In memory of Mr. Gu

Today, in China, is teacher’s day, and here I am delivering a lily to my teacher Mr. Gu, who just died 2 or 3 weeks ago.

I don’t know the exact date of his death. My sister told me about one month ago that his time was approaching. And I know it since last summer when we met, and he told me how he was misdiagnosed and was still coerced to teach in high school for 2 years, till finally by chance his cancer was detected, which was obviously already in the final phase. I think he, and his family, knew clearly that his time was running out, yet he still smiled, in his usual manner, and his speech did not show any dislike of this world, even to his bosses who gave him extra load of work, and he still took care of his appearance. Without a few grays in the hair, he looked exactly as the one in my memory, 10 years ago. At that time, he just had his first grand son, a big boy, and he was so glad to see the plump face of the cute baby. I think I may know why – he had 3 daughters with his wife and no son. As a person who was brought up in rural Southeastern China, it’s not unusual to see their favor towards a male descendant. We talked about the past years in the middle school, and I admitted that I did not realize how disobedient and apragmatic I was. He nodded, smiled, and did not say anything more about it. He was glad to see me, and to hear my improved speech fluency, and he talked about some of students in my class. He did not contact many of them, neither did I, and he was a little tired, so I left without a long talk. I was to have a marriage ceremony (though I hate to type this word, for it was with a wrong person), and since teachers are well respected in my hometown, my mom thought it would be a good idea to have him to preside the ceremony. He promised quickly, adding a line that if his health allowed. He did not appear that day because he was in hospital having another operation.

That was our last meet. Finally, he was not in the rural Wuxi, driving an old-styled bicycle, dressed simply yet austerely, his hair combed and his smile genuine yet not wild, his voice loud enough to be heard in the corner of the classroom yet his speech rate always not rushed. He was not teaching any longer. He needed a rest and he got it.

Mr. Gu was my 3rd year high school teacher. He taught physics and supervised the whole class. It was a heavy duty as the university entrance test was so competitive in China, and the 3rd year teachers were the best and the most hard-working. My 2nd year teacher, an old gentleman in his 50s, died of some cancer, before we got family with him, and Mr. Gu was asked to take responsibility of the class of about 50 persons.

I was the best in the class, even in the year, but I had speech impediment, and could not have much communication with any teacher, hence I did not have a relationship as close as others could have. Yet still I respected Mr. Gu pretty much, for I saw that he was a great teacher and a traditionally good person who devoted his life to his career and his family.

He tried his best to have a life. After the literature revolution, he became one of the first to go to college. He studied very hard, whereas he needed to take care of his wife and daughters. His wife, Mrs. Gu, as far as I know, was hard-working, worm-hearted, and loved her husband and daughters to the deepest point. After graduation he came back to his hometown and became a teacher, a position he held for all his life. He had been one of the best teachers in one of the best high schools in my hometown, and all his daughters did great in academia or in business. I happened to be in the same year of his second daughter (though we did not know much of each other), and his 3rd daughter was one of the best friends of my sister, whom Mr. Gu taught in the 3rd year high school.

And now he has gone.

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