I guess reminders of my dad seem to be one of the few catalysts for me to write these days…
I went to my second funeral yesterday since my dad’s, and the first of someone that I actually knew. My friend Jeremy and his mom, also my piano teacher for many years, lost his father to cancer, and though I didn’t anticipate it, I had a hard time staying composed during the beautiful service that honored him.
To see so many of the friends and family that I grew up with all grieving together wasn’t something I felt prepared to see, and it made me dread the years (hopefully many many years) to come when we see more of our beloved shu-shus and ayis leave us.
I was distraught for their loss, but it also opened a new conversation in my head that I hadn’t heard before. One considering how even if one didn’t fear death, how difficult leaving this world can be, to leave your loved ones behind. As the people who stay behind, we grieve, we suffer, and eventually we move on, but to be in the position of knowing that you are going to miss out on life with your loved ones must be a heart-wrenching experience, even on top of much of the physical suffering that those fighting terminal illnesses.
So while I was sad for Jeremy, I was also in a small way glad for him. Glad that he had the opportunity to become a wonderful grown man, that his dad was allowed to see the fruit of his efforts, to see him finish college, and med school, to become a self-sufficient adult. I was glad that he was in a place where he can actively engage in the loss of his dad, to understand what is happening, and better appreciate his dad and who he was before losing him. Then again, that’s definitely an oversimplification of the situation. I mean after all, there’s always more to see right?
As I sat in the pew waiting the start of the service and later as I watched Jeremy deliver a poignant, articulate eulogy for his father, I was reminded more than ever before just how out of it I was at my own father’s funeral. I have little to no memory of the day. All I remember are that I was physically there, and that my sister and my dad’s coworker delivered eulogies. I think Mrs. Choy (my piano teacher) may actually have played the music, but I’m not really sure. I lament the fact that I was too young and too immature to understand what was happening. That I will never be able to honor my dad like that with my own words, sharing what a wonderful man and father he was to me to those that loved him. How he molded and shaped who I am. But I was just barely an angsty teenager, only starting to figure out what it meant to navigate the meaningful relationships in my life. I suppose there’s no reason to feel guilty about it.
I’m just a few months from reaching the point where I’ll actually have lived half my life without my father, and it’s hard not to feel like I missed out… that we both missed out. Even at 28, most of the milestones in my life have already occurred without him. When I see Melissa’s dad enjoying time with his beautiful granddaughter, I can’t help but wonder how delighted my own father would be.
If he was still around, he’d probably be mulling retirement, and my mom would be most likely be retired already. They’d probably have enjoyed some vacations together and maybe would be considering moving down to Columbus upon his retirement to be closer to us. However that fantasy is a but a pipe dream, and the reality is that the newfound awareness that my dad “missed out” on all these things has instilled a fear in myself that I could do the same one day. While I cherish the days that I have now with Juliette and Melissa, I desperately want to be here too to see her grow up. I want to see her become a talented, kind, and loving woman as she enters into adulthood. I want to see her fall in love with her spouse, and later with her children, should that be the way things turn out.
The night before the funeral I had a dream that I was in a building during a tornado-like storm, clinging to furniture for dear life. After the storm passed, I suddenly realized that Melissa & Juliette were still at the condo and I panicked, wondering if they had survived, noting that Juliette at her young age could not possibly cling to a piece of furniture to avoid flying away. I found them in the end, but I will not forget the terror I felt from that dream.
If you know me, you would know that I often pride myself on being resilient. I do my best to shake off the cold, and am determined to shake off sickness when it tries to come my way. For the most part it works, but last night as I drove home through a blizzard in my mom’s minivan with barely functioning wipers, at times I felt fragile and small as semis flew by and I struggled to see the road. My hyperactive imagination planned out several times what I should do should we start spinning out. I wondered what would happen to Melissa and Jules if something happened to me, if they would be OK. Perhaps this is a growing pain that comes with fatherhood. When I did get pretty sick a few months ago, similar fears had surfaced.
Perhaps it is a healthy fear, to feel like you have something to lose. When I was younger, particularly in my darker days, I didn’t really feel that way. I know that God is in control, but I do hope that his plans are the same as mine. There are few things where I have “FOMO”, as they say… the “fear of missing out,” but I guess this is one of them.
So thank you Mr. Choy, for teaching me, even after you have left us. Thank you for your life that you blessed everyone around you with, and thank you for your wonderful family that you grew, that has been a significant part of my life. I am thankful that I got to see you one last time, even if it was later than I would’ve liked. It is good to know that you are smiling down from heaven. I can only hope that I can learn the same thing that Jeremy has learned from you. To cherish the things that God has given me and love them ever so stubbornly.