<i>Left Without a Mother's Love</i>: "Death in the Family" and "Plum Blossoms" (Chapters 7 and 8)
Chapter 7: Death in the Family
Three days later, Xiu Mei and her father went to the forced labor camp. Her father had recovered a little, after resting, doing the exercises, and reading the Falun Gong books again.
When the policemen, after much resistance, finally allowed Xiu Mei and her father to see her mother, she was shocked. Her mother looked horrible – she had lost a lot of weight, and her bones showed prominently. Her eyes were blood-shot and her hair, or what remained of it, was a mess. Xiu Mei was terrified at the changes that just a few days in the labor camp had done to her, and she started to cry inconsolably.
She found out later that her mother had been sentenced for a month there, which was considered "minor punishment." Meanwhile, her father was repeatedly taken to the local police station for questioning every other day.
When her mother was finally released after a month, she was a shadow of her former self. Xiu Mei took a week off from classes, and along with her father, took care of her mother. Her father encouraged her mother to practice the exercises and read the books, and Xiu also encouraged her mother to do the same, feeling with an unexplainable certainty in her heart that it was the only thing that could help save her mother.
Within a week, her mother had recovered, and she looked and felt better.
However, the persecution did not end there. The local police continued to come frequently to ask her parents if they were going to stop practicing or not.
Meanwhile, the pressure on Falun Gong practitioners was growing day by day, and slanderous commentaries and stories about Falun Gong were taking prime position in all the media.
Xiu started to believe the lies that were shown on TV. Or, more precisely, she didn't believe them – for she knew that Falun Gong was good – but she chose to believe the lies because, like so many others, because she believed that the government could not be wrong.
She started arguing with her parents and repeating the lies that she heard from the mainstream media about Falun Gong. Oftentimes, she would even shout at them, even though she felt upset afterwards. She refused to listen to them or watch or read any truth-clarification material that they offered her.
She even went as far as threatening to call the police to take them away if they persisted in their practice.
Xiu Mei's parents got more and more depressed as their own daughter turned against them. Xiu Mei hated herself and she certainly knew that she would not do any of the things that she threatened to do to them, but she felt that she was doing what was best for all of them.
Until, one day, her parents left home.
Xiu Mei found out about it only when she came back from the college. As soon as she walked in, she saw the letter that her parents had written. Both her mother and father had written how much they loved her and wanted to be with her, but at the same time had to help stop the persecution of Falun Gong. They had asked her to stay with her aunt, who had promised to take care of her.
Xiu Mei cried for the whole night. She promised herself that if her parents came back home, she would treat them better.
But it was not to be. Her mother and father called her at her aunt's house on a weekly basis, always keeping their calls short so that the police could not track them down. Xiu Mei always heard a tired yet cheerful tone on her parent's voices. She knew that they were doing a lot of work to clarify the truth about Falun Gong, and she was very worried.
Sometime in January, a few months before Xiu was about to finish her undergraduate courses and prepare to leave to go to the U.S. for higher studies, the phone calls stopped.
Xiu Mei and her aunt's family were all very worried. They contacted everyone who could possibly give them information, but were unable to get it.
Finally, two months later, the phone call came that would change Xiu Mei's life. Xiu Mei was not there when her aunt picked it up. She didn't see the tears start flowing from her aunt's face. She didn't see them call a taxi and leave in a hurry to go to the forced labor camp.
Xiu Mei was summoned by the university principal in the middle of one of her classes. The principal had had a tragic look on his face as he dialed a number on his phone and passed on the phone receiver to her.
Within a few minutes, she heard her aunt's muffled sobbing on the other end. She asked Xiu Mei to catch a cab and come to the address she gave her.
Xiu Mei had worriedly asked what had happened. She could hear her aunt crying on the other end as she told her, "Xiu Mei, your mother is dead."
"Xiu Mei, your mother is dead."
Xiu Mei put down the phone in shock.
The principal was kind enough to call a cab for her and put her in it. Xiu Mei was in shock; her mind was numb. It was as though she still did not believe her mother was dead.
But in a few minutes, she found out for herself. As she walked into the police station and through the door where her relatives stood in dead silence, it hit her all at once.
She started crying out, "Mom, mom!" and ran towards the inert body that was covered in white cloth. Hastily, as if unwilling to believe, she had pulled aside the cloth and looked at the face, hoping to see any face but her mother's.
Her mother's kind and unmoving face was what met her eyes. Her eyes were closed, and it looked like she was sleeping.
And she also saw something else that totally shocked her.
It finally hit Xiu Mei that her mother had really died. She collapsed on her mother's body and hugged it again, crying out loudly.
