由於國內戰亂父親已先離鄉，就在一個漆黑之夜晚，母親先早離開她參加的文藝晚會演出，帶著大姐二姐及剛滿週歲的我，從家鄉的稻田中由叁位待命中的馬夫帶路出發，在那叢林高山人煙稀少的滇緬邊境中徒行，叁匹馬力架上的馬鞍，我們姐弟叁人被挾在竹籃中，歴經千山萬水扺達在中緬邊境小鎮， 和兩年未見的父親重逢。在我有記憶的童年歲月中，我們姐妹是在沒有自來水和電力供應的緬北小鎮中長大 ，由於父母對教育事業之執著，由她們一手草創之華文學校總算讓這群流離異邦的孩童仍然綁繫在華夏文化的煙火中，不忘記我們的根。大姐還常提起我在十一歲時就能勇敢的走上講臺發表演說，這些都出自母親之不斷鼓勵，也證實她的教學生涯善於表達和面對群眾的天生特質 。
六〇年代的臺灣，我們全家住在臺北近郊的新店，隣居左右多半說臺語，父母同樣面臨語言障礙無法溝通，經田叁哥之 排我們搬到中壢，和大部分從家鄉雲南回到臺灣的鄉親住在一起，父母早年曾任公職及教師，也曾多次想在公家及學校謀職但皆未成功，尤其父親年輕時已少年得志，不但善於書法， 並且學富五車，此時又遷移新境，甚感有志難伸，心情之鬱悶可想而知，但是母親卻可放下身段，每天穿梭在百尺見方的小客廳𥚃做起小生意，為這個新家撐起半邊天。當年我已經在大學上一年級，記得當年大一新生到桃園石門水庫郊遊，母親烹調了一鍋紅燒雞腿要我帶去和同學共享，我堅持不肯，我深切了解家境困苦，這鍋美食會增加許多負擔，但是母親還是把這鍋佳餚親自送來，雖然此事離今已久，我始終就可體認媽媽要為我在同學面前爭面子，不管如何艱難，她都要給子女們得到別人的尊重，不要讓別人認為我們是窮孩子。母親的這鍋紅燒雞腿給予我巨大的衝擊，回家後我們母子坐在窄小的客廳𥚃， 我對媽說：“媽，我們真的不能窮。” 我們激動的相擁而泣 。
大學一年級我在學校登記暑假工讀生，非常幸運分配到中國廣播公司新聞組實習，我當時已經下定決心要全心努力抓住 機會，不論是和老記者們出去採訪或在編譯室𥚃學習翻譯外電新聞，都苦下功夫，當年記者們的錄音設備非常重 ，我一定是馬上去背起來絕不讓老記者們擔心，每天除了做老記者的跟 班，就在編譯室學譯稿。公司內外都非常驚訝為何來了一位勤 奮的小子，就在中廣新聞組改組為新聞部時，我立即自告奮勇 地向黎董事長自我推薦在暑期實習過後留任 ，他當時看我一眼， 說：“你大學未畢業，這和人事制度不敷，不過我覺得你這年輕人十分勤勞勇敢”，他隨手把一張英文報之新聞要我當場翻譯，半小時內我把英文新聞立即譯成中文。黎董大感吃驚， 他笑著對我說，我們破例試用你半年，以編輯助理資格任用， 當時這個天大的喜訊讓我喜極而泣，就如汪洋大海中找到一支獨舟。
七十年代初期，我首先踏上征途來到美國舊金山，又是人生另一重大轉折，父母親每週之家書成為我精神最大支柱，不論環境如何艱難，我都是定期回報平安，多年後， 我在美國重操舊業回到媒體之路，先後和姐弟妺們在全美創建美南新聞媒體集團發行遍及全美十大城市包括報業、電視、黃頁、網站、 新媒體，母親在父親過世之後遷居美國， 先後在達拉斯、休斯 敦、華盛頓、芝加哥等地居住在姐弟妹家中。二十年前，我和好友謝坤增兄到達拉斯為新成立之美南銀行覓新行址，母親還親自下廚為我們準備了一桌雲南家鄉佳餚，至今難忘，她也是達拉斯日報之最忠實讀者，尤其是有關我們弟妹們之新聞圖片都剪下收藏，十年前，年逾八旬的她幸運地通過公民考試成為美國公民，有次我陪她到休斯敦華裔老人公寓拜訪，走在公寓的長廊上，我牽著媽手，迎面來了一位長輩，她問母親“這是妳兒子？”她說“是啊。”那位老人翹起大姆指，當時媽媽對著我露出非常滿足的微笑，事隔多年，這幕親情傳遞代表了多 少歲月累積的辛酸和甜美。
九五年秋天， 母親和我們姐妹回到了雲南龍陵縣龍山鎮外婆老家 ，由於外公是清代舉人書香門第之家， 大院𥚃仍然住著表哥全家 ，當我們的座車抵達時， 近百位鄉親已齊集在外婆家的大院𥚃 ，許多年長白髮人是當年媽媽的學生， 都說趙老師回來了。
母親回家後見到四十年未見的立國表兄，激動得相擁而泣， 表哥指著大院左角上的閣樓說 ：“這就是老孃(即母親) 住過的臥室。”媽媽凝視著這間外公外婆留下的祖產， 多少令人難予置信的青春歲月已經淹沒在歷史之洪流中。 在當晚龍陵縣長的歡迎晚宴上， 他向在座鄉親們介紹說：“這是當年我們縣城𥚃多才多藝的趙老師 ，和她同行的是當年我們龍山鎮鎮長李仁先生也是趙老師長公子， 美國美南傳媒集團老總李蔚華先生。”母親在當晚宴席上不斷詢問昔日老友學生近況， 泰半她同輩的都已去世， 她的許多學生也是年過古稀 。她的談話充滿了惋傷，也流露了近鄉情𨚫的感情 。
回到外婆家的路上，我們的座車行經當年的滇緬公路，如 今已成廣闊的國道， 母親指著旁邊的山丘說：“ 那裡就是我們當年馬夫等我們的地點。”
叁年前母親福體漸弱，走動不易，大妹把她送到華盛頓小妹家療養，大姐更是全天侯侍候在旁，二姐、姐夫、小妹 、妹 夫、弟弟們都經常探訪，並常在座輪椅上遊遍東部各大城市， 也嗜盡中西美食，每當弟妹們付賬單時，她總會問多少錢，也是她早年曾經面臨生活之拮據養成的節省美德之表現 。
2015 年十一月七日，美南新聞傳媒集團在美國德州休斯敦太空體育舘舉辦了紀念二戰結束七十週年大會，超過二萬五千名各族裔及各國政要退役老兵參加，會後得到美國總統奧巴馬及國會眾議院頒發獎狀，非常遺憾母親已不良於行無法參加盛會。接獲獎狀後，我把它裱框後帶到華府大妹家𥚃，送到母親床前，和她分享這份極高之榮譽，她凝視並不斷撫摸這份鑲金邊的獎狀，此時我又再次俯在她身上哭了。 這個至高榮譽是因為母親間接賜予的，如果不是她當年英勇的決定，相信我們家人之命運一定會被改寫。
Wea Lee Chairman of Southern News Group in Houston
