This is one of those rare stories that’s both creepy and heartbreaking at the same time. Tian Xueming lost both his children in just on decade, and decided to store his son’s remains in an ice chest inside the house for six years, so he could see and talk to him whenever the massive loss became to hard to cope with.
60-year old Tian Xueming, a carpenter from Huangling Village, China’s Chongqing province, got married in 1979, and took his wife to live in a modest home made of mud. At the time they were living with six other relatives, so to provide better living conditions for his family, Tian went to work in the city. Thanks to his carpentry skills and impeccable work ethic, the Tians’ lifestyle gradually improved. In 1982 they had a daughter, and in 1987, his wife Yang Hongying gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. In order to spend more time with his family, Tian decided to quit his job and return to his native village as a stay-at-home dad. He managed to build a three-storey house for his family, the most luxurious in all of Huangling, and he describes those days as the happiest of his entire life. Only the new-found happiness didn’t last long…
It was a hot day when they lost their daughter, Yingying. The 15-year-old had gone to town to buy some vegetables, but when she returned half and hour later she looked pale and tired. Still, she told her parents not to worry. An hour later, they found her collapsed in the yard, barely breathing. By the time the doctor arrived, it was too late for Yingying and to this day Tian blames himself for not taking care of her enough. Just when time was starting to heal the wounds left by this terrible loss, disaster struck again. 9 years after Yingying had passed away, their son, Qinyuan, was diagnosed with leukemia in the final stage. He had just gone to university in 2005, and Tian Xueming remembers he would have given everything to pay his tuition and see him succeed in life, only it wasn’t meant to be. In March of 2006 he received a phone call and was told his son had had a fever for almost a month. He didn’t understand the gravity of the situation at first, but soon he and his wife were by Qinyuan’s bedside in the hospital, praying he would somehow miraculously survive. He died in July, 2006, aged 18.
Qinyuan’s loss tore the Tian’s world apart and they just didn’t know what to do to cope with the unbearable pain. They decided to conceal the circumstances of their son’s death, and somehow keep him around. “I told his mother that we should not bury him, but rather keep our son around us. She agreed,” Xueming told Chinese media, and that night they emptied the icebox, dressed his body and placed him inside. They kept their son’s burial place a secret for six years, during which time they would pull up chairs around the ice box, lift the lid and talk to him as if he had never left them. Tian says he and his wife know it wasn’t the most normal thing to do, but it was the only way to deal with the pain.
He knows both his relatives and his neighbors mean well when they press him to bury Qinyuan’s body, but he just cannot bring himself to do it. “I know I was wrong. My decision has had a bad influence on my neighbors’ lives as well, but I have lost both of my children! No one could ever understand my suffering,” Tian Xueming said as he gazed at the freezer in the corner of his house. “Anyway, I can see my son whenever I miss him.”
Photos via Ifeng