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Here's my basket of chicken essence, mum

There's a very good reason why many of us take the greatest love of all for granted.

The greatest love of all couldn't care less if we appreciate it or not, that is. I recently visited a woman on her sick bed one day before she died, and all she talked about was that her daughter, a grown-up, should leave before it got too dark as there was "nothing to worry about here".

We keep hearing this kind of true story. So often that some may wonder what is so special about it. Why waste time stating the obvious? Mothers do that stuff, big deal. Check out TV documentaries about animals, you may say. There are more maternal heroics in them than in all Hollywood movies combined.

That's the point exactly. Some of us spend a lifetime searching for the most valuable ideal, the perfect principle, or the truest and most unconditional love, not realising how close we are to it already. While we keep looking for it in all the wrong places, there's one pair of eyes watching over us, selflessly anxious that we may get hurt.

Those eyes always see us as little children. Which must be why we are never asked to return the favours. And when the ones to whom we owe the biggest debt of gratitude never mention how deeply we are in their debt, it's easy for us to be a little superficial about how we feel. We can, for example, designate just one day for openly cherishing their love - so that we can spend the rest of the year worrying about something else.

Before you start frowning, I'm not on my high horse here. In fact, I'm in the once-a-year brigade. I mean, how else can I explain writing about them just once a year in August while the remainder of my time is dedicated to an air base I never saw, politicians I never knew in person, or how one ideal is noble and another is not. Maybe those things are easier to comment on. Or maybe they don't cut like a knife when I do ponder their significance. I don't know.

My greatest love of all passed away when I was very young. In a way, that was a big break, as I'm spared the "There's so much more I wish I could have done" guilt that hounds a large percentage of people on this planet. All right, I upset my mum a few times, but what 10-year-old boy never did that? Generally, I must have done okay as a son, because I remember she kept telling me how she wanted to suffer from asthma on my behalf. All I'm saying is, there is nothing I could have done to repay her for that, and that is the merciful side of the cruel timing of her death.

And how good is it to be able to write this once-a-year type of article without feeling that much like a hypocrite? There are so many let's-make-mothers-feel-good events at the moment that I'm worried for the organisers and their teams. How can they really make themselves available for the ones who matter most? This is not to mention the question of whether mothers like to be on TV and have their celebrity children proclaim their love in front of millions.

The greatest love of all materialises behind the scenes, in a room when it is getting dark but the "girl" isn't home yet, or on a hospital bed when the "boy" is out seeking financial glory. Being repaid with a big fanfare could make mothers feel a bit awkward. But well, given the fact that they couldn't care less either way, we can get away with a big party, or just a basket of chicken essence or bird's nest soup and a peck on the cheek.

I may see you on this subject again a year from now. What? Of course, I know what that song says. Even if the whole world was squeezed into a pen and the sky was used as a blank sheet of paper, you still couldn't write everything about the greatest love of all. Great lyrics, which, like you suggest, is a little ironic.

Why once a year and nothing at all in between? You wonder. Well, first, there's a thin line between sounding profound and stating the obvious. But most importantly, as I told you, "they" don't care whether it's once a year or more, as long as we do fine in the meantime, that is.


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