Leaves of the Autumn -- in Memory of Yang Dan By Zhang Renjie www.owecn.com English translation by Angel Heart International Standing in front of little Yang DanвЂ™s tomb, my thoughts are wandering. I donвЂ™t know what I should think, or should I? In front of me is a small pile of dirt, as if I saw her bluish face again. вЂњUncle Zhang, help me!вЂќ sheвЂ™s weeping. Autumn of 2005, it was getting cold in Beijing. The leaves started tuning yellow. I love the colorful autumn of Beijing. In this beautiful season, I got to know two girls and their Mom sitting on the sidewalk. There were not many people on the street, only a few yellow leaves were dropping in front of them. Getting close, I saw the little girl sleeping peacefully in MomвЂ™s arms as if the noisy street had nothing to do with her at all. The bigger girl was laying next to Mom. In front of them was a can used for begging. The girl saw my camera, staring at it while her Mom was motionless. Looking at the girl, I found her face was quite bluish. So I asked her Mom if she needed food or clothing. She told me, her daughter was sick. вЂњWhy donвЂ™t you take her to the hospital?вЂќ I asked, вЂњWe donвЂ™t have money.вЂќ she said, sadly. She told me they hoped begging might get them some money to see the doctor. For this reason, I entered their life. The another reason I got involved is my curiosity. I was repeatedly told by a restaurant owner nearby: вЂњDonвЂ™t help them, they just want your money and they live in a nice hotel.вЂќ With a big question mark in my mind, I got to know the man of the вЂњhouseвЂќ. His name is Yang Ruchai, 31 years old. He had two daughters. The elder one is Yang Dan, 7 years old. The younger one is Zhou Hua, just turned one year old. The family is from Henan province. In Beijing, he worked at a junk yard to support the family. On his back is his elder daughter, Yang Dan. She had congenital heart disease. They came to Beijing, hoping to make some money to pay for her surgery. Her condition had become worse. It was even difficult for her to walk. This was their вЂњhomeвЂќ in Beijing. WinterвЂ™s footstep is already at the door. I started to worry how the two girls would withstand the cold staying in this вЂњhomeвЂќ. I also started to question what the restaurant owner said about them. In order to verify that this is their вЂњhotelвЂќ in Beijing, I started to become their neighbor. In doing so, Yang Dan had become a good friend of mine. It was getting cold everyday. Sometimes the unbearable coldness made Yang Dan cry, then her father would hold her hand to walk around to warm her up. They walked very slowly, if not, she would be out of breath. Her heart disease had become terminal, Mr. Yang told me sadly. I had been with the family for a while. Since I had taken many pictures of them. So Yang DanвЂ™s Mom asked me to take a family picture for them. Here is it. She asked me if IвЂ™m a journalist. I lied to her, saying I was simply looking for a job in Beijing. Each day passed by quickly for Yang DanвЂ™s family. And everyday was the same routine. Every morning, Yang DanвЂ™s Dad took them to the street, then he went to the junk yard. At dusk, he picked them up and returned to their living place. The windy and cold days of BeijingвЂ™s winter came. Yang Dan was a shy girl. She only told me once that she felt so cold. All I could do was to wrap my blanket around her. I gave my blanket to Yang Dan and had to say goodbye to the two month of neighboring with Yang DanвЂ™s family. I still went back to visit them and took them to a small restaurant nearby. At beginning they hesitated because they were afraid that the restaurant owner wouldnвЂ™t let them in. Yang Dan was very shy. She did not eat much when there were other customers around. The only time she had a good meal was when we were the only customers at the restaurant. After dinner, Yang Dan went home on her DadвЂ™s back. I saw Mr. Yang sweating after they got вЂњhomeвЂќ. Yang DanвЂ™s Mom told me, Mr. Yang is not quite good in health. It was November already. November is quite cold in Beijing. On sunny days, Yang DanвЂ™s Mom was happy because the sunshine would warm up their blankets. When I was trying to raise money to pay for Yang DanвЂ™s surgery, many times I almost gave up. I contacted a few charities, none gave me definite answer. At one dinner table, I told Yang Dan I would save her life. Now I simply could not face her, could not see her eyes after so many fruitless attempts. This can was recovered from the junk yard by Yang DanвЂ™s Dad. Every time I saw this near empty begging can, I was in deep sadness. Days had gone by at constant speed. There is no much difference in in Yang DanвЂ™s life compared with two month ago. The only difference now was she had a new friend. After two month of close interaction with them, I felt I was more than a friend, I am part of the family. I chatted often with her parents. At that time, Yang Dan simply sit there, Listening without a sound. Her sister was less shy, she would step in front of me, calling me вЂњUncle ZhangвЂќ. I got a promotion balloon from a nearby McDonald. I gave it to Yang Dan. She only played with it for a few minutes, then passed it to her sister. It certainly became the little oneвЂ™s treasure. At this very morning, she had heart failure suddenly. Her whole body was trembling. Every breath was a huge struggle. At the moment she had most difficulty to breath, she said to me: вЂњUncle Zhang, help me!