斯人已逝 （之二：老徐） 【英文稿根据ChatGPT版修改】
My Friends Who Passed Away (2. Lao Xu)
Lao Xu（老徐） was not old at all, and he is even a year younger than me. The time of his passing is unlikely mistaken because shortly after his memorial, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States. It was in the spring of 2020.
I first met Lao Xu couple at a friend's party about 11 years ago. We hit it off and exchanged phone numbers. A few months later, around the New Year, Lao Xu invited us to their home for a get-together. By then, my wife and kids had already joined me from the university town. That year, we were living in a rented small house, and later we bought a house in the same town. Lao Xu's house was about a 20-minute drive away.
Arriving in their neighborhood, I realized that Lao Xu was a "successful person." Their house was large and impressive, with brick and iron railings surrounding the courtyard, and three BMWs parked outside the garage. The interior of the house, the layout, and even the dinnerware were all elegant. It was during this visit and conversation that I found out Lao Xu was a VP at a local company. He had been working for this company for over ten years since obtaining his PhD. It was a traditional industry, producing a certain class of products that fulfilled societal needs. According to Lao Xu, the company used to be a mid-sized enterprise, but over time, the number of American employees decreased while the profit margins increased. This was because most of the production had shifted to China and Southeast Asia, reducing costs. In the U.S., the company primarily focused on design and quality control. Lao Xu was a technical expert, a manager, and a proficient communicator with Chinese partners. Furthermore, he was a computer whiz, having developed management software that streamlined the company's product specifications, logistics, and cost calculations, making everything easily accessible on the computer monitor. Lao Xu was an indispensable multi-talented asset for the company.
老徐的太太晓茜是个和善、爽朗的人。当时做一个part-time工作，此前不久迷上了中国画，花钱每周请附近一个华裔画家给她上课。她后来画得相当不错。她本科毕业后与老徐同年来到长沙的某局工作，而且在同一个科室。两人很快恋爱结婚，婚后一年有了儿子竟成。又过了几个月，老徐拿到了美国一所私立工学院的奖学金，先期独自飞赴美国…… 这次聚会我们也见到了竟成。小伙子一表人才，在New England地区的一所著名的boarding school读高中，第二年就要入大学了（不好意思，当时我的孩子还在小学里）。
Lao Xu's wife, Xiaoxi（晓茜）, was a kind and cheerful person. At the time, she was working part-time and had recently become interested in Chinese painting. She was taking lessons from a nearby Chinese artist, and she had become quite skilled. After graduating from college, she moved to Changsha, Hunan, in the same year as Lao Xu. They worked in the same department of a government bureau. They quickly fell in love, got married, and had their son, Jingcheng （竟成）, a year later. A few months after that, Lao Xu received a scholarship to a private engineering school in the United States and flew there alone... During this gathering, we also met Jingcheng. The young man was exceptionally talented, attending a renowned boarding school in the New England area, and he was about to enter college the following year (my own son was still in elementary school at the time).
Lao Xu had achieved remarkable success in his early 40s, which was admirable. At the time, I had only recently entered the corporate world, so there was a stark contrast. However, in our personal interactions, his professional success had no bearing on our friendship. The key to Lao Xu becoming my good friend was the person he was – someone I genuinely enjoyed spending time with.
In the early summer of the following year, we experienced two days of heavy rain, and the basement of the house I was living in got flooded. The landlord informed us that both of his sump pumps had been borrowed by other tenants, and we would have to wait. I called Lao Xu to see if he had any suggestions, and he drove over with a few useful items: a specialized floor water pump (I had no idea such a pump existed), a large fan, and a dehumidifier. I later discovered that he was quite handy. He was skillful in woodworking and even able to repair his house.
One year, when my parents were visit us in the United States, my wife had to go back to China for an urgent matter, and I had to attend a week-long conference out of town. Before leaving, I called Lao Xu and told him that if my parents faced any emergencies, they would let them call him. To my surprise, Lao Xu made two trips to our house during those days, and on one occasion, he even brought a dish of sauce-braised beef. My parents were deeply touched and repeatedly said what a kind person Lao Xu was.
