A story that touched hearts
The remarkable story of Bangor man John Hodge who found his mother in a remote Nepalese village after 30 years apart exemplifies the enduring bonds of family. His mother left Northern Ireland after her marriage broke down to return to her native land, but neither she nor the son she left behind ever forgot each other.
John, who was only six when she left, had only vague memories of his mother, but they never left his mind and through the intervening three decades the desire to attempt to find her grew stronger until he finally made the trip to Nepal.
What he discovered there both delighted and dismayed him. He found his mother quite quickly but was horrified to see she was living in a hovel without walls and only a mud floor.
She was virtually destitute and living in a very remote region of that country.
Yet, heartwarmingly, he learned that she often used to stand by the roadside in the hope that one day her son would come along.
What desperation to see the child she had left behind in a foreign land all those years ago
It is almost impossible to imagine the joy that filled the hearts of both mother and son at their reunion.
No matter what the circumstances of her life now, just finding her again undoubtedly was one of the best moments of John's life.
To read their story, carried in this newspaper earlier this week, should make those of us fortunate enough to have our families around us grateful for their presence.
Families are the building blocks of any society and when they become fragmented and dispersed, we all lose something.
For John the joy of being reunited with his mother turned to horror just three days after returning to Northern Ireland when the devastating earthquake hit Nepal killing at least 7,500 people. He spent many anxious hours trying to find out if her village had been hit. Fortunately she survived unscathed.
His story has touched the hearts of our readers who have responded with great alacrity to John's appeal to raise money to build his mother a proper home.
He needs £7,500 but within hours readers had donated £1,000, again showing that Northern Ireland people are among the most generous anywhere.
Perhaps it is because we recognise the value of family ties and still cling to the ideal of a nuclear family where everyone is willing to help each other.