Yi Jiefang wanted to turn her son's death, a painful experience, into something positive by planting a forest in his memory.
In the year 2000, Yang Ruizhe was attending university in Japan when he was killed in a tragic traffic accident. Yi Jiefang, his 67-year-old mother, was absolutely devasted. However, instead of mourning her loss in a way that she knew he would not want her to, she decided to fulfill his last wish. Yang had always hoped to return to his hometown and "plant a forest." Because he could not do so, his loving mom decided to do it in his honor instead. To date, she has planted a whopping two million trees and plans to keep this project going, Global Times reports.
The 67-year-old Yi Jiefang has planted more than 2 million trees in the desert in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the past 12 years to fulfill her son's dying wish, a Chinese daily recently reported.— Global South Development Magazine (@Global_South) August 4, 2020
A dense jungle stands in the Inner… https://t.co/EWzgEFYiJx pic.twitter.com/RoNd31irws
Jiefang explained in an interview with the news outlet, "He told me, 'After I graduate college I want to return home and plant trees, a whole forest.'" He was reportedly inspired to do so after he watched a new report about the fight against deliberate desertification in North China. Inspired by her son's last wish, the doting mother decided to put her green thumb to use and get to work. Over the past few years, she has taken to North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in order to plant as many trees as she could. Through years of hard work and dedication, she has managed to plant two million trees. Evidently, she has more than fulfilled her son's last wish.
The mother has not stopped there. After selling the family's houses in Shanghai, through their son's insurance policy, and other forms of compensation, Yang's mother and father Yang Antai had raised enough funds to establish Green Life, a non-profit organization currently working on tree-planting projects in Inner Mongolia. Jiefang shared, "We can't take a penny with us when we leave this world. But if we use [the] money to plant trees, it stays in the world forever." To add to this, she is also sharing tree-planting with other families as a method of dealing with loss and grief. She reportedly "seeks to plant seeds of hope for those who have experienced the pain of losing a child."
"I've talked and cried with many families into the night," she said. "Afterward, I've taken them with me to plant trees... It's a way to help those families through their grief, and turn their feelings from negative to positive." Now that she has "greenified" the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Jiefang has committed to "greening" 8.7 square kilometers (that's just over 2,140 acres) in the vast Alxa Desert. Between the years of 1990 and 2016 alone, the world has lost approximately 300 million acres of forest area as per the World Bank, National Geographic reports. Because of folks like Jiefang, the planet may have a shot at healing.