A Son’s Love

He couldn’t visit his mother’s grave on his own because he was blind, so Tzu Chi volunteers took him there. He said to his mother, “Mom, don’t worry about me. Look how many kind-hearted people are here to help me.”


As soon as Liu Aimin (劉愛民), close to 60, heard the Tzu Chi volunteers’ footsteps, he hurried out of his home to greet them. In his excitement he even forgot to grab his walking stick, which he relied on to get around. “Come on in, come on in,” he called out cheerfully to his visitors.

A drizzle was falling, but the light rain made the kitchen garden in front of Liu’s home look all the more lush and green. He smiled at the volunteers, looking very happy.

Liu had lived his entire life with his mother, Qiu Yulian (邱玉蓮), until she passed away over three months earlier, in June 2017. When volunteers learned of Liu’s situation, they decided to visit him and see if he needed help. A group of volunteers from Beijing and Yixian, Hebei Province, China, arrived at Liu’s home in a mountain village in Yixian in early October 2017.

The visitors greeted Liu and entered his home. As soon as they stepped in, they were surprised by how clean the house was—it was spotless. It was hard for them to believe that the house belonged to a blind man who lived alone and who had no one but himself to rely on to keep the house in order.

The volunteers helped Liu sit down on a small sofa where his mom used to sit. He reminisced about her to the volunteers, telling them what a loving mother she had been. Then he said with a sigh that because of his blindness, he hadn’t been able to visit her grave. He missed her and often felt lonely, but without help it wasn’t possible for him to make the trip to the gravesite.

When they heard Liu’s dilemma, the volunteers jumped into action. Some went to prepare fruits they could take as offerings to the grave. Others sought help from neighbors who knew the way to the grave. When everything was ready, they set off.

The mountain trail leading to the grave was littered with fallen leaves, which crunched under their feet. The falling drizzle bounced off the persimmons that grew on some trees along the way. Two volunteers flanked Liu, each taking one of his arms and carefully helping him along the trail so that he wouldn’t slip and fall. Though the grave was just a short distance from Liu’s home, it was an unmanageable trek for someone without the benefit of sight.

The volunteers arranged the fruit they had brought in front of the grave, lighted some incense sticks, and handed them to Liu, who knelt down to pay his respects to his mother. Taking their place behind him, the volunteers lightly chanted the Buddha’s name.

“Mom, do you hear that?” said Liu. “So many good-hearted people have come to see you. Don’t worry about me. I’m doing very well. You can rest in peace.”

He continued: “Mom, you used to like to listen to songs. Let me sing your favorite song for you….”

Liu’s loud, bright voice rang out in the mountains. His love and longing for his mother moved those around him to tears.

Liu and his mom at a Tzu Chi winter aid distribution in 2011. Liu Yi

Fending for each other

Tzu Chi volunteers first met Liu and his mother in 2011 when they were visiting some needy families in Yixian before a winter aid distribution. When they arrived at the Liu home that first time, they were impressed by the well-tended kitchen garden in front of the house. The mother was old and frail and the son visually impaired, yet they gave the garden such good care that the vegetables flourished vibrantly.

After talking to the mother and son, they learned how Liu had lost his sight. When he was 12, he was playing at school one day when a small piece of rock from a nearby construction site hit his right eye. Blood instantly streamed down his face. He was rushed to a hospital in Beijing, but his eye was beyond saving. His left eye then became infected and subsequently went blind too. His world was plunged into darkness, and its exuberant colors became just a memory.

The volunteers were sorry for what had happened to Liu, but at the same time they were touched by the love between mother and son and how well they took care of each other. Qiu was petite, just 150 centimeters (4 feet 9 inches) tall, and a little hard of hearing because of her age. Her son served as her ears and she as his eyes, the two of them fending for each other in their indigent life.

Liu lavished care on his mom. Every morning he brought her water in a basin so she could wash her face. Then he fixed breakfast. His mom only needed to build the fire; Liu took care of everything else, from washing vegetables and cooking to scrubbing pots and pans. He did the other chores around the house too: washing clothes, fetching water, mopping the floor, tending to the garden—he was always one step ahead of his mom when it came to doing the chores.

Winter was the hardest season for them. It was freezing cold, but they were too poor to buy coal. Being sightless, Liu couldn’t chop firewood either. As a result, he visited the nearby woods every day and collected fallen leaves and branches to use as fuel to keep his mom warm.

One day in the winter of 2010, Qiu’s body temperature suddenly plummeted. Liu shook her lightly to wake her up, but she remained unconscious. Scared, Liu burst into loud wails and yelled to his neighbors for help. Together they took Qiu to the hospital. They saved her life, but her condition was at one time so critical that Liu even had her coffin ready in a storeroom at home.

The sun rose and fell, rose and fell. Night followed day, winter gave way to spring. Soon, seven years had passed. The coffin containing the remains of Liu’s mother was now six feet under. She passed away on June 18, 2017, at the age of 88. The mother who had kept him company for nearly 60 years had departed to another world. Liu could no longer hear her calling his name. All he could hear from his house now was birds chirping and the wind rustling through the trees.

The son served as his mother’s ears and she as his eyes. Guo Feng-yi


Tzu Chi volunteers led Liu to his mother’s grave to pay his respects.

A warm gathering

After Liu and the group returned home from the gravesite, a few volunteers began bustling around the kitchen. Some built a fire to cook, some chopped vegetables, some kneaded dough. Each was busy and everything proceeded in good order.

The volunteers were making dumplings. The filling consisted of cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and other things, all purchased from a farmer’s market that very morning. A group of volunteers went to invite some neighbors to the gathering too, hoping that they would help take care of Liu in the future.

Soon, Liu’s small house was packed with more than 20 people. Many hands made light work. With everyone’s help, over 600 dumplings were made in short order and put into water to boil.

“The dumplings are ready. Come eat, everyone,” someone yelled. The steaming hot dumplings were brought to the table. They looked yummy, accompanied by red peppers and carrots contributed by the neighbors.

As they dug into the dumplings, Liu recalled how his mom used to love this food. In June 2017, a short time before her birthday, he asked someone to buy some frozen dumplings for him to celebrate her birthday. Sadly, just a couple of days after the celebration, she died of a heart attack.

This was the first time Liu had had dumplings since his mother passed. He enjoyed the food so much he ate over 30 of them, over twice as much as Chinese usually eat at one sitting. “The dumplings smell so good—so much better than those store-bought dumplings we used to have. It’s a pity Mom couldn’t have some.” In each fully stuffed dumpling, he tasted not just the delicious flavors of the ingredients, but also the sweet, rich warmth of people caring for people.

Before they left, the volunteers helped sort Liu’s clothes into categories by season. They also patched his torn clothes, and gave him a few woolen caps and warm trousers they had purchased for him. They gave Liu a radio too, hoping that it would keep him company and help fill the void left behind by his mom’s absence.

The volunteers told Liu they would come back in a month to visit him. Liu reluctantly said goodbye to them, and then he heard their footsteps fading as they left. Though he had lost his mom, the volunteers would come back again and again to continue her love.

Volunteers make dumplings at Liu’s home.
A volunteer puts some dumplings into boiling water to cook.
Liu ate over 30 of the dumplings.

Liu Aimin, Tzu Chi volunteers, and neighbors pose for a photo.



January 2018