Brother Xu Guoyong, co-founder of Oak Tree Press in Beijing, was tragically killed in an accident while attending a conference in the United States in January.
As a publisher, Brother Xu was instrumental in making a number of significant Christian classics available to readers in China.
Brother Xu came to Christ while in university and became an early member of Shouwang Church in Beijing. In 2011. Both he and his wife were detained for 10 days in Beijing for participating in the church’s outdoor worship services. During their detention, their first daughter, who had been left in the care of relatives, was tragically killed when she fell from an upper story window.
Last week we featured excerpts from an article that he wrote reflecting on his experience in prison. This week, we feature an article he wrote reflecting on his daughter’s life.
Please pray for Brother Xu’s family in this difficult time.
Friends of Brother Xu have provided these translations to Chinese Church Voices.
Every Thought of You Is a Glimpse of Eternity:
To My Daughter Leyi
By Xu Guoyong
As Christians, we often say that the reality of our own death will bring the life and truth of our faith into light. But the death of my daughter Leyi has allowed me to experience my own death. I was baptized nine years ago on April 19, and that date is just two days apart on the calendar from the month and day when Leyi left this world. Thoughts like this fill me with torrents of anguish.
It has been a year since you left us. Spring has revisited this city, and the flowers have blossomed almost overnight, lighting up the streets and lanes of Beijing. Daddy’s heart has been mired in shade during the past year, but now these blossoms have brought light to me.
A while ago, I got on a bus and watched a reading program on the TV recommending a book called Charlotte’s Web. This brought back a precious memory of you. I recalled that on a Sunday morning, you and daddy sat in front of the TV and watched a movie adapted from that same title. It was your mother’s turn to go to worship and daddy’s turn to play with you at home. Daddy had watched the preview of this movie and guessed that you would like it. So we turned on the TV.
The movie was about a piglet and a spider named Charlotte. In the movie, the piglet was a real piglet, and spider was made by high-tech imaging.
Leyi, you liked that piglet so much. Whenever it appeared on the screen, you would jump and dance with joy. When the piglet disappeared for a while, you would cry and ask for it to come back. And when it did come back, you started to laugh with tears. But when you saw the scary-looking spider, you would hide behind me and whisper “pa-pa” to daddy. (“Pa-pa” means “I am scared.”)
The movie was well made and very moving. Its theme was friendship, and life and death. The spider Charlotte and the piglet were good friends on the farm. To help the piglet escape his fate—“spring piglets won’t see the snow of winter,” Charlotte would weave a web above the pigpen with human words on it, such as “this is a unique and unmatched piglet” or “this is a smart and genius piglet” so that people would pay attention to and sympathize with this piglet.
With the help of Charlotte, the little piglet went through all the trials and saw his first snowy winter. But Charlotte died in giving birth to the next generation of spiders. However, this friendship between Charlotte and the piglet did not end, because the sons and daughters of Charlotte became new friends with the piglet, and the piglet started to tell them stories of their mother.
Leyi, whenever Daddy thinks of this movie, a mixture of sweetness and sadness overwhelms me.
That was the only movie we watched together. The one and half hours not only belonged to piglet and Charlotte, but also to us. I feel sweet and happy whenever I recall watching that movie with you. But then sadness soon follows, because although the little piglet survived the snowy winter, my beloved Leyi, you did not see snow of another winter with mommy and daddy. You passed away in tragedy when spring arrived.
Please think about it with me. Isn’t the story about Charlotte and the piglet a story about you and daddy?
Friendships and family are so wonderful and desirable, but even such happiness will not last forever. Sooner or later we have to part from each other. But our love and friendship did not stop when you left us. Even though you are gone from this world, mommy and daddy’s love for you never ends. Our memory of you is with us every day.
After you left, daddy often wrote you letters on my blog as a way of expressing my love for you, and also as a way to organize my memories about you. These letters have introduced you to many other friends who did not have the chance to know you.
Leyi, it has been a full year since you left. But in the days and nights without you, mommy and daddy have always felt that you are by our side, almost as if you never left us. Every morning, when daddy is brushing his teeth, I can still see you standing at a distance and looking at the bubbles on my lips with great curiosity. Every evening, when I look at our wall decorations “Faith, Hope, Love” (信望爱), I still hear you babbling funny sounds about them, “xin wai wai.” Every time I hear children upstairs running and laughing, I think of how you would run over to daddy’s bedside, calling out my name and asking me to get up.
When your mommy first heard loud noises upstairs, she felt angry. But when I told her that it was a baby making noise running, her anger disappeared. She stopped and listened intently, and said, “It is a baby, so I am not angry with him/her any more.”
Later, whenever the same noise came, we both would put away what we were doing and listen intently for that noise. Hearing baby noises in those moments were also times when together we missed you.
Leyi, missing you is a strange thing. It has nothing to do with time, place or occasion. The feeling comes and goes at its own will. Since you left, such thoughts often stormed within me, and when these thoughts were too intense, tears stream down my face.
Sometimes, when I am walking to work in a crowd of people, I remember a scene when I was with you, and once again the tears run down my face. In order to hide my tears from passersby, I lower my head and keep on walking, but tears drop all over my glasses.
Sometimes when I see your mother wearing a nice dress, thoughts of you come because I remember how picky you were about mommy’s dress.
Sometimes when daddy cooked something new using an online recipe, your mom and I would taste-test it. Then I would sigh and say, “It is a pity that Leyi has never tasted this. How I wished that I had learned to cook this earlier!”
Leyi, have you missed us too in this year?
Daddy believes that you must have missed us terribly. If not, why have you always entered into daddy’s dreams? Sometimes you jump and dance in my dreams. Sometimes you sing baby tunes in my dreams. Sometimes you come and sit beside daddy and say “squeeze.”
