The mother of Fue Xiong, whose gripping 300-word essay about his family immigrating from Thailand to the U.S. won Chipotle’s Cultivating Creativity contest in 2015, has passed away.
Mee Yang died a the age of 46 on April 10 after a year-and-a-half-long fight with gallbladder cancer, her 19-year-old son said, according to KARE 11.
Xiong, who is enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard and plans to attend the University of Minnesota this fall, was one of the finalists to be awarded by Chipotle with a $20,000 scholarship during his senior year at St. Paul Central High.
“I wanted it to be powerful, but I wanted it to represent me and where I came from,” Xiong told the station. “So this is why I was thinking about writing about what my last meal in Thailand was.”
His essay describes the last meal in a Thai refugee camp he had with his eight siblings and mother before traveling to the U.S. in 2004.
“My mother, eight siblings and I surrounded a paper plate of fried sardines and rice on the dirt floor. The sardines were so salty I had to stuff my mouth with a handful of rice. ‘Mom,’ I said, ‘Did you put a lot of salt on this sardine? Why is it so salty?’ ‘No, my son,’ she said, ‘It’s your tears’”, he wrote.
Xiong’s father, Vajmeng Xiong, tragically drowned while fishing in Thailand, and his mother was always selfless, even while battling cancer.
“Even though she was dying, she still cooked and cleaned the house,” he told the TV station. “She still played with the kids and grandchildren.”
On top of the scholarship, Chipotle also offered an additional $100,000 to help pay for Yang’s medical bills, which still costs around $10,000, according to Xiong.
The family has also created a GoFundMe page, with a goal of $15,000, to cover the funeral costs.
A funeral service will be held on May 13, 2017.