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The late autumn farewell
By Sheng-Wei Wang
December 1, 2013


At 1:00 AM on October 14, your 3rd sister suddenly woke up. Five minutes later, a nurse called her saying that at 1 o’clock your pulse was very weak and you stopped breathing. Did you, 4th sister, wake your 3rd sister to quietly say goodbye?

 

As a vulnerable disabled person and as a cancer patient, your life path has been rough and your dying was a long and painful process. But you only said: everything is decided by fate; there was no resentment or grief. In facing death, you have shown the demeanor of a brave man.

 

You, born in the year of the dragon, in your death bed still insisted that the nurse exposed the tiger-design side of your blanket. Weren’t you hoping that your 3rd sister, born in the year of the tiger, could protect you till the very end?

 

In the afternoon of paying tribute to your mortal remains, the 3rd sister did not forget to remind the staff to turn over the flower side of your blanket so as to show the tiger-face rendering. The thought of the dark road of the invisible world continued to come up. How could it be bearable to watch you walking hesitantly alone? Sister, just move forward slowly and hope you would turn around . . .

 

In the dream, there were three lotus flowers. One was drawn in dotted lines: was it the vanished you? The one with round petals in solid lines represented the 5th sister and the one with pointed petals in solid lines was the slim 3rd sister. Does this mean that you have already ridden the lotus flowers to arrive at the Pure Land, leaving them in the lotus pond of the profane world watching flowers blossoming and fading, as the sun rises and the moon sinks in the sky?

 

In another dream, it said: "She passed away like a Buddhist nun, but five years later, she will be back." Is it true? And how will she return?

 

In the early morning of that day, the stretcher carrying your body was pulled in a solemn and slow pace through the long corridor. The stretcher passed around the quiet nurse station, then turned into another long corridor. Next to your ear was placed a recorder that was gently playing incessant Buddhist chanting. Everyone's eyes were filled with solemnness and respect, and the heads bowed unconsciously while the footsteps of the 3rd and 5th sisters were getting heavier and slower as they followed behind the stretcher. If there could be an "if" to allow you staying a little longer in this world, there would be the wish of these long and wide corridors turning and turning to have no end. . .

 

Pacific Ocean waves were gently lapping along the Alameda coast; before dawn, everything seemed like demons and monsters. The stretcher was finally moved on to the black car heading for the morning mist. This time, your soul could finally return to your hometown on the other side of the ocean.

 

Today and later, there will be new patients placed in your bed, again and again to repeat the same way home. And all the people will busily re-enter their new day’s hustle and bustle as usual. Who set such an eternal law that forbids people to go beyond?

 

And, who knew that this late autumn farewell would be so heavy, so special and so dreary like the reddened maple leaves. It made the gushing tears of the 3rd and 5th sisters condense into lotus petals and spread across the unbounded universe. . .

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Born in Taiwan, Sheng-Wei Wang is a well renowned scholar, author and activist. She has a Ph.D. in theoretical chemical physics from the University of Southern California. In 2006 she founded the China-U.S. Friendship Exchange Inc., which seeks to promote understanding and cooperation between China and the United States. Her recently published book: China's Ascendancy: Opportunity or Threat? is on China's growing influence around the world and its relationship with the U.S. She is based in Hong Kong.
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