Leyi, how understanding you are. You know that daddy needed much comfort so you come into my dreams a lot. Once, I heard a child calling out “daddy” to her father. Both sadness and envy filled my heart. That very night, you appeared in my dream again and called me “daddy” with a clear, comforting voice.
Not too long ago, daddy and mommy were wishing for another baby, but since daddy is on medication for my liver, I needed to change the medicine. This made us feel worried and anxious. But one night, you came again in my dream and cuddled with me for a very long time, unwilling to leave. I woke up many times that night, but every time I went back to sleep again, you were still in my dream.
Leyi, in the past four to five months, daddy wrote a letter to you every weekend. When I was writing the first three letters, I had no plan in my mind. The first letter was a few days after your accident, and I was asked to write one for your memorial service. I recalled many memories of you and expressed my love for you. After a month, I wrote another letter; then a third letter. I just wrote whenever I felt thoughts of you swelling up in me.
Later, a friend of daddy brought me a book called Lament for a Son. It was written by a father who lost his twenty-some-year-old son. In that little book, the writer used long and short words, prose and poems, to express his thoughts and emotions after the passing away of his son.
After reading this book, daddy was struck by the way this author lamented the death of his son, a way that fits my own personality. So daddy decided to write you letters to help me pass through this difficult time.
I started to organize my thoughts about you, little bits and pieces of my memories of you. I classified them and made a writing plan. Then every weekend, I wrote you a letter according to that plan. While expressing my loving thoughts for you, I also recorded your life, hoping to make this your biography. I did this to make sure that not one of my memories of you would be lost or forgotten. I don’t want to forget anything about you. Daddy discovered this was also a way to experience God’s healing, and to comfort those who might have suffered the same loss.
Actually daddy has one more purpose in writing letters to you, a much deeper reason that is about you and not me. Since you left, daddy still hopes to do something for you, just like when you were alive and daddy poured formula milk and changed diapers and bathed you. I wanted to do something for you.
Yes, since you left, what else can daddy do for you except writing to you?
My child, this is the only thing I can do for you.
Some people misunderstood me when I wrote these letters; they thought I was digging into the old wound again and again. Most people, however, supported daddy and became readers of these writings.
Gratefully, daddy’s writing plan is now fulfilled.
In my letters I used lots of words to capture your tears and your smiles and your laughter. I tried to record the many little moments in your life against the backdrop of the trivial, domestic activities of mommy and daddy. They help me to keep an account of your two years of life.
Daddy is comforted by the fact that through reading the letters, many people not only have gotten to know you, Leyi, they have also gotten to understand better the dignity of life. Some found comfort in reading these stories and started to ponder the meaning of suffering and the reality of heaven.
Since I finished the last letter of this writing plan, daddy has stopped writing. But once in a while, I still open these letters and read them again. It’s almost like I am re-living the moments we spent together. Writing and reading these letters have filled us with hope for a day of reunion with you.
Mommy and daddy used to argue a lot, but every time you became a peacemaker between us. Daddy’s temper softened whenever I saw you. Since you left, we still start some arguments but less frequently. A few times after an argument, daddy gets filled with anger. Once again, if I open the letters and read them, my tears help to wash away the anger stuck inside me. Whenever I read these letters, I see you, our little peacemaker. This helps me make peace with mommy again.
Daddy is a sentimental person, and all my emotions naturally reveal themselves on my face. When I miss you too much, I have a hearty cry. Your mother has a more upbeat personality. Her deep love for you stays more hidden inside of her, seldom revealed to others. But she misses you too, every moment. When she has free time, she often visits my writings on the blog with your pictures in them. She told me that she seldom feels sad when thinking of you, because she always remembers the sweet moments we had with you.
But Leyi, you don’t just live in our loving memories or thoughts. Daddy believes that although we do not see you now, you are still there. In the end of time, you will be resurrected and we will have a reunion.
So in some sense, you are still alive even now.
Daddy believes that you now live in God’s promise. You are alive in every prayer we now present to God; you live in every moment we read the Bible together; you live in our worship together; you live in our communion with other saints; you live in our testimony of reaching out to others. This is because daddy believes that in moments when the saints commune with God, we are not just entering into a communion with saints of this world, but also those who are asleep, including you. And I believe that whenever we declare the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, we are declaring the resurrection promise of you and other deceased saints.
Leyi, it has been a year since you passed away. When I am writing to you again this time, I do not want to be filled with sadness.
Recently I listened to a sermon that struck me. The preacher explained that to worry is to sin, because doing so denies God’s wisdom. To worry is to think that God does not know what he is doing. To worry is to deny God’s love, thinking that God is indifferent. To worry also denies God’s power, thinking that God is not wise enough to deliver us from things that worry us.
Yes, when daddy becomes overwhelmed by sadness and worries due to your death, I am actually denying God’s wisdom, his love, his action and his power. I am denying the Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection.
Daddy should not be stuck in his sadness, because such sadness is an expression of lack of faith.
Then I remember something another friend once said. “Actually, the story has not ended.” She was saying that although God has allowed daddy to suffer, God will surely bless me like he blessed Job. Daddy is now thinking through these things from another perspective.
Leyi, your passing away is a temporary withdrawal from this world. Some day mommy and daddy will pass away just like you, and bid our earthly story goodbye for now. But in the end, we will all return to this story. By then, our sackcloth will fall off, and our lamenting will turn into rejoicing.
Daddy is looking forward to that day, and hoping to re-read the beautiful story of piglet and spider with you, my dear daughter Leyi.
In loving memory,
April 18, 2011
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.