I boarded the plane at 12:40am, bleary-eyed and tired after a full day of work. The flight was only half-full and I was fortunate enough to have the entire row of seats to myself. I silently thanked the Universe for small blessings and stretched myself out. The classical music streaming through my earphones drowned out the drone of the airplane and I quickly drifted off to sleep.

Three hours of fitful slumber later, the plane landed. It was 4:00am for me, yet the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon at my destination. I rubbed the sleep from my gritty eyes, ran my fingers through my frizzy hair, and stepped off the plane. My brother and his girlfriend, still drowsy from their early wake-up call, waited for me at the terminal. We hugged and laughed, conspirators in a plan to bring unexpected joy to two deserving souls.

My brother dropped me off around the corner from my parents’ house. He and his girlfriend parked the car and entered the house, acting as look-outs in case my mother was already up and about. All was quiet as I approached the front door. I rang the doorbell and hid as well as I could behind a stone wall. Moments later, the door opened and my mother – sleepy and confused – peered out.

“SURPRISE!!!” I cried, jumping out from among the shadows. She blinked a couple of times, a perplexed look skimming her face for a few moments. Confusion gave way to elation, of the kind known only to a mother who lives for the few days that she spends with her daughter each year. My mom – a brave and determined woman who brings hope to countless others while her own future looms uncertain – jumped up and down ecstatically in the doorway, reminiscent of those folks on TV who just found out they won a million dollars.

“What are you doing here? How did you get here? How long are you staying?”

Questions tumbled from her as she hugged me tight, not yet believing what she was seeing.

We headed upstairs to find my father, who awoke after hearing my mother’s screams. I smiled at him, holding back the tears upon seeing how old and tired he looked. My strong hero, the man who tossed me like a feather as a child, is now ageing, exhausted, and defeated. A former marathoner, he now wheezes as he climbs the stairs, a menacing reminder of the heart attack that nearly took him from us four years ago.

I spent 60 glorious hours with my parents this week. We laughed, we hugged, we talked… They radiated pride, as decades of sacrifice and dedication gave way to moments of admiration and awe.

For the first time in my life, I understood WHY a parent will endure the hardships of raising a child. Nothing on this Earth – not a successful career, nor a devoted pet, best-selling book, or hit song – can compare to the satisfaction of seeing your child soar, knowing that it was you who gave her wings and taught her to fly.

Please, God. Make me a mother one day.