вЂќ. While she was struggling for her life, her parents were in panic. Her father was helplessly speechless and her Mom was weeping. Her sister was looking at her curiously, wondering what went wrong. I took a towel from her Mom, trying to wipe sweat on her face. The water was so dirty. I asked her Mom to get fresh water. She said the water was collected from rain, thereвЂ™s no more since it hadnвЂ™t rained for a while. Next morning, Yang Dan was much better. I was so happy. Her sister was smiling to me. Her Mom told me Yang Dan had had more heart failure lately, and Yang Dan wanted to take the train going home. вЂњWeвЂ™ll be going home soon. My baby is also due soon.вЂќ her Mom said. Winter is not raining season in Beijing. That why the water supply was short for Yang DanвЂ™s family. Look at the dirt accumulated on her sisterвЂ™s face. One warmer day, Yang Dan handed me some changes, asking me to take her to see the doctor. I didnвЂ™t know what to say to her. I was waiting for the response from a philanthropist who gave a speech at Peking University one month ago. Cardiology 2 One month ago, I saw a poster at Peking University. A philanthropist who is the president of a Hong Kong based fashion company would be giving a speech at the University, talking about charity. вЂњHere is hope for Yang Dan!вЂќ I almost went fainted by the excitement. After the speech, I bowed three times to him in front of the audience, asking him to help Yang Dan. I felt Yang Dan was smiling to me when I was bowing to him. Today, at lobby of the hospital, I made the 5th call to a senior manager working for the president. вЂњStop calling me no moreвЂќ he told me. That sent me into total despair. From the hospital, I learned the Yang Dan had Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). The surgery to correct VSD costs $2,500 which has to be paid in advance. (Comment by Angel Heart: VSD is the easiest congenital heart condition to treat. She would have been a completely normal child after the surgery.) I offered myself as the deposit. I was laughed at for this proposal. In deeper despair, I went back to Yang Dan. There were more volunteers joined me to help Yang Dan. Some brought new clothing for her. She would try hard to smile when she put on a new piece of clothing. I finally convinced Yang DanвЂ™s Dad to take the family back to Henan. I told him I would take care of the money issue for Yang DanвЂ™s surgery. This bike was their only property in Beijing. It was given to them by a foreign student. They would take it with them. On November 28, 2005, I took Yang Dan and her family to the train station. They would take No. 1487 departing at 7:02am. Yang Dan looked so happy. Her Mom told me, she was so happy that they were going home. At the time to say goodbye, Yang Dan said to me in low voice: вЂњIвЂ™ll be waiting for your help at home.вЂќ She was so serious. Looking at her bluish face, I promised to her that I would go her home to take her back to Beijing to have treatment. Tears went down her cheek as I was making my promise. The train departed on time. As the train was moving faster and faster, I suddenly felt I need to say something to Yang Dan but didnвЂ™t know what to say. I stood there, watching the train disappeared. Finally, I had a charity willing to help Yang Dan. Joyfully, I called Yang DanвЂ™s grandpaвЂ™s home on December 23, 2005. I informed the good news and told them to take Yang Dan to Beijing to have surgery. While I was talking, strangely, I heard only silence from the other end of the line. Then I was told Yang Dan passed away last night. At the last minute of her life, she was still calling Uncle Zhang to help her. I was devastated by death of Yang Dan. For many days, I wandered around where she lived in Beijing and got drunk. In the drunkenness, I always heard her voice: вЂњUncle Zhang, help me!вЂќ Chinese New Year of 2006, I visited Yang DanвЂ™s family. This is Yang DanвЂ™s grandma. I also learned that the family now have a new baby boy. Next morning, I saw Yang DanвЂ™s father. He looked more slim than before. I handed him pictures of Yang Dan. He was weeping while looking at those pictures. I donвЂ™t know why I was visiting them again. I tried many times to erase the name Yang Dan from my memory. I even wanted to delete all her pictures. But her Dad called me, wanted to keep them for memory. Her Mom did not say anything when she saw me. She looked quite sad. Yang DanвЂ™s Dad did not show her the pictures for the understandable reason. The only furniture in the room was this stove. The meal was porridge and brown sugar, nothing more. Watching her mother, Yang DanвЂ™s little sister wanted to eat. Mr. Yang told me, sheвЂ™s been asking a lot where her elder sister is. When I left, Yang DanвЂ™s sister waved goodbye to me, saying unclearly: вЂњUncle Zhang is finally here to help my sister.вЂќ My last stop was Yang DanвЂ™s tomb. It is very small and partially covered with snow. Standing in front of her tomb, my thoughts were wandering. I didnвЂ™t know what I should think, or should I? In front of me was a small pile of dirt, as if I saw her bluish face again. вЂњUncle Zhang, help me!вЂќ sheвЂ™s weeping.