leave. She could endure the batting and the shouting. The one thing that convinced her to leave was when her spiteful husband had another woman to fulfill his sexual wishes.

She could not bear to watch all the weight she bore on her shoulders (and extend down between her thighs) to mean nothing to her wicked husband, whom she had (in some way) learned to love.

But she ran because her husband had threatened to kill her. With no second thought, she took her children, now almost grown up, and ran for dear life, like a refugee evading her captor.

Did she regret not leaving earlier? I do not recall her telling me she did.

It doesn’t matter now. She is out. But it was when the final countdown set in. My mother was later diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. And if she had continued staring blankly at that ticking clock, there would have been no number after 24. She was simply given another chance to live a new life.

Prayer: Lord, if there is one person who needs guidance, it is the man who became the burden of my mother. Please show him the way once again, so that he may find peace in life’s turbulent storms.

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But Lord, thank You very much for giving my mother the chance to live despite almost half a lifetime of suffering in the hands of one of Your lost children. Lord, please bless my mother that her scars may heal quickly to give her respite. And finally, Lord, it would be a son’s joy to see his mother’s name in the footnote of your Holy Book with the title, “Mother and Martyr.” Amen.

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