Mom you are sleeping at the bay of Potomac river under nation star flag You are watching blue sky and colorful rainbow Your life accomplishment in ordinary with extraordinary We will cheerful eulogized your journey and celebrating your full life Dear Mom please keep you smile.
Mom passed away on the last day of the 2017 Chinese Lunar New Year in Washington, D.C. at my sister's house. All of our six sisters and brother were at her bedside. It was a chilly cold day in D.C. with snow on the door with the chanting of Buddhist music in the air. We all cried. We were so grateful that in last three years of mom's life my sister had taken such good care of her.
Our Mom was born on March 2, 1919, in our hometown of Yunan, China. Her life took her through World War II and the Chinese civil war. She moved from our hometown and went to Burma and Taiwan until she settled down in America. Because of her strong will and never give up attitude, she became our role model.
When the Chinese civil war started in China, my dad went to the neighboring country of Burma and left mom and us small kids at home. After two years my mom made an excuse to leave a school music performance early for which she was teacher. In the dark of one evening there were three horses and a keeper waiting for us in a rice field.
My two sisters and I were able to ride on the horse with our young mother and traveled through the high mountains and rivers between the China and Burma border. After one week of a difficult journey, we finally arrived at a small town at the Chinese border and held a joyful reunion with our father who had already been gone two years earlier.
For many years of our early teenage times we lived in a small town without running water or electricity. Because my parents were teachers in China, they started to organize a local Chinese school to teach all the local refugee Chinese kids Chinese. One of their goals was to be sure the kids didn't forget that we were of Chinese descent. When we joined the local school my sister told me that I was so brave to get up on the stage to make a speech when I was just 11 year old. I also believe that I learned that kind of performance from my mom. She was such a great teacher and could always talk in front of large crowds.
When we were young kids we had many happy times and never even thought about the impact for our parents as they were facing language and culture challenges in a different country.
