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Tribute: In memory of Chuyuan Qiu

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The following is a letter to Weinberg freshman Chuyuan Qiu from her mother in commemoration of Qingming Festival, a Chinese holiday to pay tribute to the dead. Qiu died Sept. 22. The letter has been translated from Chinese by Medill junior Holly He, Weinberg senior Vanessa Gao and Ina Yang (Medill ’15). The original letter, in Chinese, is below.

My dearest Chuyuan,

In a blink of an eye, it’s been more than half a year since you’ve passed. Qingming Festival is upon us. As much as it pains me to let you go, I should, and I must. My dear child, may you find eternal rest and peace beneath the earth.

This morning, your aunt and I got you flowers, your favorite sushi and jackfruit snacks — your cousin even brought you the bear-shaped cookies you adored so much all the way from Hong Kong. Holding my hand, your aunt urged me to come to terms with this overwhelming grief. “Have you ever thought what would happen if you collapsed?” she said. “Chuyuan would never want to see you like this. What if she’s gone on to be a guardian angel and is watching over you now?” I nodded as silent tears streamed down my cheeks. I know deep down in me that it is time I stop worrying my family and friends; it is time that I find closure to this uncontrollable grief.

But it is so hard. Everything about you, every memory attached to your wonderful existence on this Earth, is as vivid as a movie that keeps playing in my mind. Every night when I close my eyes, I see you smiling at me in that limbo between consciousness and sleep, your face soft and naive again, as if you were but a child. I see those bygone winter days, you at your desk studying, me sitting next to you. You’d always slide your hand under my shirt for warmth, giving my belly a gentle squeeze, teasing, “Why is your belly so soft and fatty?” I loved warming your hand, loved when you rested your head on my belly. In those moments, all was calm and sweet.

Growing up, you were always such a well-behaved kid who stayed out of trouble. People often say that all kids go through a rebellious phase, but that was never the case with you. I remember those mornings when I walked you to school — you were only in elementary school then. I’d extend my hand behind me, and you’d know to slide your little hand into mine, and we’d cross the street like that. I remember those evenings picking you up after school, when I’d ask you, “Did you have a good day today?” And you would always chirp, “Yes!” You were such a happy and carefree kid, so much so that you even made me envious. I even wanted to pick a fight with you to see if you’d get angry at all, wondering to myself, “Why is my child so even-tempered?” As an easily irritated middle-aged woman, I have a lot to learn from you about remaining calm in all sorts of situations and handling them with ease. Perhaps you were blessed with this mild nature since birth, or perhaps it could be what our ancestors called inheriting a “Buddha-like nature” from your past life. No one in our family identifies as a Buddhist, so I never thought I would find in your room your calligraphy copies of the Sutra. Had you written them in secrecy? Oh, how beautiful your calligraphy is! How could I not have noticed before?

I will forever remember that fateful morning, that devastating phone call. It felt as if the world had collapsed on me. It was the kind of agony that I could do nothing about but to let it gnaw at my insides. In those days without light, my lucid mind was despaired by helplessness, trapped in a dream that was too terrible to name. I don’t know how I ever got out of that black hole of sadness, but I couldn’t have done it without the overwhelming love from family and friends, who took shifts to keep an eye on me 24/7, who held my hand so I could catch some shut-eye without shaking uncontrollably. I am able to pen these words to you because of these people, and I am forever grateful for their support during such a time.

Recently Northwestern University officially established the Chuyuan Qiu Memorial Student Assistance Fund to help Northwestern students from China encountering unforeseen needs. Also, following the accident that resulted in your tragic death, the city of Evanston finally started the construction of a bike lane on Sheridan Road, a project that should have started way back in 2013. Sheridan Road has a memorialized space in loving memory of you. Your death reminded everyone of the importance of bike safety and encouraged Northwestern to provide its students with a safer environment. Just like your English name Aurora, the most magnificent display of light in the northern skies, you shine just as bright, just as magnificent, and even more memorable to everyone who has known you.

