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About Aaron Jingyi Chen 陈景义 (2010-2023)
Aaron Jingyi Chen was born in Toronto, Ontario, on February 5, 2010. After a battle against Leukaemia for three years, eight months, and fifteen days, he passed away peacefully on January 12, 2023, leaving behind his grandparents, parents, older brother, younger sister, and numerous relatives and friends. Aaron was remembered as a gentle, sensitive, forgiving child, who loved school, liked playing chess, and was talented in piano and badminton. Above all, he was remembered as a brave child with extraordinary resilience. After he was diagnosed with Leukaemia, he refused to be defeated but chose to fully embrace life. Not only did he continue to do well academically, but he also tried something new in school such as running for the Student Council at his elementary school. As he was undergoing chemo treatment, he discovered his lifelong passions – reading and chess. He read about 500 books, often stationing himself in the library for hours. He also began to play chess (after watching The Queen’s Gambit), and soon stood out as a prodigious chess player, winning prizes in local tournaments even without much formal coaching. In September 2022, he mapped out his plan for the future in one of his Grade 7 projects, which was to attend the University of Toronto and continue playing in many chess tournaments while preparing to become a writer. His dream was to earn a living with tournament prizes and royalties from his books. He hoped to live near his parents so he could take care of them and his little sister, knowing that his brother would be in a faraway place pursuing his dream. But when he was hospitalized again on November 26, 2022, he soon realized that his dream would probably be forever unfulfilled. Even so, he remained calm and stoic. He never shed tears in front of others (except for his mother). Instead, he was often the one who encouraged others to not worry. He always remembered to say “thank you” to his nurses and doctors. When undergoing procedures, he never complained about the pains he was going through.
In his final days, instead of feeling terrified or dwelling on his pain and the unfair circumstances, he repeatedly expressed his gratitude towards his family and all his friends, teachers, and all the people who had supported him. A key message for them is: to “stay strong and carry on after this” For that, he also called upon his little sister to make sure that his parents and brother “would not go down the wrong path” after he left. Aaron’s life was short but full. He is still fully alive, in heaven, and in the heart of everyone who has been touched by him. To fulfill his wish that we help others for him and that he would not be forgotten by the world, we have decided to create an Aaron Chen Memorial Award at the University of Toronto through a permanent endowment thanks to the support of many friends. We have also launched the Aaron Chen Memorial Foundation to celebrate Aaron’s life, to create a space of mourning and sharing, to support broader charitable initiatives such as student awards and scholarships, chess tournaments in local schools, Aaron’s corners in local libraries, etc. We are profoundly touched by the outpouring of support for these initiatives from many relatives, friends, and colleagues as well as other generous donors. As these initiatives come to benefit more and more young people, we hope to see Aaron’s legacy playing an ever larger role in the world.
Aaron's Talents and Passions
Aaron showed promise in piano after a short period of training even though he eventually found his true passions elsewhere. Below is the 8-year-old Aaron playing Chopin Waltz in C sharp Minor at a 2018 recital.
Aaron became intensely interested in literature in the last two or three years of his life. He read close to five hundred books during that time span. He planned to become an author after university. Below are his own book shelves.
Even though he started playing chess less than two years ago with little formal coaching, Aaron had already won several prizes in local chess tournaments. His remarkable skills, confidence and poise made him a formidable opponent in chess contests. He was called a chess prodigy by defeated adult opponents.
Besides academic excellence and good character, the young Aaron had also demonstrated promising potential and talents in various other areas, including writing and literature, music, and chess.
Charitable/Non-profit Initiatives in Honor of Aaron
Aaron’s family and friends have established the Aaron Chen Memorial Foundation (a Canadian non-profit organization) to support children and to raise fund for other charitable or civic activities to help schools, hospitals, and local communities and society at large.
Quotes from Aaron’s Last Days and Comments from Friends, Teachers and Nurses
Aaron was a gentle, considerate, and loving child throughout his life. If a person’s true character is revealed in times of crisis, here are some quotes from him and observations from others during a time when Aaron suffered pain and stress of a magnitude one could only imagine. We see these as the most definitive indications of Aaron’s character and integrity.
Messages for Family
“Please stay strong and carry on after this.”
“You are the most loving and caring family in the world. In my entire life, there is nothing comparing to any of you.”
“Thank you, grandparents, so much for bringing my parents to this world. They are the best parents. Without you, there would not have been me.”
“It breaks my heart to see you guys crying and continuing to suffer. I would be in a better place when I am gone.”
Messages for Others
Shortly before his passing, Aaron had a lot of pain and great difficulty speaking but he took the time to thank not just his family but also everyone else who had helped him by saying:
“Now, this is where I give ‘thank you’ to all my friends, all my teachers, and all the people who have supported me along the way, including all the nurses at Sickkids who have helped so many different people….and what they do is amazing.”
“Of the thousand students I have taught, you stand out in your maturity and kindness. You are an absolute joy to teach and even more fun to talk to and play games with. Our school time together has been so special to me. Thank you for everything. Love, Dennis.”
“Aaron leaves behind a legacy of abominable strength, stoicism and bravery which will live on when I tell my future students about the most courageous boy I knew. We were Aaron’s teachers at Bridlewood, but his lessons will forever live with us.” Ms. Tessier.
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