|Father's love without end (05/11/09)|
BEIJING, May 11 -- Li Yongbing gets up early and busies himself in a neat courtyard at his home in the town of Fuxin. He is preparing to visit his wife, Wang Qin, who passed away in the earthquake last year.
"I'll burn some paper money for her and tell her our son is fine," says the 28-year-old, pushing back his glasses, as if trying to hide the welling tears.
A year on from the disaster, Li is finally reconciled to waving goodbye to the past and looking ahead instead. The past year has not been easy for him, but like millions of fellow sufferers, he pulled through.
Both Li and his wife worked at the Qingping Township Central Primary School, in the city of Mianzhu. Li taught Chinese, Wang art. They fell in love in 2002, but didn't marry until four years later. Their son Li Zihao was born in December, 2007.
On May 12 last year, Li was teaching as normal, while his wife went to Hanwang Town Central Primary School to exchange teaching methods with other educators. She was buried in the debris. Their son was barely 5-month-old.
Li clearly remembers that the day before had been Mother's Day and Wang bought some vitamins for Li's mother, who lived with them.
Li says after getting the news he was "desperate and numb" for several days. Every time friends and colleagues called, he cried and wouldn't accept their condolences. "I heard that woman was created with a rib from man. I could feel pain all over, especially in my heart," Li recalls as he mixes his son's formula milk powder with boiled water.
He walks out of the kitchen with the milk bottle and his son waddles joyfully into his arms. The young father holds his boy and feeds him like an experienced mother.
Every morning, Li and his mother dress the boy and prepare his milk. Li rushes off to work and calls home at midday to ask about the child. When work is over he never hangs around, he goes straight home to play with him.
"The happiest thing in my day is to bathe my boy. He is very excited and I feel relaxed and happy, forgetting my fatigue," he says, acknowledging his parents' help through the traumatic times.
Today's Li appears calm and composed, but walking out of the pain was far more difficult than it sounds.
He stayed home for some 10 days after the earthquake, forgetting all about food or sleep. His brother told him that many people had suffered more terrible losses in the earthquake. He should walk outside to help others in need, his brother suggested.
The words struck him.
The first place that drew him was the sports stadium in Mianzhu, where tens of thousands of people who lost their homes had gathered. Li joined volunteers from all over the country and threw himself into the relief efforts.
He helped carry and distribute water, quilts, clothes and food, and also translated the local dialect for relief organizations from outside Sichuan.
Nearly two weeks of hard work left him little time to wallow in his own sorrow. The thought of helping those in need spurred him on. When volunteers were needed to help build temporary shelters at relocation sites, he went to Qingping town, where he helped for three months.
Last August, his hard work gained him the title "Outstanding Volunteer" from the Deyang Youth League. When his primary school finally reopened, Li was happy to return to his job.
"The busy days passed quickly but when I had time alone, the wounds in my heart still hurt," Li says.
A new light appeared last September, when experts from the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences went to Mianzhu and gave psychological counseling in 43 schools.
The psychologists trained one teacher at each school in counseling, so they could continue to help after the experts had left. Li's school chose him, something he describes as a passage of salvation both for himself and others.
He taught the students all he had learned. Through group games and individual counseling he helped the children adjust themselves and face their sorrow. He spread the message that it was important to rebuild trust in others, regain confidence and emerge from the shadows.
A year on, traces of the earthquake are still visible in western Sichuan but locals have rebuilt their houses with traditional black tiles and whitewashed walls. Tractors still make their way up country paths, taking more construction materials to villages.
Flocks of butterflies hover over wheat that is turning golden and nearby, farmers are already harvesting rapeseed.
Li puts his son on his shoulders, walks deep into the fields and inhales the country air. He has suffered beyond words but in doing so, this lean man has grown broad shoulders, learned how to inspire others and taught himself to live anew.
(Source: China Daily)