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by Sandra Kay Buck
1. A buxom young matron was fat —
Her husband not quite pleased with that.
He said, “Here is a diet.
Oh I wish you would try it!”
And this promptly led to a spat!
2. There once was an Indian piper
Who piped a tune to a viper.
The snake was perturbed
And rather disturbed
And made him jump out of his diaper!
3. There once was a calico feline
Who to her dish made a swift beeline.
All the fare on her plate
She usually ate,
And afterwards went down to recline.
I learned more about limericks through my mother’s example than I could have possibly learned otherwise. I consider the purpose of the homework assignment to have been than more than fulfilled, because I know these limericks by heart, to this very day.
And so my dear mother used one of her many talents in raising her son. Could she have been a poet? I’ll never know, because she devoted her time and talent to her “masterpieces” of life, her children — her living poems celebrating the mystery of creation itself.
All world religions teach that we should honor our mother and father. One day, they will pass away, as my parents have. How best to honor your parents after they have departed?
The Baha’i teachings give this answer, in the form of a prayer for fathers:
O Lord! In this Most Great Dispensation Thou dost accept the intercession of children in behalf of their parents. This is one of the special infinite bestowals of this Dispensation. Therefore, O Thou kind Lord, accept the request of this Thy servant at the threshold of Thy singleness and submerge his father in the ocean of Thy grace, because this son hath arisen to render Thee service and is exerting effort at all times in the pathway of Thy love. Verily, Thou art the Giver, the Forgiver and the Kind! – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 65.
Here’s more profound advice about honoring your parents:
It is seemly that the servant should, after each prayer, supplicate God to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon his parents. Thereupon God’s call will be raised: ‘Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense!’ Blessed is he who remembereth his parents when communing with God. – Selections From the Writings of the Bab, p. 94.
I can tell you that I’ve never seen a teaching that gives such extraordinary emphasis to praying for one’s parents! Baha’u’llah proclaims:
The fruits that best befit the tree of human life are trustworthiness and godliness, truthfulness and sincerity; but greater than all, after recognition of the unity of God, praised and glorified be He, is regard for the rights that are due to one’s parents. This teaching hath been mentioned in all the Books of God, and reaffirmed by the Most Exalted Pen… Observe how loving-kindness to one’s parents hath been linked to recognition of the one true God! – The Most Holy Book, pp. 139–140.
Showing “loving-kindness to one’s parents” can, and should, continue after your parents have passed away. This is not “ancestor worship.” Far from it. It is an act of love. By so doing, you cherish their memory. You render them a service. (Who else, besides you, will pray for your parents?) Abdu’l-Baha further explains the duty to pray for one’s parents:
Also a father and mother endure the greatest troubles and hardships for their children; and often when the children have reached the age of maturity, the parents pass on to the other world. Rarely does it happen that a father and mother in this world see the reward of the care and trouble they have undergone for their children. Therefore, children, in return for this care and trouble, must show forth charity and beneficence, and must implore pardon and forgiveness for their parents. So you ought, in return for the love and kindness shown you by your father, to give to the poor for his sake, with greatest submission and humility implore pardon and remission of sins, and ask for the supreme mercy. — Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, pp. 231–232.
Just like my dearly departed mother gave birth to me, nurtured me, raised me in the best way she could — including helping me with my homework assignment — let me, in turn, return her selfless and noble favors, by praying for God’s favors to be showered upon her in the world beyond.