The police who were surrounding the area hurried to pull her back and then covered her mother's body once again.
Eventually, the police had led the shocked family out of the room that held her mother's body. They had told the family that her mother had died from a heart attack and her body had to be cremated.
Her aunt had screamed at the policeman, "Heart attack!? She was fine and healthy when we last saw her! How could she have died of a heart attack?"
The policeman looked terrified, but he had replied in a heavy voice that she had died of a heart attack, and her body would be cremated the next day. He ordered the other policemen to take the family out.
Despite the family's insistence that an autopsy be performed on her body, the police had cremated her the next day secretly.
Xiu Mei would never, ever trust the police again. She finally knew how vicious and venomous the police were.
Even in the dark, as she had pulled off the cloth covering her mother's body, she had seen the bruises and blood on her mother's face– marks that couldn't have been made by anything but violent torture.
Xiu Mei's father had been detained in a forced labor camp. She learned later that both her mother and father had been arrested along with other practitioners at a site when they gathered to make materials to clarify the truth about Falun Gong. The police had swooped down on them late in the night when they had been sleeping and bundled the male and female practitioners into separate vans.
When they had finally managed to locate where he had been illegally detained, they still had to struggle to meet him, since the police refused to allow the family to see him. Finally, the police had relented … but not before they had extorted a quite a bit of money from Xiu's family.
Xiu Mei's father had become shockingly thin, and it appeared as though his skin was hanging on his bones. Bruises covered half his face, and there were red stains on his shirt. The whole family had started crying upon seeing what the police had done to him in the labor camp.
When Xiu's father learnt about his wife's death, it seemed as though it was the last straw on his back. He had stared at them blankly for a few minutes, and then started to sob, putting his hands on his face and falling to his knees. At this point, the police hurriedly pushed the family out, despite their angry protests.
Xiu found later that her father did not eat for ten days after that. The forced labor camp had gotten worried about her father, fearing that he would die in there, and that they would be implicated in his death. So they had released him back home.
When he was released, Xiu Mei tried to convince her father to give up the practice. She often quarreled with her father and repeated, to her father's face, everything negative that CCTV and Xinhua said about Falun Gong.
Her father had tried to patiently point out to her that it was Jiang's persecution that had taken her mother's life and his health – not Falun Gong.
Xiu Mei would hear none of it. Eventually, she started to accuse him and his fellow practitioners of being responsible for her mother's death.
The first time Xiu Mei had said it, she had seen the look on her father's face. It was a look a man has when he has lost everything that he has held near and dear. He had tried to talk to her, but she had refused to hear him out.
It wasn't as though Xiu Mei completely believed herself though – she still loved her father. Sometimes, when she was by herself, she cried her heart out for both her mother's tragic death as well as her father's suffering. But she refused to show it to her father.
Xiu had hoped that at least in the months prior to her leaving to the U.S., he would come around, and at least lie to her about giving up his faith in the practice. But he hadn't. Xiu, in desperation and frustration, completely avoided her father, refusing to see him before she left for the U.S. It would have been too difficult even if she had wanted to anyway - Xiu was staying with her relatives, while her father had been virtually put under house arrest – his phones were tapped and he was followed everywhere.
Even during their last meeting before she had left for the U.S., Xiu had beseeched him to give up his practice, even though she knew that it would break his heart to do that. He had looked at her with pleading eyes, and she knew that he would never give up on his practice … while knowing at the same time, that he would never give up on his love for her.
Xiu had packed her bags wearily, telling her father that she never wanted to see or talk to him again. She had accepted the gifts and packages he gave her with as much scorn as she could muster – but she still kept them in the safest place in her luggage.
When she was finally at the airport ready to fly to the U.S., she had hoped with all her heart that she would see her father for the last time before leaving. He had promised her that he would come.
Instead, she heard that her father had been detained for questioning at the local police station.
As the plane lifted off, and Xiu's lifelong ambition of going to the United States was being fulfilled, she was a complete wreck, sobbing silently in her seat on the airplane.
Chapter 8: Plum Blossoms
She was crying again. Without realizing it, she had collapsed into Wang's arms.
In Wang's protective embrace, Xiu Mei somehow felt a comfort she had not known for what seemed like an eternity. Even in the gloom that enveloped her heart, she felt safe and protected in his hands … a feeling that she had never felt since the day her mother had died.
She heard footsteps in the background. That was Jin. She could identify her footsteps from anywhere.
She stepped away gently from Wang's embrace. Oddly enough, she didn't want to, as though she wanted to be held in those protective arms forever …
"What happened? Wang? Xiu?! When did you come? Are you all right?" Jin asked her as she caught sight of her.
