Sept. 11, 2019
On behalf of the Chen family, I would like to express sincere gratitude towards the JTS editorial office for this rare opportunity to write an article in the memory of my father. Last August, he peacefully departed at Beijing China-Japan Friendship Hospital due to complications caused by vasculitis. When he first fell ill, it appeared to be just a heavy cold. However, a mere eleven weeks after the first hospital visit for the "cold", he left us forever.
Naixing was one of the founding editors of JTS many years ago. I can still recall the discussions of the matters in setting up JTS. He talked with me about the sustainability of the proposed journal etc. JTS, since published in English (now co-published with Springer), has been going strong: carried by the dedication of the JTS editorial board, reviewers and of course the ongoing support from the contributing authors.
A few years ago, my dad documented stories from his days in Moscow, Harbin and Beijing. I remember reading it, and noticing that it was all written in simple, neutral language. There was no exaggeration (none at all, in my opinion) about the pains and suffering he endured in the difficult periods of his life. He always told me that what he suffered was normal at that time. In his mind, his experience was simply one of the thousands and therefore not worth mentioning. He had no intention to publish his personal experiences.
He may have wished to reflect on and process the unfortunate details of his past. Or perhaps he thought it might be necessary to share his story with his grandchildren, so they could get to understand him more. Writing about his experiences was undoubtedly an essential part of his recovery and coming to terms with what he had gone through. Sadly he did not make it to his own desired lifespan. It was clear through his words in his final two months that he was not well prepared to leave. No one could be able to do so, given the unexpected circumstances.
It is hard to imagine that not long before his final hospital stay, I was still discussing my ideas about the turbulence theory to him. He told me that he would talk more about it with me after he returned from the hospital.
Geoffrey Duffy, a close family friend from Auckland, wrote me last year. He noted the following, and for which I am grateful. 'I'm glad your mum was there with him throughout (the hospital stay). You were lucky to have the opportunity to be with him and to process your sad feelings and time to say good-bye. At least there was some time to come to grips with what was really happening, work through all that matters, check your inner feelings, adjust to circumstances outside our control, and seek mutual and deeper comfort with the closest extended family. Although it was painful to see our loved one slowly slipping away, it was better than hearing of a sudden death, as that is a shock is so emotive and beyond reason! His legacy has been bringing you as a family closer together'.
Sharing, caring, promoting and uplifting others, mentoring, and always wanting the best for others was a lifelong task for my father. He was always giving and giving and giving, as he understood that the reward was not in receiving.
My daughter (Lisa Chen, age 18 at the time) wrote the following, which I think very appropriate for the current occasion. 'The kindest, bravest, smartest, humblest, warmest, and strongest man I am beyond and forever proud to call my grandpa. You have shown us all what love and selflessness truly mean, and what real perseverance looks like. I only wish I could walk into your room and still see you, paintbrush in hand, eyebrows furrowed, before instantly greeting me with the biggest smile. Taxi rides can't be the same without your relentless need to make friendly conversation with every single driver. You have been the only one patient enough to teach me so much mathematics, step by step. Your departure is a heavy one on all of the lives you have touched. Everyone that has met you has felt the sunshine you radiate. Your contributions to science, society, and your family are impossible to quantify. Your generations of students have learnt so much from you. I will try my best to take care of Nainai (grandma), so don't worry too much, not to mention that you know how strong she is. Thank you... For everything. You're in my heart forever and always. I love you so much Yeye (grandpa). Goodbye. You can rest now, you extraordinary human'.
My dad absolutely loved the work he was doing. Many in the scientific community may not know that he wrote his complicated computing programs even in his old age, to simulate fluid flows (e.g. inverse problem solving). He also created his own software for displaying and adjusting 3D images. He was remarkable at doing everything firsthand with utmost care, passion, and dedication. His skill in deriving equations was incredible: far better than mine. Perhaps also few know that he was into boxing, wrestling and gymnastics when he was young. He was a very powerful sports person before his dark days. He made the radios in our home, carried out the woodworks for making most of the furniture for our Beijing home in the early to mid 70s, and was an excellent cook for our family meals.
When my dad finished his book Aerothermodynamics of Turbomachinery: Analysis and Design at age 76, he asked me what he would do for the remainder of his life. I asked him what the one thing he had always wanted to do but never had the time to do, was. He answered that it was oil painting, and that was when he started prolifically painting. We will treasure his art pieces for generations. My dad's artwork is displayed everywhere in our family homes today. He painted all of us, his lifelong friends, their stories, and did multiple paintings of my mother. Oil painting was a critically important part of his later life. He invested countless hours in researching and understanding how to paint better, and in painting, itself.
There are endless other memories and qualities that we can reminisce of him. However, in recognition of the temporary nature of living, we have to let go of our complicated feelings and carry on his legacy through us in simple ways, that would make him happy.
So long to my dad: my greatest friend, my mother's loving husband, my children's grandfather. You were a gentle, kind and an intelligent man. You are sorely missed by all who were affected and touched by your once generous presence in this world.
Professor CHEN Xiaodong
BE (Tsinghua), MSc (New South Wales), PhD (Canterbury), DHC (Agrocampus Quest)
FTSE, FRSNZ, FIChemE, CEng
Distinguished Professor, Soochow University, China