Caring for your parents can bring you joy

By Aziz Junejo, A Muslim of Mukilteo | May 29, 2013

Our county has many occasions to show appreciation for special people and events, such as Presidents Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.

I am grateful for the importance of these occasions, but have started to feel uneasy about the ones for our parents.

I respect children who remember their parents on such occasions by sending cards and gifts, but it hurts me to see so many of my friends abandon and alienate their parents in their elderly years.

If you visit a nursing home you will see many older Americans isolated, rarely getting to see their children or grandchildren. To any person of any faith this could be seen only as unkind, if not cruel.

I grew up required to respect, revere and appreciate my parents every day of the year. Throughout the Quran, parents are mentioned with appreciation and respect.

The chapter "Children of Israel" (17: 23-24) describes a very beautiful way we must treat our parents:

"Your Lord has decreed that you worship none save him, and [that you show] kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with you, say not 'Fie' unto them nor repulse them; but speak unto them a gracious word, and lower unto them the wing of humility of mercy. And say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both, as they did cherish me in childhood."

My parents always recognized my love and appreciation for them, so much so that after I got married, they insisted that we all live as one family, and it was agreed that we would do so since we had such a large family home.

This practice is quite common in many cultures, where the oldest son is expected to take care of his parents.

Though the tradition was largely abandoned here by my generation of American children whose parents immigrated to the United States, I willingly assumed the responsibility.

My example first sparked chatter within my community here, and now, slowly, the tradition is starting to rekindle locally.

My wife and I both realized the benefits my parents' living with us would have on our future children and our community, and the arrangement has proved to be more than I could have asked for.

My father, who had explored most every mountain range in the world, retired early from his job and would take walks to the park with my wife, and then with his grandchildren.

He eventually stopped mountain climbing altogether, but still occasionally took the kids on short hikes in the Cascades, the little ones riding piggyback on his shoulders or sitting in their backpack-carrier as he ventured off-trail to show them places few people ever get to see.

I saw a renewed spirit in him as he read the children storybooks and often fell asleep on the couch cuddling with one of them in his arm.

My old-fashioned American mother again took pride in helping around the house. While I worked at my office, she spent her days with my wife and the grandchildren, which resulted in her feeling more purpose in her life. It was amazing to see her in her element again after all these years.

Now that we have children ranging in age from teenager to newborn, I have come to appreciate my parents' need to be a part of their grandchildren's lives, too.

My parents had so much more patience with them than they did with me when I was growing up. Don't get me wrong, they were always very tolerant, but so much more gentle and open-minded with their grandchildren.

Muslims believe a child who is good to his parents will be bounteously rewarded by God, and I have loved my parents every day and in every way I could.

Their being with us has allowed my own children to see firsthand the importance of, and respect due to, parents, and I am thankful for this.

For my parents, their life with me has been happy and blissful, and I will have no regrets when they are called back home to be with Our Lord.

But ultimately, I believe that by being the best son I could be, it is I who have been made happy.

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