Once the Vietnam war started in Southeast Asia, the situation in Burma worsened.
One day my parents received a letter from my father's former bodyguard. My brother Tien had followed Chiang Kai-shek and had gone to Taiwan. He insisted on applying for an entry permit for us to go to Taiwan because the situation was getting bad in the region. When we got his message, my parents were facing another big challenge in their lives. After a family meeting we decided to accept Brother Tien's invitation to move to Taiwan.
In the late 1960's, Taiwan was under military rule andaccepting U.S. aid. When our whole family settled down in a Taipei suburb town of Hsing Dian my parent did not speak the Taiwanese language. Still facing the language barrier, Brother Tien suggested that we move to the town of Chung Li where there were a lot of residents who had moved there from our hometown in Yunnan province. My dad wanted to find a job in the government or school, but he was out of luck simply because of his age and background couldn't go through the exam or pass the security check for employment. He was very depressed. He remembered the old days when he was just 24 years old when he became the head of a township and was provided with a bodyguard. Dad was also very talented in both Chinese calligraphy and literature and he felt his life didn't fit well in the local society. This caused him to never smile again. In the meantime, my mom's thinking was very different. She started a small bookstore in our small house's living room. Facing the family's living problem, she was very strong in finding ways to survive.
By that time I was a freshman at the local university. One day I told my mom that we should have a picnic at the Sherman reservoir which was not too far from our home. She suggested that we get stewed chicken legs for the party, but I strongly refused because I knew the family's poor situation and we couldn't afford such a luxurious dish. Without my knowledge, mom sent the food to the picnic anyway. The whole class enjoyed her cooking. The reason she did it was because she didn't want my classmates to look down on me as being a poor family kid. On that day when I returned home we were sitting in our small family room, and I told her, "Mom, we really can't be poor." I hugged her and we both shed our tears together.
When the summer time came, I immediately applied for a summer job. Very fortunately, I accepted a job at the China Broadcasting company as an intern. I made a strong decision that day to start to make money for myself and support my whole family. At that time, a radio station was a highly respected place to work. On my first day I was instructed to work with a reporter to get news from around the town. Right off I saw that the reporters had a very heavy tape recorder so I volunteered to carry it for them. When we came back to the radio station, I also volunteered to join the newsroom and try to learn how to translate English wire news into Chinese. Very soon a lot of people knew that I was bearing hardships and was still a hardworking young man.
When the summer that year was almost over, the timing was just right for me when the company wanted to expand the news department into a bigger organization. Without a doubt, my time had come. One afternoon I walked in the General Manager's office and asked to see him, but the secretary told me that I didn't have an appointment. I told her that I was an intern and because this was his final day, I wanted to say goodbye to him. She replied coolly to me and said, “You might want to wait.” So I decided to stay in the waiting room. About one hour later, the General Manager walked into the office. He looked at me and said, “Hello young man, what do you need?” I told the General Manger that I wanted to have job in the news department if possible. He replied to me, “You are so young - you are not even a college graduate. How can we hire you? But some colleague has told me you are a very diligent young man. Let's do it this way- can you translate this English paper into Chinese? Let me give you this test.” One half hour later I presented him the translation. He looked at it and smiled and told the secretary tolet me work in the newsroom as an assistant to the copy editor for six months as a temporarily job. I bowed my head at 90 degrees and ran to a phone booth in the street to report this big and exciting news to my mom. I immediately picked up the telephone and called my parents with the great news. I cried into the phone, ” This is my first money making job and it feels like I am getting a boat ride into the big ocean.” They just couldn't believe that I was only 19-years old and could get a job with a radio station.
I started my work on the night shift which was from eight to one o'clock in the morning. By the time I got off work, I really couldn't go back to the university because it was too far away. So I stayed at my sister's home in Taipei City. When I woke up in the morning, many times it was too late to attend class but I was fortunate to have had a classmate who help me take her class notes and let me copy it. In such difficult times, I was very lucky to pass the exam, but in the meantime because the salary I received improved the whole situation for myself as well as for my family. Because of my news reporter status, I was able to join a lot of Taipei high society activities such like Legislative Yuan (Taiwan's Congress). I loved my job not because of financial reasons, but because of the people I met in my life.
