This is not a religious post

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This is the sixth Sunday after Easter, and not much special is going on in our church’s calendar: I go to a small, simple church in Phuket, and the priest, Father John, is a jovial Thai whose sole message seems to be love your family, help the poor.  Nothing at all complicated.

Father John is very different to the Irish priest I had back in the UK, who thumped the lectern at the pulpit and preached hellfire and brimstone. My youngest child was terrified of the priest and was only lured to church by the cakes they had afterwards. No, Father John is nothing like that at all: he is rather like the father you would love to have raising you.

Today, he talked about being loved. For those of us who go to church and who have warm loving priests like Father John, you’ll come to believe (after years of indoctrination) that there is this figure called God who loves you.

But I truly think it’s our parents who teach us to love, just as they teach us many things, good AND bad. My mother always says that being a parent is the most important job you’ll ever do (that and being a teacher), because you have the power to shape the next generation. Parents, being first teachers, have a doubly important role to play.

I know and love someone, whose mother died when he was eight. He was sent to live with his father’s mother in a foreign country.  Form a beautiful suburb in Amsterdam to a village in England. The arrangement didn’t work out with his grandmother, and a year later he and his younger sister were parted: she was sent to live with an aunt in Hong Kong whilst he went to boarding school in the UK. By the age of 37, he had already been married three times, looking for love in women who could not give him what only he can give himself….his mother’s love for him.

He spent the next few years being on his own, living like a monk and becoming fully immersed in his career as a cardiologist. When I first met him nine years ago, he was still toxic, carrying with him the damage he had been inflicted on and the ones he inflicted on others.  It took a further five years for him to explore, contemplate, introspect, meditate and let go, so that he can remember again the love that he had once known with his mother.

“Her name was Anneke,” he said. “And she was a piano teacher. She taught students at home. I remember her music and I remember cycling around Amsterdam on her bike. I used to sit on the little seat behind her.”

Almost forty years later, he sits at the piano in my parents’ house and tinkers with the keys when no one is around. My mother had stood at the doorway on several occasions, listened to him play the notes from his long-buried memories and my mother had cried.

“What sort of stuff does he play?” I asked curiously.

And my mother said softly, “Quacking, quacking here they come, little ducklings one by one.”

(The keys: CE CE FED. FD FD EDC.)

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