Three brothers, although not monastics, were very devout Buddhists. They were travelling together to visit different Ch'an masters.
One day, they stayed with a family of seven children whose father had just passed away. The next day, as the three brothers were just about to leave, the youngest brother told the other two, "You go ahead with your tip, I've decided to stay."
The two older brothers were not pleased with the youngest brother's decision and left angrily.
It would not be easy for the widow to bring up seven young children, so the youngest brother's decision to stay was very helpful. Later, the widow wanted to marry him, but he said, "Your husband has just died. It would not be proper for us to get married so soon. You should remain in mourning for three years before we discuss marriage."
Three years later, the widow proposed to him again. He replied, "If I marry you now, I would be disrespectful to your husband. For three years, let me be in mourning for him."
After another three years, the widow proposed to him once more. He replied, "For the sake of our future happiness, let us mourn for your husband together for three more years before getting married."
Nine years after the husband passed away, the children had grown up. The youngest brother now felt that his mission had been fulfilled, and he left the widow to continue on with his spiritual pursuit.