有一件事情，老徐可能永久地影响了我儿子。在他上六、七年级时的那个感恩节，我们请老徐夫妇来聚。老徐问我儿子喜欢什么，他说喜欢计算机，会Python和Java，能编程。老徐问你编出什么了吗，我看看？儿子还没有。这时候老徐对我儿子说了一句我至今记忆犹新的话：Rather than say you know something, you should show me your products. 接下来他就布置任务：你给我编一个应用手机程序，显示从绝对零度到摄氏500度摄氏这个范围，Celsius vs. Fahrenheit。我不要对照表，我要形象的一个温度计，可以在手机屏上zoom in，zoom out，而且可以随意上下滑动。接受了任务，小家伙有心劲去干。不出一周，App就编好了。老徐看了以后大加赞赏，说你看，你有了产品，我就相信你行。记住了，要show your products。我的儿子天生是个讷于语言表达的孩子，但这些年他长于实干，弥补了这个弱点。 不能不说老徐当年的要求和鼓励影响了他。
There's one thing Lao Xu did that may have had a lasting impact on my son. During a Thanksgiving dinner in his sixth or seventh grade, we invited the Lao Xu couple over. Lao Xu asked my son what he liked, and he said he enjoyed computers and could program in Python and Java. Lao Xu asked him if he had created anything, and my son hadn't at that point. At that moment, Lao Xu said something to my son that I still remember vividly: "Rather than say you know something, you should show me your products." He then assigned a task: "Create a mobile app that displays the temperature range from absolute zero to 500 degrees Celsius. The display should include both Celsius and Fahrenheit. I don't want a reference table; I want a graphical thermometer on the phone screen that can zoom in, zoom out, and be scrolled up and down." My son eagerly accepted the challenge and got to work. Within a week, he had the app ready. Lao Xu was impressed and said, "You see, now you have a product, and I believe in your capabilities. Remember, you should show your products." My son was naturally a bit reserved when it came to verbal expression, but over the years, he excelled in practical work and compensated for this weakness. I cannot help but think that Lao Xu's expectations and encouragement back then had a significant influence on him.
Lao Xu was a busy man with work, so our meetings were not frequent, but every time was enjoyable and often brought knowledge and new perspectives. I first learned about things like Jack Ma and his Alibaba, Uber, and Airbnb from Lao Xu, at years before they became well-known. He had a keen sense as an entrepreneur and would provide detailed insights when introducing these new developments to me. On the other hand, he showed a keen interest in my profession and hobbies, sometimes bombarding me with questions. He even drove with me twice to a distant location to photograph birds in flight. We were two friends with different backgrounds but complementary qualities.
One weekend in the autumn of 2017, I was wandering in the wilderness with my camera when my phone rang, and it was Lao Xu. He asked how I was doing and mentioned that we hadn't been in touch for three months. He said, "I just got out of the hospital."
About a month earlier, he had gone on a routine business trip to China with an assistant to meet with partners. He experienced epileptic symptoms, so they rushed to a hospital in the provincial capital for examination. An MRI scan revealed a ping pong ball-sized tumor at the junction of the parietal and occipital lobes of his brain. On the U.S. side, the CEO told him that if needed, he could choose the best hospital in China for the best treatment, including surgery. Lao Xu and Xiaoxi discussed it over the phone and decided to return to the United States for treatment.
Shortly after returning to the United States, Lao Xu underwent tumor removal surgery at New York's Presbyterian Hospital, performed by a renowned neurosurgeon. The surgery went smoothly, and he was discharged a few days later. Meanwhile, the results of the pathological examination had come in. The doctor informed him that the brain tumor had no clear boundaries and could never be completely removed during the surgery. Given the nature of this type of tumor, he needed to undergo chemotherapy. He also opted for an experimental therapy. He mentioned that he didn't feel too bad, except for losing his hair, and the other side effects were manageable, with minimal impact on his appetite. Since he wasn't currently considering work-related matters, he felt somewhat relieved.
