Our hometown is Huadu District, northern Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, where our family of five has shared many unforgettable times. It was also the place where Mom spent her last days and where she witnessed God’s grace.
Mom was born in 1958 and grew up in a regular rural family; throughout her life, she carried the virtues of typical country people, being modest, diligent, and frugal. After schools were reopened as New China began, she studied at Lantian Primary School and then at Chini Middle School. After graduating from junior high school, she first worked in the commune and brigade enterprise, then in a state-owned garment factory, and later became the workshop leader. At the age of 27, she married into a Christian family; her father-in-law was a preacher. It was under such circumstances that Mom came to faith and afterward brought the seeds of the gospel to her father, mother, and sister, as well as some other co-workers.
In 1995, Mom left the garment factory to take care of her two sons' studies. She then went to take up a job producing towels and quilts in an urbanized area and worked there until she retired; during this time, she never stopped worshipping and meeting in the church. Mom seldom thought for herself and was always busy taking care of the family. She remembered the birthdays and tastes of everyone in the family but not her own.
After Mom retired in 2013, she became a street vendor. In June 2020, Mom suddenly vomited and had pain in the stomach with no apparent cause. She went to the community hospital and was thought to have gastroenteritis; after taking some medicine, she no longer paid much attention to it. During the Chinese New Year of 2021, Mom vomited again and had a fever, while her stomach pain persisted. Later at the hospital, she was diagnosed as suffering from stage IV lung adenocarcinoma. As she was confirmed to have a gene mutation, she was eligible to receive targeted therapy, which may be effective for 18 months. So began Mom’s days of counting God's grace each week. Although each trip to the hospital was toilsome for her, she still felt very thankful to God.
Later on, Mom received chemotherapy at the local hospital; the treatment was somehow effective, and the tumor did not grow any larger. But by the end of 2022, she began to have trouble sleeping, would feel very sick at night, and had difficulty breathing. On March 8, 2023, after completing the first- and second-line treatment for lung cancer, Mom took her last breath and left this world, returning to her Heavenly Father.
After Mom became ill, she made an effort to change her daily habits; she spent more time in the evenings exercising and singing hymns in the square. During the time when she was ill, she tried her best to go to church every week as long as she had strength, and she even started serving in the choir. During chemotherapy, even though she knew it would be hard for her to be on stage again, she still copied down the hymns on paper, then sang along with the mobile phone to practice each song, before sending it to the choir leader.
Despite being in her 60s, she still learned to use livestreaming platforms such as WeChat and Tencent Meeting and participated in online meetings. When the choir formed a WeChat group to practice singing and she didn't know how to make recordings, she would ask her younger son to show her.
The book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End mentions that: "Older people yearn for a door that can be locked, as they simply want to act according to their own wishes in the final stage of their lives." Throughout the ages, mothers have put everyone before themselves at all times. They really want to be with their family and take care of their loved ones until the very end; when the time comes that they themselves need to be taken care of, it may also mean that it is time for them to go. Whenever Mom picked up food to put in our bowls, she knew that it may be the last time. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:5: "[Love] does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs." This is exactly a portrayal of Mom's life.
On the evening of March 7, 2023, when her younger son finished reading the Bible to her for the last time, the doctor said that Mom was disoriented, but she still said amen with much thankfulness. Despite being in the face of such illness, she still stayed encouraged and kept reminding herself to cherish every moment she had in this world.
- Translated by Joyce Leung