As your mother, there’s not much I can do for you in this life. I would have gladly traded my own life for yours without even a second of hesitation, but unfortunately God didn’t give me the chance. I believe that no matter where you are, your good virtue, kindness and wisdom will forever guard and protect you. No need to worry about me, my dearest and beloved daughter, as I am trying to live my life to the fullest. It’s not easy without you here, but I’ll try. I promise I won’t let grief stand in the way. In the next life, I hope I can still be your mother, and you my daughter. When you lean against me once more, I’ll hold you as tight as I can, as long as I can, never letting go.

Zhang Li, Chuyuan’s mother

 

清明祭

转眼半年多了,清明,妈妈再不舍也得把你放下了,宝贝,入土安。早上,大姨妈和妈妈一同去给你买花,买你爱吃的寿司,菠萝蜜,姐姐也专门从香港捎来了你最爱的小熊饼干。大姨妈抚着妈妈的手,反复叮嘱妈妈:从明天起,你不能再这样伤心了。你有没有想过,你的身体垮了,怎么办?久儿也不愿看你这样的。她可能就是个小仙女,在天上看着你。妈妈无声的流泪,我知道我不能再让家人亲人朋友们担心我了,不能再伤心,不能再伤心,不能再伤心。
可是,你的一切历历在目,每个夜晚,我都恍惚感觉你在对我笑,哈哈哈的,有点傻样。冬天,你坐在书桌前,见到妈妈就喜欢把手伸进妈妈衣服里,一边取暖一边嘲弄地说,你的肚皮怎么这么肥这么软的呀。妈妈喜欢给你捂手,喜欢你把头靠在妈妈肚皮上,安静、甜蜜。从小到大,你都是那么乖巧听话,别人说的孩子逆反期,你从来都没有。记得每天送你去上学,遇到红灯时,妈妈会向后伸出手,你心领神会的就会把小手让我握着。每天接你回家时,妈妈总会问,今天开不开心啊?你总是乐乐地回答,开心。你是个快快乐乐,无忧无虑的孩子,从无烦恼。有的时候我甚至想惹你生气,这个孩子怎么就不会生气的呢?无论何事,你都是那么坦然面对,从来没看过你跟任何人生气。妈妈人到中年,一直都有点惭愧,不如你淡定从容。你生来个性如此,或者这真如上师们说的,上世带来的佛性?咱们家从前没有人信佛,可是没想到你会悄悄的抄写金刚经,那么漂亮的书法,你走了,妈妈才在你书房里发现,震惊。

永远记得那一天早上,那个电话。灾难,天塌下来了。无能为力的痛,撕心裂肺的痛,无助的痛,剜心的痛。那些最黑暗的日子,妈妈神志不清,象做梦一般,不知道怎么过来的。能过来离不开家人亲人朋友们无私的关心爱护,家长群里最亲的阿姨们日夜24小时轮流值班,陪着妈妈,守护着妈妈。妈妈只记得我必须握着别人的手,才能闭上眼睛,才能停止惊搐。今天,妈妈能坐在这儿给你写字,女儿,得感谢大家!我们要永远记住,感恩于亲们!

3月26日西北大学以你名字命名的纯公益救助基金正式成立公布了;3月28日,那条2013年就计划该修的害人的道路,终于在你的生命血的推动下,正式施工了,这么道路上将设有纪念你的碑文标志。你的离去,给无数人敲响了警钟,自行车安全,切记切忌。你的离去,给西北大学学子们带来更安全的道路。你的离去,正如你的英文名字,AURORA,极光,璀璨的划过天空,美好永远留在每个人的心中。

这一世,妈妈不能在为你做什么了,妈妈宁可用自己的生命去挽留你,但是老天爷没有给我们一丝机会。妈妈无能为力。妈妈相信,你的福德,你的聪明善良,保佑着你无论在哪儿,都会好好的,好好的。妈妈也会努力好好的,好好的。放心吧宝贝,妈妈一定一定一定要努力好好的生活,不再伤心,不再伤心,不再伤心。

下一世,但愿我们还能再做母女,你依着我,我搂着你。

张俐 (楚圆妈妈)

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