In Loving Memory of Ni Co Lien Ngoc’s Life and Legacy
Before Ni Co Lien Ngoc had her renunciation ceremony to become a Buddhist nun, she was a wife, mother, and grandmother. These roles had a significant impact on training her to become a conscientious human being. She aspired to conquer herself. Like a patient and careful gardener, she would work her hands into the soil and pluck out the weeds, or weaknesses, that she saw in her own character, to make room for life-giving elements. She tended her garden on a daily basis and cultivated the human virtues of love, patience, humility, self-restraint, discipline, generosity, and compassion. She imparted these spiritual practices to her children and grandchildren. Of these virtues, generosity and compassion were her strongest suits. Whenever she saw a beggar or homeless person in the streets, she always stopped to give money. She made the lost feel seen. This eased their suffering and humanized their existence. Her actions set an example for her children to follow, leaving behind a legacy of love and service.
Influenced by Vietnamese culture, Buddhism, and her Confucius upbringing, Ni Co Lien Ngoc embodied traditional feminine qualities of the ideal Vietnamese woman. She was gentle and soft-spoken. She learned to adapt to the social etiquettes of her changing cultural settings; and yet, she was also a pillar of strength for her family and friends, uplifting us with her wisdom and quiet courage. Many friends and neighbors sought out Ni Co Lien Ngoc’s wise counsel during difficult situations and would find comfort and peace.
Though graceful and sober-minded, Ni Co Lien Ngoc had a whimsical sense of humor. In her old age, she had lost the use of her four limbs, and she needed to be carried from her wheelchair to the bed. One evening, while one of her daughters leaned forward to pick her up, Ni Co Lien Ngoc stuck her tongue out and blew a raspberry, leaving a spray of saliva across her daughter’s cheek. Ni Co Lien Ngoc’s body shook as she tried to hold in her laughter. Despite the pain from illness and old age, she never lost her sense of humor.
The following is a poem written by Ni Co Lien Ngoc’s daughter, Hanh Ngoc.
Written on August 2016 during the Ullambana Festival Day
Hạnh phúc nhất là con còn có mẹ, mẹ đã hy sinh cả một cuộc đời dạy con làm người cho chân chánh trở thành người có ích trong xã hội. Những lời dạy của mẹ con nguyện khắc cốt ghi tâm, mẹ còn dạy con giữ trọn thân khẩu ý lấy ba ngôi Tam Bảo luôn làm đầu. Tình yêu mẹ bao la trời biển như trời biển rộng, mẹ thật là tất cả của cuộc đời con. (Cư Sĩ Tâm Tịnh)
The most fortunate thing is that I still have my mother. She has sacrificed her whole life to teach me to be a righteous human being and to be a productive member of society. My mother’s teachings are engraved into my heart; she also teaches me to be conscientious of my body, speech, and mind and always place the Triple Jewels first. The love of my mother is immeasurable and as boundless as the sky and ocean. My mother is truly everything to me. (Cư Sĩ Tâm Tịnh)