Around the time Gan Huanyu was enrolling in university, in 2016, she was entrusted by her father to take care of her mother. "At that time, my father was battling terminal cancer. My mother had been paralyzed, for years, due to illness. My father's last wish was for me to look after my mother, and to donate his body to medical research," Gan recalls. Since then, she has shouldered the responsibility of taking care of her family, including taking her mother with her on campus when she was studying.
Darkness gives me a feeling that there is a lack of mercy in the world. But if I keep walking ahead, I will eventually see the light." That is how Gan describes the fate of her family.
Gan has walked through wind and rain with her family. Now, though, she is embracing her light. Gan currently works as a primary school teacher in Guxi, a town administered by Tongnan District, in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. Her family was selected a National Most Beautiful Family in May.
Family Means Everything
Gan was born in 1997 in Zhongxian, a county in Chongqing. When Gan was in Grade 4, her mother, Ran Zhuping, was diagnosed with spinal glosis, and she was bedridden. "My father looked after my mother in the hospital. I lived with other relatives. At that young age, I did not realize the changes that had already taken place in my family," Gan recalls.
"I learned from my father to be strong and optimistic. After my mother fell ill, my father stayed in hospital to take good care of her. He did his best to earn a living for our family, and he asked me to concentrate on my studies, even though we were facing a great challenge of helping my mother fight the disease. The love and care I received from my family made me believe we could overcome whatever difficulties," Gan says.
One day, during her second year of senior high school, Gan noticed her parents did not look well. Actually, her family was being confronted by another major challenge. "My father was diagnosed with terminal rectal cancer. He fought hard against the disease, until I completed my college-entrance exams. After I enrolled in Chongqing Normal University, my father asked me to take good care of my mother, no matter where I would go after graduation from university. My father also told me to donate his body, so he could repay the care and support he had received from society." Gan became the "pillar" of her family in 2016, after her father passed away.
"I started to think about the meaning of my life, and of my responsibility to family. I considered the possibility of taking Mom with me while I was studying on campus." Gan wrote an application letter to the university, and in that letter she explained her family's situation. Leaders of the university attached great importance to Gan's application. They agreed Gan could live with her mother while she was studying at the university. They arranged a flat for her, and they provided her with a part-time job, so Gan could earn a regular income to help care for her mother. "I had not expected that I could receive so much help and support from my university. I was deeply moved by the cordial care I received from those warmhearted people, who helped me generously, and who treated me as if I were one of their family members," Gan says.
Walking Toward Light
Gan's life on campus was busy. She woke up early every morning, and she helped her mother wash her face, comb her hair and get dressed. She boiled water, cooked breakfast, fed her mother, and cleaned up before heading to class. After she returned home, usually in the evening, she took care of her mother until her mother went to bed. After that, Gan would review her school work.
While Gan was in university, she did her best to balance her role as a daughter, a student, and a part-time worker. To earn a regular income, she helped clean the bathhouse on campus. Sometimes, she met other students as she was disposing of the garbage. She felt a bit uncomfortable, as she realized her life on campus was different from that of most students. "I knew the limitation caused by the special situation of my family. I felt a portion of my pressure actually came from the expectation I should do my job well to repay the care and support I had received from others. But, meanwhile, I grew more mature as I tried to accept the changes, which had taken place in my life, and in my family's life," Gan says.
After she graduated, Gan took a job as a primary school teacher. She was arranged to live — with her mother — in the teachers' dormitory. As a result, Gan has been able to balance her time at work and looking after her mother. Gan's colleagues treat her and her mother as members of the school's "big family." When Gan picks up a meal at the school's dining hall, the workers always remind her to take extra food for her mother. If the school organizes an event, Gan's colleagues also invite her mother.
"I am still a lucky person. Although my father passed away, I have met so many warmhearted people, who have encouraged me to overcome various challenges and difficulties. They have made me believe, firmly, that I should work harder to live a warm life," Gan says.
Gan takes her mother for a walk most weekend mornings. She chats with her mother, and she helps her mother stretch her arms and slightly move her joints. "I am an ordinary person, who has received love and warmth offered by others. I will do as much as I can to live a better life, and to help my mother live a more comfortable life," Gan says.
Photos Supplied by Interviewee
(Women of China English Monthly December 2022 issue)
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