我问你有病理报告吗？他说有啊，我拍张照片这就给你发过去。照片过来了，我快速一扫，就看见了Anaplastic Astrocytoma两个字，倒吸一口凉气。我马上收拾相机回家，路上精力不集中差点儿出交通事故。回家后马上给我的朋友、病理科医生老沙打电话，说我这里有个好朋友的病理报告单发给你看看。一会儿，老沙的电话打过来：你这个朋友很不幸。一般Anaplastic Astrocytoma的生命预期就2-3年，活过5年的很少。从病程上看，手术后前1-2年大多感觉良好，然后残存的癌细胞就复发并向周围扩散，于是不得不进行第二次手术。此后情况会急转直下……
I asked if he had the pathology report, and he said he did. He quickly sent me a photo of it. As I glanced at the photo, I saw the words "Anaplastic Astrocytoma," and I couldn't help but gasp. I immediately packed up my camera and headed home, but my concentration was so poor on the way that I almost had a traffic accident. When I got home, I called my friend, Dr. Sha, who was a pathologist, and told him I had a pathology report from a close friend to show him. A little while later, Dr. Sha called back and said, "Your friend is in a very unfortunate situation. The life expectancy for Anaplastic Astrocytoma is generally 2-3 years, and very few live beyond 5 years. Looking at the course of the disease, most patients feel good in the first 1-2 years after surgery, and then the cancer relapses and spreads, requiring a second surgery. After that, the situation deteriorates rapidly..."
Lao Xu's course of illness matched exactly what Dr. Sha described. For the first year and a half, everything seemed fine. During that time, we had more gatherings than before. When we met, Mr. Xu wore a wig, and he looked quite well. I was very sure that Mr. Xu and Xiaoxi had definitely looked into the prognosis of the disease. We just didn't talk about it. We cherished this time and prayed that the recurrence and deterioration would be delayed.
In the early summer 2019, the couple attended their son Jingcheng's CS master's graduation ceremony at MIT. Jingcheng had initially aimed for MIT for his undergraduate studies in computer science, but it was a highly competitive field, and he couldn't get in. He went to another excellent university instead. After graduating with his bachelor's degree in 2017, job opportunities weren't ideal, so he decided to spend another tens of thousands to study for a CS master's degree at MIT. It was also a fulfillment of his and his father's wishes. With the MIT name, even before completing his master's degree, he received job offers from the two companies in Silicon Valley he most wanted to work for.
Shortly after Jingcheng’s graduation, Lao Xu's condition rapidly deteriorated. He began to lose mobility in one leg, and it quickly progressed to weakness on one side of his body, with coordination issues. Imaging examination showed that cancer cells were recurring from the original site and spreading to other parts of his brain. So, a second surgery was performed with a more extensive resection. After this second surgery, Lao Xu's condition worsened. In addition to the loss of mobility on one side of his body, he also developed aphasia, having difficulty expressing himself, especially in Chinese, while his English seemed better. Furthermore, he showed some hallucinations and delusions, as well as changed personality. He became less and less like himself. It seemed like his entire soul was drifting further away from the surrounding people and reality.
By November 2019, Mr. Xu no longer recognized anyone and couldn't speak any more. We visited their home during Christmas. When we entered, we saw Lao Xu standing by the window with a cane. We called his name, but he didn't respond. Xiaoxi told us to have a seat and said Lao Xu tended to aimlessly wander around the living room, and he would make his way to the sofa after a while. Sure enough, as we were having tea, we watched Lao Xu slowly shuffle over to our side, with a caregiver following at a distance (their living room was quite large). When he reached our side, we all called his name. Suddenly, he turned to look at me, his eyes wide, and after a few seconds, he burst into tears. Clearly, there was a temporary recovery of his cognitive abilities, but the knowledge of his condition and his surroundings at that moment must have caused immense pain. My heart ached as well.
Xiaoxi said it was a miracle; Lao Xu really recognized me. He hadn't recognized anyone for the past month and a half. Recently, the doctor told Xiaoxi that Lao Xu probably only had about two months left to live. The cancer cells would soon invade his hypothalamic regulating centers. Xiaoxi asked me if I could deliver a eulogy for Lao Xu at his memorial service, and I agreed.
During the week from Christmas to New Year, my company was basically empty. I sat alone in my office, quietly reminiscing about my eight years of friendship with Lao Xu. I wrote four drafts of the eulogy, and after the New Year, I had one of my American friends help me revise and polish it. Right after the memorial service in March, several of Lao Xu's colleagues came to thank me, saying that my eulogy had deepened their understanding of him. I felt gratified by this. However, I also hoped that this would be the only time in my life that I would have to deliver a eulogy for someone.
By the way, the conclusion of my eulogy was a small poem —
care of yourself and your family!