New Life on the Road
A Photographer’s Special Gift for Parents Saved the Life of His Cancer-Stricken Father
Gu Yi was born in a poor family of Yancheng, a city in Jiangsu Province. It was not easy for his parents to raise three children and send them to school raising crops on their own land. When Gu Yi earned a house of his own and got married in Chongqing, he eagerly brought his parents to live with him together so that he could take better care of them.
However, in March, 2013, after a routine health check arranged by Gu Yi, his father Gu Quanping, was diagnosed with later-stage stomach cancer. Gu Quanping received a surgery which removed four-fifths of his stomach, and underwent sixmonths of exhausting chemotherapy, during which his weight dropped from 70 kilograms to around 40 kilograms.
The doctor told Gu Yi that his father’s days were numbered when Gu Quanping was rechecked. Yet surprisingly, his father’s health seemed to be better and better after being discharged from the hospital.
The doctor’s words told Gu Yi that he should do something. He had always wanted to travel with his parents, but had failed to do so for various reasons. He knew he would regret it for the rest of his life if he didn’t take action. So he planned an overseas trip for his parents.
In the autumn of 2015, Gu Yi arranged a trip for his parents to visit Australia and told them that they were just visiting their grandson who studied there. They ended up taking a three-month journey that gave them a new life.
It was the first time his parents had ever been on an airplane, in their past over 70 years of life. Gu Yi wrote in his diary, “My mom snuggled with my dad. When their expression changed from nervousness to excitement, I was eventually released from upsets and anxiety. From the moment they
boarded the plane, their curiosities were ignited by the unfamiliar experiences and unknown journey that awaited them. They looked out of the window, amazed at the beauty of the clouds and sea. From time to time, they would ask me about the arrangements and details about the trip.”
Gu Yi never expected that his parents would be so different when traveling abroad. They behaved like a young couple, who were excited about journey, and full of enthusiasm and aspiration for life.
They began to take selfies like the youngsters in Brisbane. His father even learned to play guitar at Queensland University and performed for students, his terrible health condition entirely forgotten. When they saw the black wattle forest exclusive to Australia, his parents exclaimed with excitement that they had never imagined there could be such kind of bark on earth.
One day, when they were walking on the road, his father stopped at an old tree with strong branches and said to his mom, “Believe it or not, I can climb this tree.” Without a moment’s hesitation, his father did climb up the tree and laughed happily. Touched by his parents’ new-found spirit, Gu Yi couldn’t help following their smiling faces with his camera and recording this cheerful moment with shots after shots.
On the 50th anniversary of their wedding day, Gu Quanping got up at 5:00 in the morning and picked a bouquet of wild flowers. He put them in the back trunk of their rented RV and woke Gu Yi up quietly, seeking his advice on the words he wrote for his wife. In the beautiful morning sunshine, Gu Quanping sang those words in the airport and then knelt down with the flowers he picked up and said loudly, “Today, our son plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our wedding in Australia. Now I propose to my beloved wife. Will you marry me?” Tears ran all over his mom’s face when she heard those words.
Gu Quanping was a bit shy when he reflected about the romantic act and said, “I didn’t give your mom a decent wedding ceremony when we were young because I was poor. That’s why I proposed again.” Then he blushed a little.
In the following days, Gu Yi took his parents on a helicopter and they tried tandem skydiving together as scheduled. The door opened when the helicopter climbed up to about five kilometers above the Great Barrier Reef, then his parents and he jumped out of the helicopter as instructed by the coach.
All the fear, pessimism, and despair caused by the disease were all cleared out from his parents’ minds during the happy family trip. They longed for a new life in the future. In February, 2016, the happy family returned to Chongqing from Australia.
When they returned, Gu Yi found he was more open than ever with his parents and his parents’ health was improving gradually. Every day, his parents watered flowers, fed fish, and took a walk after dinner. Their life was simple and peaceful. The three-month journey also brought an unexpected gift for them. His father gained five kilograms of weight and ate more than before. When his father went to hospital for a health-check, the doctor told them that the cancer had not spread and suggested him in taking a lighter, positive treatment.
Both of his parents looked more energetic than before—they even wondered about the next trip. His father expressed his will to live another decade with good health so that he could travel with his family. He now even aspires to learn to drive so that he could one day drive them around the world.
(From Modern Family, August 2016. Translation: Li Li)