Xiu wiped away her tears. "I am now," she answered with a smile.
After she had repeated the story to Jin, she decided to go home. Jin had invited her to stay for the night, but Xiu had thanked her and declined the offer. Wang and Jin had driven her home.
As she walked from the car to her home, Xiu looked at the night sky, at the twinkling stars and the bright moon. They never looked to her as radiant as they did that day.
Tears fell from her eyes again, but this time they were not tears of utter anguish anymore. It was tears of relief instead.
Stepping into the house, she called her father and talked to him for a long time. At the end of the conversation, both father and daughter were at peace. Xiu finally knew what was the right thing to do, and she would do it.
ONE YEAR LATER
"Xiu, hello! I guess I shouldn't be surprised seeing you here!" Jun shouted and hugged Xiu.
"Yes, you shouldn't be." Xiu replied with a smile. "We've been appealing at the Consulate for months now, and we will continue to do so. And I am going to try to be here every weekend."
"Doesn't your Ph.D. research keep you busy enough? Boy, you must be working extra hard to keep your straight A's." Jun teased her.
Xiu smiled at her and replied, "Nothing will keep me from appealing for restoring the good name of Falun Gong. And besides, I have been able to be more focused and efficient after I started to practice Falun Gong."
Jun smiled and replied, "Yes, you certainly look healthier and happier since you started to practice. Not like the pale ghost that you once were!" And they had both laughed.
Jun then glanced at the large poster that hung on the wall behind Xiu Mei and said, "I am sorry again to hear what happened to your mother." The poster had a picture of Xiu's mother on it, with the words "Justice for my mother's death!"
Then, tapping her on her shoulder, she whispered, "Do you know, the Chinese Student Association is finally coming around? They refused to believe it – but now more and more of the student officers of the organization are taking your side, and condemning the government for having murdered a fellow student's mother – just for practicing Falun Gong! And you know what – they are planning to draft a letter supporting Falun Gong to send to the Chinese Consulate, requesting the Consulate officials to take up the issue with the local government!"
Xiu Mei was surprised but happy at the same time. As she looked at the poster that hung behind her with sad eyes, she realized that what Falun Gong practitioners were doing was beginning to bear fruit.
Jun then turned somber and said, "All right, Xiu, I had better get going before someone sees me! I support you, but if anyone from the office ever finds out, I will be in trouble!" Jun hugged Xiu and left.
Xiu looked at her departing friend and smiled as she remembered how the last few months had gone.
Shortly after Xiu had spoken to Wang, Jin and her father for the first time about her mother's death, she had decided to find out just what it was about Falun Gong that kept the practitioners so strong and unwavering in their quest for truth and justice against all odds. She had borrowed the main book of Falun Gong, called Zhuan Falun.
Xiu finished reading the book in two days. When she finally put it down after finishing the last sentence, she understood. To her, the book clearly laid out the true meaning of human life, the reason why a human should cherish his or her life and walk towards goodness, why it was important for a person to conduct himself or herself nobly and righteously, as well as the principles of being a good person and how one should conduct oneself in all walks of life.
The very next day, she had joined Wang and Jin at the practice site. She spent most of her free time with the practitioners, reading the Falun Gong books together with them, sharing experiences and listening to their personal stories.
On the very first day that she did the meditative exercises in a group, she felt a calm that she had never known in her entire life. As she continued spending time with them, it seemed as though her worries, insecurities and fears – as well as her frequent headaches – had finally left her. She felt more and more safe and comfortable being with her new found friends.
Over the next few months, she slowly came to realize and understand just how brutal the persecution of Falun Gong in China really was – among some of the practitioners in her local area were Chinese people whose family members were incarcerated in China, as well as practitioners who had been persecuted themselves in China, but had managed to escape to the U.S. and live to tell their tale. Some of the stories she heard were horrifying, and she cried whenever she heard them.
She came to finally realize that the peaceful appeals that Falun Gong practitioners were making were not at all political in nature. They were being persecuted unjustly, and on top of that, under Jiang's orders, they were being portrayed as "counter-revolutionaries", as being a threat to society and the government … the Chinese government was causing people to hate Falun Gong and its practitioners. Would any person with self-respect stand quietly if he was being made out to be something he was not? Would he not revolt? And Falun Gong practitioners were not even revolting, advocating a violent revolution or even angry with the government. Jiang and his henchmen were killing their friends and family – wasn't it right to try to end the persecution, take him to court and bring him to justice?
