Fate and time, from this, escapes none.
Fate and time have taken away our teacher, your friend and my mother from us.
One of our good friends said my mother was blessed three times with good fate:
• Born to loving parents who motivated her to develop an insatiable love for knowledge.
• Married a talented, loving man who not only provided well for her, but also led her out of China's chaos.
• Raised a son to understand, respect and care for life and to care for his parents.
Being the youngest girl, in a prosperous family with 13 children, she was taken care of very well. But instead of being thoroughly spoiled (or neglected as many girls were, at that time in China) her mother molded this potentially corrupting attention into a wonderful positive gift; she made sure her little girl developed a fine mind. Through her, I have learned that material wealth is nothing compared to wealth of knowledge. Although her family lost every material possession because of the war, she maintained an intellectual richness that no thief nor army, can take from her.
My mother's good fate was being one in the first generation of women in China's long history to receive a good education. With this great gift, asset and skill, she enjoyed a good life, not only for herself, her loving husband and appreciative son, but she also enabled countless numbers of her fine students to vastly expand both their mental and physical horizons. Breathless her body lies still; ever warm, her spirit lives on through her students. Her spirit is then multiplied by those students who pass my mother's knowledge onto countless others. We have all heard this common cliche: "Knowledge is power". I think teaching it to others is the ultimate power--the one power that transcends the limits of our corporeal bodies and time.
Telling stories, was mother's favorite way of teaching. We can't even imagine the living hell that my parents' generation endured and overcame. She was born when China was in total chaos; millions of people suffered and died. Her countless stories taught me how to appreciate our fortunate, peaceful life in this fine country. These stories were often prefaced with, "I've walked over more bridges than the roads you've walked." and "I've eaten more grains of salt than the grains of rice you've eaten." These aphorisms were cute, but their effect were diluted by their abstract nature. What followed was far more realistic and horrific about life in a war:
Refugee train: "We were seated inside a coach that had been oversold to the extent where even the roof of the coach had been oversold. Packed with people, the roof started to collapse. The people below and above were forced into a symbiotic relationship of terror. In order not to be crushed, we the people inside had to hold up the roof. The people on the roof had to depend on us to support them." Considering this, I have stopped complaining about traffic jams on L.A.'s freeways.
Like classic teachings by Confucius and Lao Tze, my mother's stories, were simple, yet profound. The French philosopher, Bernard of Clairvaux said, "It is a misery to be born, a pain to live, a trouble to die." Perhaps if he had learned from our great Chinese teachers, he would not have been so cynical. We may take slight comfort that my mother passed relatively quickly, without too much physical pain. I assure you, she experienced no emotional pain. Her mind was at peace; our teacher had learned well from her great teachers. Just as we have learned much from my mother, she most often emphasized "Live to an old age, learn to an old age." Before losing consciousness, she reminded me of these other well known Chinese sayings: "How long, is but a life?" and "Family peace, 10,000 fortunes." I asked her, "Do humans have any hope?" "Of course," she replied, "as long as there is love, anything is possible." Through philosophy, she had truly attained enlightenment.
Fate and time, from this, escapes none.
We can only temporarily gain some emotional relief from the pain of my mother's passing by remembering the knowledge she has given us. Fate gave my mother an extraordinary life. Of course fate alone would not ensure a safe existence. Talent and guts helped my parents not only to survive, but also to rebuild their country and expand their reach by moving to America. Adversity builds strength. If not for the great strength of people like my parents, I and 99% of other Americans would not be here. We can learn a final lesson from one more of my mother's favorite sayings, "An ounce of time is like and ounce of gold, but an ounce of gold can't buy an ounce of time." Since we can't control fate, and if knowledge is an ultimate power, then time is our ultimate limitation. She had made great use of existence's greatest paradox: time.
Dear Mom, rest well with dear Dad, in eternity. Know well that your fine spirits live on in all of your students, myself, your grandson and all those who follow. We are the living products of your achievements. Because of your efforts, we are at peace and prosperous. We exist and continue to learn from you. You have our eternal gratitude, love and respect.
Though our hearts cry for you, our minds just need to remember some of your many wise words, to soothe the burning empty spot in our souls.