I am Agnes Wu, and I would like to share a story about my son, Keimay Yang, which happened nearly five years ago… one month before he passed away. As Ho Chie Tsai, the founder of TaiwaneseAmerican.org and a friend of my son, shared with me, “Keimay spent more time thinking about others, not just friends and family, but even strangers. His true character really shined.” It is this story about Keimay’s values that I hope will resonate with the ITASA community:
One late afternoon in September 2007, after he had finished a chemotherapy treatment at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Keimay felt too weak to walk. He asked me if he could sit down in the waiting room of the doctor’s office for a short time so he could regain the strength to move about. So, of course I sat next to him and waited. Minutes later, an elderly handicapped woman walked in with her walker, and the receptionist told her that she was in wrong doctor’s office. She would have to go to a different floor and make a series of turns. It was evident that this elderly woman was confused as she left.
Keimay got up and told me,“I’ll be right back.” I assumed that he was going to the washroom, and I continued to read my magazine. About 20 minutes later, Keimay came back and told me that he had helped this woman, and brought her to the office that she was supposed to be at. I knew Keimay was not only too weak to walk but also was in tremendous pain after chemo. Somehow, he managed to move himself inch by inch to catch up with this old lady and accomplished his mission.
I was so ashamed when Keimay told me what he did to help this woman because I didn’t even think about it at all. At that time, All I worried about was Keimay’s own unbearable pain and suffering from his chemotherapy. However, it was just like Keimay to assist others in need without thinking of his own problems.
Keimay was so proud of his Taiwanese American identity. When he was a young 10 year-old boy, I brought him to visit Taiwan for the very first time on a two-week visit. A few days after we came home from the trip, I found a jar sitting on a bookshelf in his room that was clearly labeled, “Soil from Taiwan.” I was totally surprised, and I told him that bringing soil from Taiwan to the US was illegal. He answered, “Mom, it’s OK. You didn’t do it. It was a 10 year-old boy who did it without knowing it was illegal. Hopefully, they won’t punish me if they catch me. Besides, to own this soil from Taiwan means a lot to me.” That day, I understood his love and passion for Taiwan, even at such an early age.
Keimay loved joining Taiwanese American community activities. He was excited about conferences such as TAC (now known as TANG) on the east coast, TAF in the Midwest. But most of all, he loved the collegiate organization ITASA.
He was involved with ITASA since his sophomore year in high school at the age of 16. During the summer of 1992, he asked me if he could attend an ITASA conference the following year knowing that it was an organization intended for college students only. My answer to him was, “you may try, and if you’re accepted, then why not?” Fortunately, he was accepted, and from then on, he was deeply involved with ITASA for the years that would follow.
Years later, he would reveal just how strong his dedication was towards Taiwanese issues. On February 28, 2003, I discovered that Keimay participated on day-long hunger strikes every year since high school to pay tribute to the victims of the 228 Incident. With deep emotion, he explained to me that when he suffered from hunger pains, it was nothing compared to the tens of thousands who died during this tragic incident over half a century ago. Keimay had been doing this privately for years without telling me. It was his way of showing respect for my generation. I was so proud of him for that.
Unfortunately, he discovered that he had colon cancer in January of 2007 and passed away on October 19, 2007 at the age of 30, just three weeks shy away of his 31st birthday.
We had a very special bond between mother and son. Keimay’s character was a blend of courage, strength, trustworthiness, and faithfulness. His fun-loving nature and laughter were true blessings. For almost five years, I missed him every single day.
I know I need to move on because Keimay would not want me to be eternally sad. He would just want me to remember him, which I do, each and every day. Now my biggest challenge for the rest of my life will be to seek ways to make my life meaningful.
It so happened that I had a chance to listen a speech delivered by Ho Chie Tsai at the annual NATWA Convention in San Jose this past April. He spoke about the vibrant activities of the 2nd generation Taiwanese American community, including ITASA. After I heard Ho Chie’s speech, it reminded me of Keimay’s own involvement with ITASA. Right then and there, I made a commitment to myself that I would support ITASA with an annual donation in loving memory of Keimay each and every year for the rest of my life.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts and feelings for my son Keimay. I have found it helpful in lifting my spirits and relieving me from my pain. I hope Keimay’s story and what he cared about and stood for will make a difference for you and future generations of Taiwanese American college students.
If you are interested in knowing more about Keimay, I invite you to visit his website: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/keimay
a bereaved mother
Personal Note from HoChie Tsai: Dear Agnes, my heart goes out to you and your family. Even as time passes, Keimay’s dedication and commitment to the community remains an eternal inspiration. He will always be remembered as a dear friend to those that knew him. Thank you for raising an excellent young man with a heart of gold.