Lauren Bowers ’15, Staff Writer
Last year, on Sunday, Oct. 30th 2011, the Merrimack community was deeply affected by the untimely death of freshman student, Jize Ma.Ma, or “Mr. Ma” as many on campus knew him, had his life tragically taken when he was struck by a car on Route 114. In the short time he was at Merrimack, Mr. Ma had a great impact on the people in this community. Ma was a member of the Class of 2015 and was studying at Merrimack to become an electrical engineer.
In order to fulfill his passion for engineering, Ma came to the United States all the way from Dalian, China. Despite being immersed into a completely different culture, once he was at Merrimack he made an immediate impression on everyone he met.
Lauren Bent, the director of international programs at Merrimack, said, “Jize Ma, fondly known as “Mr. Ma”, had an immense impact on the Merrimack community in the short time he was a student here. He will always be remembered for his wonderful sense of humor and ability to connect with people from various cultures.”
This past week, on Oct. 31st, Mr. Ma’s friends, teachers, and mentors came together to celebrate and remember the life of their dear friend and student. Although the services were originally planned for the one year anniversary, Hurricane Sandy had other plans.
Fortunately it was possible for the services to be moved to the following day, and despite the interruption, numerous people came out to show support to Ma’s friends and family. There were two types of services that day. At noon, a mass held in the Chapel of Our Mother of Good Counsel was celebrated in memory of Mr. Ma. Later that day, at 4 P.M., Ma’s fellow international students led a traditional Chinese memorial service at Mendel Pond. At the traditional Chinese memorial ritual, everyone gathered around a white flower wreath. In China, white is a color that is often associated with death. Friends and family of the departed often bring the wreath of flowers to the funeral.
Also, when attending a funeral in China it is respectful for guests to bring white flowers. In front of the wreath, every person was invited to light three sticks of incense and stand them upright into the ground. Incense is the most common way to rid negative energies and bring in positive ones.
In addition, three is a lucky number in Chinese culture. By lighting these three incense sticks in front of the wreath, everyone at the service was able to send prayers and positive energy to Mr. Ma.
Once everyone had lit his or her three sticks, Father Ray opened the ceremony. He said that this service is a reminder of how Mr. Ma touched our lives and how we continue to be changed by him. He also recalled how Jize Ma’s father said that his son enjoyed integrating Confucius thoughts and Western thoughts.
His father said that Mr. Ma traveled to the United States to pursue his passion in engineering. Following Father Ray, Mr. Ma’s friend Pengcheng Wan read a piece of Jize’s writing that was found. In this writing, Ma talked about how chemistry and engineering were his passions and that’s why he came here to the United States. Next, words from Confucius were read aloud. Ma enjoyed reading and thinking about these words, so they were an important part in the tribute.
Lastly, all guests burned spirit money, which is fake money that is burned at traditional Chinese funerals to ensure the deceased is provided for in the afterlife. Following the ceremony, Campus Ministry and the Office of International Programs invited all guests to McQuade library for Chinese appetizers and refreshments.
This gathering provided an opportunity for everyone to remember Jize Ma, in company of good food and memories. Senior Chris Provost attended the service in support of his friends that knew Mr. Ma. “I think it was nice to pay respect to Mr. Ma through the service. It was interesting to me to see the Chinese culture’s way of honoring those who have passed over.”
Another student, sophomore Frankie Quinci, recalled one of his main memories with his friend Jize Ma.“The one thing I always remember about him is how he would come into the Mendel lobby an hour before Computer Science class, and every single time he would say, ‘Did anyone get the answer for Computer Science?’ He always sat next to me in that class.” Flowers and a note of condolence/support were sent in name of Merrimack College to Mr. Ma’s parents in Dalian, China. Those who knew Jize Ma will always remember his sense of humor, his passion for engineering, and his love of reading, writing, and thinking. He will continue to be remembered by the countless people whose lives he touched at Merrimack College.