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Write for Aaron, and Write with Aaron!

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Well, Aaron's mom has decided to run marathon and has been training for that over the last few weeks, for Aaron's sake and she turns out to be much stronger than probably most people including myself have anticipated, given how close Aaron had been to her.

After a longer struggle to get myself into a mindset to do anything unrelated to Aaron, I have finally made up my mind to do something, to write for Aaron. To be sure, this may be more a desire and wish than a solemn promise for now, but I do hope that I will turn it into a promise and eventually a reality.

I have been working on several book projects, including one that goes back to almost two decades, a project originally considered as my dissertation topic. Having suffered from spreading my time and energy thin among the multiple projects as well as a growing struggle with perfectionism and thus procrastination over the last few years, I would not have known for sure whether and when I would finish the next one or two book projects.

But with Aaron's passing, everything in my personal and professional life including my academic work has to be reevaluated under a very different light. I could well, and may still become, what some have pejoratively called "deadwood" or unproductive in the next decade or so. But I know that would not really be me and would not have been what Aaron wanted and wants to be the consequences of his leaving us for now.

As a proof, we know for sure that he is very proud of his parents' being university professors and authors of academic books. On at least two occasions, he even picked up my first English book, Chinese Law in Imperial Eyes, and read a few passages, and on some other occasions asked me about some historical events. A few times, he also talked to his mom about what her research on media studies is really about. Even though he might be more interested in playing chess or reading literature than history books, both Ruoyun and I know for sure that he would be proud of us being able to "stay strong and carry on" rather than succumbing to the cruel twists of life, fate, or whatever one likes to frame it as.

As I told some friends, if there is nothing I can do now to get Aaron back or to reduce the pain, I will at least make sure that he will be proud of the resilience of his Dad (I am sure that he is already proud of his mom, older brother, and little sister who has indeed been playing the role of someone to ensure that the parents would not go down the wrong path as Aaron asked her to).

So with this, I hope that I will be able to honour Aaron and all his love for us as well as our love for him by working even harder to finish all the book projects I have started when he was still with us. After all, each of the would-be books should owe part of their existence to the time that I could have spent with Aaron but most regrettably to my last day hadn't.

I will strive to hold myself accountable for this plan even while I continue to struggle with the reality that he is gone and to work hard to keep his nonprofit foundation alive to help others (which could be more difficult than finishing my books, I suppose, as I just learned that most nonprofit start-ups went down within five years). I know that book royalties are almost completely negligible for academic authors, so the fact that I have decided to give all my past and future book royalties to his nonprofit foundation might help little, but I can at least dedicate more books to his memory, that might be a motivation strong enough for me if my colleagues and readers in the field can be kind enough to forgive my self-indulging at least one more time.

That's it for now. After more than two months of virtually no academic reading and writing, I have pulled myself out of the deep hole to write more than 1,000 words for the intro to one of the book projects this morning. How long and often I can keep it up like this is the long battle ahead, but I will celebrate it for now, as I have learned from some far more experienced fellows in grief that in situations like this, it is Ok to live day by day, or hour by hour. Thanks again to all the friends, old or new, for your support.

P.S.. After having read Ruoyun's new blog, I think she is right that we are doing the things we are doing now not just for Aaron but more importantly, with him. His life story and his resilience and love would shape my books not just by motivating me to continue the writing but also by influencing how I write and what I write about in the books. Therefore, I have added the second part of the title of the post.


We have started a fundraiser with the Sickkids Foundation to help the Hospital for Sick Children provide better treatment of other children cancer patients. If you are interested in contributing, here is the link:

For U.S.-based donors who want to have a U.S. tax receipt for charitable donations, please use this link: and indicate on the "Dedication" session that the gift is meant for "the Aaron Chen Foundation, in memory of Aaron." Thank you.

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