Finally, three months later, Xiu Mei had finally realized what an incredible ordeal Falun Gong practitioners had suffered, and realized how strong they were to keep clarifying the truth about the persecution and maintain a peaceful and kind nature as they were slandered, defamed and misunderstood. She joined the group as they handed out flyers in Chinatown, as they held peaceful appeals in front of Chinese consulates, and as they held many activities to raise awareness about the persecution of Falun Gong. She helped Wang and Jin organize events on campus to reach out to the Chinese students and have petition drives.
And there was one advantage that Xiu had that she was able to use effectively. Unlike Wang and Jin, who were distrusted by most of the Chinese students because they practiced Falun Gong, Xiu had made a lot of acquaintances in the Chinese community because she knew Jun very well – and Jun seemed to know everyone. Shortly after she started practicing Falun Gong, Xiu became more social with her friends. At every event, she told her friends the truth about Falun Gong, as well as the true situation in China.
At first, her friends had been shocked, and no one more so than Jun. Shock had turned to resentment, as Xiu understood how much suffering the practitioners in China had to undergo because of the distrust and hatred the Jiang regime had instigated against Falun Gong. In fact, at the beginning, her friends did not even believe that her mother had died unjustly at the hands of the police; they even spread rumors that it was an 'anti-national ploy'.
However, truth cannot be hidden, neither can it be shunned. As Xiu persisted in appealing about her mother's unjust death, she began to get more and more support. The college and city newspapers covered her story and petition drives caught the attention of the wide majority of the college students and city residents, who all expressed their heart-felt sympathies towards her quest for justice.
Eventually, the Chinese students started to awaken to the truth as well. One by one, they started to express their support and sympathy to Xiu. They discussed at social gatherings, quietly at first, and then with more openness and feeling, about how a fellow student's mother had been persecuted to death just because she practiced Falun Gong.
It had been a long and hard year but it had been well worth it. All the hatred and dislike the Chinese students had first held towards her when she started practicing Falun Gong were melting like ice in the summer sun. She had been invited for more and more social events, and she always took the chance to clarify the truth about Falun Gong in a deeper and more refined way, so that more people would understand. And she eventually brought Wang and Jin along often as well – the Chinese people finally saw for themselves that Falun Gong was not what it was made out to be.
As she looked at her mother's photo again, tears came to her eyes again. She still missed her mother so much. Placing her fingers on the image of her mother's face, she said silently to herself, "Mom, we will bring justice back to our nation. Your death will not be in vain."
"Hi, Xiu. Are you all right?" a deep male voice asked her with concern.
Xiu snapped out of her memories. She turned shyly towards Wang, subconsciously stroking the engagement ring he had placed on her finger around a month ago.
As Wang and Xiu had seen more of each other, they had fallen in love. The fact that they were both compelled by the same principles of truthfulness-compassion-tolerance and bringing an end to the persecution that was going on in China had only brought them closer.
"I'm all right", she said as she hugged him. She saw his worried face break out into a smile.
"I have important news to tell you." Xiu told him. And then, realizing that there were other practitioners there, she added, "Actually to all of you!"
Looking at the expectant faces, she told them about how the Chinese Student Association was planning to draft a letter supporting Falun Gong to the Chinese Consulate.
The fading sunlight accentuated the features of the practitioners' faces as they broke out into smiles. Wang hugged her joyfully yet again. Xiu smiled as she looked at the practitioners there - young children, pregnant mothers and elderly "uncles" – they all looked as delighted as she had been on hearing that the students were drafting a letter supporting Falun Gong. It was a major breakthrough to have a Chinese organization support them at this period in time, and everyone knew it.
As Xiu looked into Wang's eyes, she realized that all of them felt the same way she did.
It had been like a long, cold and weary night, but dawn was about to come. For years, Falun Gong had been suppressed, and its practitioners slandered, beaten and murdered in China. Yet, the peaceful and sustained appeals, the never-say-die attitude of the practitioners and the wisdom and resourcefulness with which they clarified the truth about Falun Gong had had extraordinary results.
A peaceful group of people united by one just cause had stood up to the murderous ambitions of a dictator who was misusing his power to cause a whole nation to persecute innocence and kindness.
Yes, Xiu smiled as she looked at their hopeful faces, day would soon break out. One day, China and the world would know about how much brutal persecution Falun Gong practitioners had faced. They would know about how much Falun Gong practitioners had given of themselves to help end a brutality which would appall the world when it was known. And at that time, they would take a righteous stance, lend their helping hands and oppose the persecution of Falun Gong.
As Xiu hugged Wang again, it appeared as though her mother smiled gently from the poster on the wall.