Read this essay that ponders on the pains and loneliness one goes through because of being physically separated from family and loved ones for long periods of time. Migrant Filipino workers can surely relate.
Away from Home
Written by: Ricardo Liong
Last year was the first time in our 49 years of marriage that I was away from my wife during the Christmas season. Even for a brief two months period, it was markedly different from all my previous trips.
The rekindling of Christian faith in our twilight years made a difference. Worshiping together as a married couple in the past decades had brought changes in our lives. Although thousand of miles away and in different time zones, whenever I was praying the rosary or attending Mass, in communion with God I felt her presence besides me.
Moreover, as a pilgrim on earth I saw this as learning to adjust to our future inevitable separation. Thus I viewed it positively as God’s blessings to teach my wife and me how to continue a life filled with faith “when death do us part.”
Recalling my earlier separations during my younger days, I have learned to share the feelings of my brothers and sisters who are working away from home.
Even after forty years, I could still remember the pains of homesick and loneliness during those frequent trips. It was not a figurative pain but one that I could feel in my chest. Meeting a family reminded me of my own and food on the table flashed my memory to the scene of our family meal. Yes, besides my wife, my concern was focused our growing children.
But my short absences from home were nothing compare with those suffered by our overseas migrant workers who can visit their families only once yearly and in many cases, two years or more.
For the sake of providing a better living condition and building a brighter future for their families, they left home and their loved ones. If I, being a father, missed my children what more of a mother with her God-given instinct to raise and protect her children.
The prices they paid in term of sacrifices, and sometimes injustices suffered, can only be understood by the generation of our great-grandfathers. At that time, migrant workers from the coastal Guangdong and Fujian provinces faced similar if not worst condition. In the 19th century, my grandfather left Macau port and never had the chance of returning home.
Their concern over the welfare, health and education of their loved ones brought constant anxiety. Adding to their emotional burden, in some not-so-rare cases they have to contend with the infidelity of their spouses. Often spoiled materially by their guardians – doting grandparents or relatives – not a few children stray and develop problems. Problems primarily caused by the psychological trauma of early maternal separation.
Back home, some look at their relatives working overseas as a “money tree,” constantly asking for monetary help without realizing the worker’s financial hardship. Like the earlier Chinese emigrants, to secure their foreign job assignments most migrant workers got into debt.
But why am I concerned about this situation since I am no longer separated from my own family? Most of us were temporary separated from our loved ones in the past. However, once reunited we tend to forget this unpleasant experience. I must have been led to my recent experience so that I can go through again – albeit in a lesser degree – the pains of separation.
During last Holy Eucharist procession in Sai Wan, the enthusiastic participation of our foreign brothers and sisters left a lasting impression in the minds of many parishioners. We are all members of the same church – the mystical body of Christ. When a part gets hurt, the other parts will (and should) feel it too. And I deeply felt it too.
Being in the same St. Anthony Church family, what can we do? First, we do our part by understanding their situation and empathizing their pains and feelings. Then we can help share our Christian viewpoint with others, especially their employers. Showing our concerns and warmly welcoming them into our Church also serve as a good start. Even a smile and a simple “hello” greeting I gave last Christmas brought many joyful reactions.
Whatever kindness and prayers we can offer will help these members of our Church to ease their pains of separation. Whatever we do to our brothers and sisters, we are doing it for Jesus, our Lord.
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