慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
When Life Falls Apart

Huang Zhao-rong (right) and his mother, Xu Cai-yu, volunteer two days a week at this Tzu Chi recycling station.

Huang Zhao-rong (黃昭榮), 37, is a dedicated volunteer at a Tzu Chi recycling station in Chiayi, southern Taiwan. He holds a master’s degree in chemistry from a national university, and he once held a good job at a big company—until a traffic accident eight years ago left him blind and turned his world upside down. The accident was such a hard blow he wanted to end his life, but his family and his volunteer work helped him regain the will to live.

His father, Huang Chong-xin (黃崇信), was a famous caterer in Meishan, Chiayi County, southern Taiwan. Zhao-rong and his two older sisters did very well in school growing up and rarely gave their parents any reason to worry about them. The older sister later became a commander in the navy. The other sister graduated from university and landed a good job. Zhao-rong, the youngest child and beloved only son, earned his master’s degree, completed his compulsory military service, and became an engineer in a large company. He also inherited his father’s culinary skills and was very handy in the kitchen.

One night in 2009, less than two years after Zhao-rong started working, he was on his way to his company to take care of some business for a colleague when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver. He was left lying in a pool of blood with a terrible concussion. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later that he was found and rushed to the hospital. He underwent emergency brain surgery and his life was saved, but tragically the doctor announced that he was in a vegetative state.

Zhao-rong’s parents were devastated, but they didn’t give up hope. They transferred their son to China Medical University Hospital in central Taiwan, where he received hyperbaric oxygen therapy and Chinese medicine treatments. His parents also gave him massages and talked to him every day. Their persistent efforts were ultimately rewarded eight months later—Zhao-rong woke up!

Sadly, their joy at seeing their son wake up didn’t last long. They soon discovered that he had lost his sight and could no longer see this world and his dear family. Adding insult to injury, his memory had badly deteriorated.

“For a time, I wanted to kill myself,” Zhao-rong recalled. “But I discovered that it’s actually hard to commit suicide when you’re blind.” In 2012, his dad, deeply saddened by his son’s misfortune, passed away. He was only 62 at the time. His death triggered a deep depression in his son, who closed himself off even more. His family couldn’t bear to see him so despondent, and they did whatever they could to cheer him up. They let him listen to programs broadcast by Tzu Chi’s Da Ai TV, whose mission is to spread messages of goodness and love. They also consoled and encouraged him whenever they could. A neighbor invited Zhao-rong to volunteer at a Tzu Chi recycling station. He began venturing out of his home.

Zhao-rong, along with his mother, Xu Cai-yu
(徐彩玉), started volunteering at the station every Tuesday and Friday. He sorted PET bottles, and while he worked, he listened to other volunteers chatting cheerfully to each other. By and by, the positive atmosphere at the station began to influence him, and he gradually returned to his former upbeat self. He grew to love volunteering there. On the days he volunteers, he urges his mother to get ready faster so they can get to the station sooner. On the days when they don’t go to the station, he accompanies his mother to the mountains to tend their vegetable patch. On weekends, they visit his sisters or other relatives.

Though Zhao-rong has recovered only 60 percent of his memory, he uses that and his hearing to guide himself through his days. While volunteering has made his life more meaningful, he is also grateful to his family for never giving up on him. Life is imperfect, but he has found his life’s purpose—to live for the three most important women in his life: his mother and two sisters.

November 2017