Time heals but does not erase memories
Updated: 2013-05-23 05:36
Three mothers (from left to right), Yao Yihui, Leng Zhiyuan and Chen Huaqin, visit the cemetery in Yingxiu to mourn their sons, who were buried by landslides while trying to save workers at Yingxiu Power Plant. Zhu Xingxin / China Daily
Reporter's log | Huang Zhiling
I was overwhelmed by emotions when I saw the tombstone of Teng Dengfeng in the cemetery designated for the May 12, 2008 earthquake victims of Yingxiu, Wenchuan county, Sichuan province.
He died just one month before turning 19.
The cemetery is where 6,000 of the quake's victims are buried, accounting for about half the population of Yingxiu town at the time.
By chance, I bumped into his parents in the cemetery on May 12 this year, which coincided with Mother's Day and the fifth anniversary of the magnitude-8 quake when 87,149 people were killed or went missing.
It was the sound of his mother's heart-breaking weeping that attracted my attention.
The moment I heard her cries, I asked a man nearby her identity because I was afraid of disturbing her private moment.
The 50-year-old man, Jiang Fulin, a father who came to mourn his lost son, told me she was Yao Yihui, Teng's 55-year-old Tujia ethnic mother from Xianfeng county in Hubei province. Since 2009, Yao had visited her son's tomb every May 12 together with her 60-year-old husband Teng Decheng.
The couple said they would come to Sichuan every year as long as they could walk to mourn their only son. Each trip to the cemetery and back home takes them about a week.
Together with four soldiers from the same squad, including Jiang's 22-year-old son Jiang Junzhou, Teng Dengfeng was buried by landslides while trying to save workers at Yingxiu Power Plant. Before they were killed, they had saved 25 workers. The five soldiers' bodies have never been found. The tombs are only cenotaphs, not graves.
Lei Jinyu is the father of Lei Wen, one of the five deceased soldiers. Arriving with Teng's parents at the cemetery, the 57-year-old farmer from Xianfeng, says his 56-year-old wife Yang Xiubi visited the cemetery in 2009. The following year, her left leg was amputated because of cancer. She plans to have an artificial leg installed this year so that she could also visit the cemetery next year.
The parents of the five soldiers did not know each other before, but after the quake, they became good friends. Close to May 12 every year, they would call each other to discuss their trip to Yingxiu.
In remembrance of those who died in the disaster, many visitors purchased yellow chrysanthemums to place on the tombs.
Deng Haoting, a 19-year-old sophomore at the Aba Teachers' College in Shuimo town, Wenchuan, was one of them. It was the second time Deng and her classmates joined the quake anniversary ceremony since they entered the college last autumn.
Another visitor, Ma Shunsong, a 65-year-old ex-serviceman, saluted the parents of the soldiers and thanked them for their sons' selfless deeds.
Ma, who hails from Pixian county, Sichuan, has come to the cemetery to pay respects to the solders for several years.
Xu Qing, a 61-year-old resident of Dongyang, Zhejiang province, visited the cemetery for the first time in April 2010 and got acquainted with the parents of one of the soldiers. Since then, he has visited the cemetery twice.
On the morning of May 12, he accompanied the bereaved parents of the soldiers, comforting them and buying them bottled water. He also invited all of them to lunch.
The locals' kindness has certainly warmed the hearts of the sorrowful.
But parents like Teng Decheng and Jiang Fulin are still waiting for claims from an insurance company, which promised to pay 200,000 yuan ($32,000) to the family of each soldier who died while on quake-relief duty.
They say they are tired of the lip service.
I hope the insurance company will honor its pledge to provide a little comfort to the living, even though money will never be able to mend broken hearts and replace the loss that these parents have experienced.
(China Daily 05/23/2013 page10)