Almost every month my parents came to Taipei to visit me with delicious home cooked meal. When they returned, I always sent them to the Taipei rail station. Seeing them get on the train and looking at the blue sky, I felt the times had changed for us. My parents also felt there was a brighter future for the Lee family. The neighbors also changed their attitudes and now looked up to our family. My sister and brother were also performing well in school. There was hope now that our lives were changing for the better. And we wanted to show appreciation to our half brother Tien who gave us his assistance so that the government would treat our family as overseas Chinese while giving us all kind of benefits. After five years of working for the radio station, I decided to go to America. But before I left, I went to see my boss, president Lee, to say good bye. He held my arm and said to me, "Young man you should go to America. Your hard-working spirit will make you a success." He knew how much I appreciated his assistance which really changed my whole life. I gave him another deep bow, and with tears I walked through the beautiful Taipei streets. This was the place I had build my dreams upon and so many people had helped me in my struggling times.
In the early 70's when I arrived at my first American city, San Francisco, I started another big journey in my life. My parents' weekly letter became one of the most important "comforts" to me. No matter how busy, I always replied them and told them how beautiful of this land was. In 1979, we started a newspaper business with my wife and brother and sister. Today, our media business includes newspapers, television, yellow pages and new media that are published in 10 cities cross America. My mom left Taiwan after my dad passed away and came to the U.S. and lived in Dallas, Houston. Chicago, and Washington, DC with the family for 20 years. When my old friend Ted Hsieh and I visited Dallas to look for Southwestern Bank's new site, Mom cooked very delicious home cooking meals for us. She paid very close attention to our daily newspaper published in the Dallas area and she kept all the news clippings about me and my brother and sister going back ten years. She was very fortunate to have passed the exam to become U S citizen. One day when we were visiting her friend in the seniors apartment in Houston, Texas, we met a resident in the hallway. She asked my Mom, “Is he your son?” She replied, “Yes.” The elder lady raised her thumb and said, “Very good.” Mom smiled and look at me with that smile that represented the past huge, bitter and miserable mellifluous times of our lives.
In the early 1990's, we made a journey back to our hometown of Yunnan Long Ling China.
My grandpap was a Ju.ren Scholar. This was a very educated and prestigious family. When we arrived at the big family compound, hundreds of relatives and Mom's former student were lined up to welcome us. Mom was so moved, she hugged everybody. With tears in her eyes, she pointed to her teenage bedroom. In the main yard in the evening, there was a welcoming party for us. The local mayor introduced my mom as the most beautiful and talented teacher going back in time forty years before.
On the way back to Grandpap's old house we passed a beautiful state highway. Mom pointed her finger to a place in a rice field and said to me that that was the site where three horses had waited for us to take us away. I was silent and reflected on how life may have been if we hadn't passed safely through the mountains.
Three years ago Mom's health has worsened we moved her to Washington, DC. to my young sisterin-law Ray and Jing's house where my elder sister Lily and Shin took care of her around the clock. Even in her wheelchair, they were able to take her to visit New York, Boston and other nearby cities. They went to the best restaurants around town wherever they went. Every time she ate dinner she always asked my sister how much did you pay? This was because mom experienced so much hardship in her young life she wanted us to still be so frugal.
Then, a couple years of ago, Ray and Jing bought a Villa with four acres of land in suburban D.C. on the Potomac River. It was a beautiful city where many senators, congressmen and high-ranking government officials live. Mom visited with friends there and spent joyful times with her grandkids.
One night I recall on the bay of the Potomac river there were bright lights with snow everywhere. I remember that I was with my brother Dan who had delivered our newspaper to Washington, DC Chinatown. Suddenly, a heavy snow started falling on the ground. I told Dan that no matter how hard we need to finish our work, mom always told us that WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP. Today we are very proud to be in this great land and to be able to create a media and financial business and to be part of great society. Our publication and media service now reach millions of readers and viewers. And we also represent a new chapter of diversity in our community. This fruitful business has been created through hard work of diligent family members along with the ever-present spirit of my mom.
In November 7, 2015, Southern News Group hosted the Celebration of the End of World War II at Houston's Minute Maid Park. With more than 25,000 attendees that huge event represented our nation's diverse community and was attended by many veterans, politicians, elected officials and members of Congress. Regrettably, Mom couldn't make it to the event. After the event, we received a community service award from the U.S. House of Representatives and President Obama. I brought the golden frame award to my Mom's bedside. She touched it and gazed at the award. My tears just dropped down my face. We are so thankful for my mom's brave and courageous decision so many years ago. Otherwise, all of our family's life would be so much different.
Today, 49 days after Mom has left us, my extraordinary brother Congressman Al Green presented us with a U.S. flag that had flown over the United States capital, and the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan and U.S. senator Van Holden sent condolence messages along with proclamations.
Mom, please keep your happy life in heaven. All of us remember you. You are an honored citizen of the great nation of the United States of America.