I recently learned of a story that just about broke my heart, and I’m sorry but I’m about to break yours, too.
The title of this post basically speaks for itself: Four siblings aged 5-14 decide it’s time for them to go and leave this earth behind.
Four siblings in Guizhou, China commit suicide together by drinking pesticide.
When I first heard of this story from my mom, I was in complete shock, as was she. How can children younger than myself, as young as 5 years old, think that their time of living is up? How is this possible? They weren’t depressed. This isn’t a mental illness story. This is four children actually sitting down to discuss and ultimately decide that dying would be better than the lives that they led.
What kind of terrible lives must they have had, then?
To understand what these children went through in their lives, my mom told me that I need to know more about Guizhou.
Guizhou is a southwestern province of China that is marked by severe, wretched poverty. The geography of Guizhou makes the lives of the people there even harder, with its extremely mountainous terrain that forces its inhabitants to live extremely remotely.
To make ends meet, oftentimes parents will leave their children behind in Guizhou to go to bigger cities to make money to send back home. In relatively better situations, other family members will look after the children while their parents are away. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes, children are left completely on their own to fend for themselves, with their parents visiting only a few times a year.
These four siblings were of the latter and less fortunate category. Their mother had left their entire family for good a while ago and their father had been their primary caretaker. However, to call him a caretaker would be an overstatement because he was rarely home. He had to do what many other parents of Guizhou do: he left his kids behind in the hopes of making money to provide for a better life for them all.
No one had been taking care of these children for years. They survived on only corn starch for a while. They stopped going to school. They completely isolated themselves and did not even let their relatives into their home when they came to try to help these kids.
And, finally, they decided to kill themselves.
The notes they left behind read “Thanks for your kindness. I know you mean well for us, but we should go now” and “I made a vow that I wouldn’t live over the age of 15. I’m 14 now. I dream about death, and yet that dream never comes true. Today it must finally come true.”
A lot of people hear this story and are immediately angry at the parents and feel that the parents are at fault. I agree that if the father had not left the children behind, they might still be here today. However, if he had stayed home, he would not have been able to provide for them in any way. This practice of leaving children behind for work in more prosperous cities of China has been in place for years and years and is considered commonplace for these rural regions, because these families are so poor there is nothing else possible that they can do to save themselves.
It is the conditions of these families that is at fault. It is their extreme poverty. It is our ignorance of their existence. Our lack of aid. These are what are truly at fault, I believe.
Life is just so not fair and it’s not okay that for the more fortunate to live in oblivion. These news stories are disheartening and depressing, but we need to keep on reading them and educating ourselves. We should keep on learning about each other, the other people that share this world with us, and we need to care about each other’s hardships.
We need to forget our differences and help those in need when we can. We need to be grateful for what we have but we also need to share.
**I understand that there are different versions of this story being told online by various news sources, in which some say that the children did not kill themselves on purpose, but my mom read an article from a Chinese news site and an article from a Chinese newspaper to me and these sources state that the deaths were suicidal, so I am basing this post off of what my mom and I together believe to be most likely. However, if you wish to disagree with our interpretation, that is completely fine and understandable.