More often than not, we tend to neglect our parents as we let our own daily professional and personal lives reshuffle our priorities. We get distracted by the little things and don’t realize we should have spent more time with the people who raised us until it’s too late. Their death leads to sorrow and regret… Lots of regrets.
In March 2013, when Mr. Gu read his 70-year-old father's medical examination form and wrote 'in the terminal stage of gastric cancer', his world instantly collapsed.
This news was shattering. After years of struggles, their life had finally gotten better and better. He was born in the countryside and eventually enrolled at the prestigious Peking University. Mr. Gu was the pride of his parents: he worked hard and climbed up the corporate ladder to become a senior leader of a joint venture. He also became a freelance photographer by following his own passion for photography and was often contracted by well-known institutions such as the World Press Foundation and the Xinhua News Agency. "I always think that my parents are in good health. Life is a long journey, and I have a lot of time to accompany them. I never thought that they would get old overnight."
(Mr. Gu and his parents)
80% of his father’s stomach had been removed during surgery, which was then followed by a series of 6 painful chemotherapy sessions. After that, his father was never the same - his weight dropped from 65 kg to just over 40 kg with a bony look that rushed a sense of sadness into Mr. Gu. “I kind of knew by that point that my father’s health was gradually deteriorating and that he would soon pass. I’d never felt so much emotional pain in my life.”
Another disaster came around when his mother returned to her hometown in 2014 to visit her relatives and was involved in a car accident, which led to a fracture of her pelvis. She’s had to rely on crutches to move around since then.
After experiencing one blow after another, the grieving Mr. Gu began to reflect: we don’t spend enough time with our parents and the people who’ve cared for us! I always think “I’ll go see then another time” but that keeps on being delayed and delayed until the point where there will be no one left to visit. Don’t make that mistake and let it become a lifelong regret. Give them the attention and companionship they so deserve.
There are many ways to do that, and Mr. Gu chose an unusual approach: he took his parents on a beautiful trip to Australia to visit their grandson!
When their relatives and friends heard about this idea, they immediately became worried. Not only did his parents rarely go out, but they also feared that his father’s health and body would not be able to handle it. But Mr. Gu thought otherwise: “We know there’s no way to fight and kill his cancer at this point,” he said, “so instead of having him be bored out of his mind at home and wait for death to come knock on his door, I thought we should take the opportunity to have him live whatever bit of life he’s got left to the fullest.”
(The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as his parents were about to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Mr. Gu prepared the commemorative T-shirts in advanced.)
When Mr. Gu shared this idea to his parents, he never thought that they would be up for it. Instead, after a bit of persuasion, his eyes were filled with eagerness.
In the autumn of 2015, his parents' health was getting better and went on their trip as originally planned.
At the moment of boarding the plane, his mother leaned on his father's shoulder, from tension to excitement, as he started writing the first draft diary with careful attention while his wife observed.
From the moment they took off, Mr. Gu was afraid to miss every piece of his parents' memory.
When the airplane landed in Melbourne, they couldn’t wait to go to the University of Melbourne to visit their grandson.
The ancient architecture on campus is beautiful, stepping onto the path of birds and flowers, as if the whole world had gotten silent.
On their way to Canberra, the sun was slowly setting. Mr. Gu’s father began moving around excitedly, as if he had recovered the energy of his younger self: “I have never seen such a beautiful sunset,” he said.
On the seaside in New South Wales, his father picked up the kelp and danced happily. He said it reminded him of Chinese dragon legends.
“We were walking on the side of the road when my father saw an old tree and said to my mother: ‘I can climb this tree! Want to bet??” Before his wife would even get the chance to think about her answer, he jumped off and started swinging around tree branches like a monkey. This is a beautiful and mesmerizing moment.
His father’s first helicopter ride.
The first time they saw the sea in Geelong, Victoria, they insisted on wandering along beach in the rain.
And a variety of yachts.
Gorgeous starry skies.
They looked like young couple in love.
They lean against each other and enjoy the sunshine on the hillside meadows.
Put on eccentric flower clothes, a scornful look.
Their optimistic and confident emotion affected strangers beside them.
Parents and a group of Korean young people sang 'Merry Christmas'. After the young people learned about his father's physical condition, they were encouraged. "As long as you are full of hope of the world, life can come back."
The father learned the guitar for a few days while at the University of Queensland. He sang for the camping college students and for a moment, he forgot was actually in critically ill conditions. He felt alive.
On December 8th, he brought a large bouquet of wildflowers to his wife, dropped to his knees and proposed. Her eyes were watering with emotions.
My father said: “When I was young, I was poor and I didn’t give your mother a decent wedding. Today I want to re-propose to her.”
Subsequently, they went skydiving from 14,000 feet to commemorate their half-century-long marriage.
After 88 days of traveling and tens of thousands of kilometers, his father had regained confidence. "I figured it out now,” the ill father said. “If I treat my disease with positivity, I believe that my body will get better.”
And suddenly, just when everyone thought the father’s life would soon come to an end, a miracle took place. After returning home from their incredible journey around Australia, his health unexpectedly began to improve! He gained 5kg after not being able to put on weight for so long and with that came a stronger appetite. Mr. Gu’s mother also felt better after their trip by slowly getting used to moving with her crutches. They physically looked a lot better than they did before their trip, and were already thinking about where their next adventure would take them.
We also find excuses not to visit our parents: we’re too busy, we live too far, and we’ll come see them another time. But don’t make the same mistake many others have made in the past. Stop making excuses and take advantage of whatever time you have left with your parents now. Life is far too short and full of unpleasant surprises to do otherwise.