We tend to view Western families as more open to share their affection for one another, but maybe that’s not always the case. A story of a mother and daughter unable to say, “I love you” is featured in the book “All That Remains,” written by world renowned forensic anthropologist Sue Black. It is the author’s own story.
Her mother had neared the end, she had been in coma administered with morphine. She took her two daughters and visited her mother. She had known that hearing was the last of the senses to go in the dying process and decided to sing with her daughters, aged 10 and 12, like the family in “Sound of Music.” They sung songs that her mother liked and Scottish folksongs. The doctor and nurse smiled at the off-key singing. Their singing helped lift the dark and dismal ambience of the ward.
The three sang until they were tired and ran out of songs. It was time to say goodbye. They held the patient’s hand, wet her lips, and combed her hair. Tears began to fall. The author asked her daughters to wait outside while she spent time alone with her mother. When she was left alone, however, the words did not come out. She wanted to thank her mother, say that she loved her and will miss her. But those words had not been used by her family. Though the word love is abundantly in the real world, it was an exception for the Scottish. It was “strange as if meeting an alien”. Oddly the Scottish way is similar with Koreans, who are not used to expressing love through words. It is not because they lack emotion.
We feel that love is interacted rather than expressed through words. The emotion felt by the daughter towards her mother leaving eternally cannot be sufficiently expressed through love. Perhaps these are the limitations of language and words, which make us so unique as humans. We often forget that there are limits to language as well.