Three years ago today, my dad passed away.
The following is an excerpt from the tribute I gave at his memorial:
For me, my dad was simply the best father anyone could ever ask for. Everything that I’ve done, everything that I am today, started with him and the things he taught me.
I was 2 years old when he started to teach me to recite Tang poems. We still have cassette tapes of me reciting these poems, lisping every word, obviously not understanding a single word I was saying. But he taught me — patiently, enthusiastically, encouragingly, just like he taught me everything else.
My love for music started with and was nurtured by my dad. Ever since I can remember, he was always playing or singing music around the house. As a teenager, not wanting to get up on weekend mornings, purposely not setting my alarm, I would be awakened by my dad coming into my room, singing Chinese opera as loud as he could. And Chinese opera is pretty loud to begin with!
My dad played a vital role in my development as a musician. For years after I began piano lessons, he would sit by my side at the piano, every single night, helping me practise, making sure that I didn’t forget a single thing my teacher asked me to do. He always supported me in my music studies, unconditionally and with so much encouragement. Everytime I came close to giving up, he would encourage me, motivate me to keep going, assuring me that the hard work would be worth it. He taught me to have high standards always, to persist always, to not be afraid of any challenge, to love the challenge, in fact. And he taught me these things by example, because that was the way he led his life.
I have so many favourite memories of my dad and the times we had together, and I want to share one of them with you today. I was 14 years old, and my mom and dad and I were in Vancouver for a music competition. It was my first national competition and I was so nervous; I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. My dad decided to help me relax. Two days before I was scheduled to play, I was practising at the music building on the UBC campus, and while I did that, my dad wandered around the campus. Afterwards, he came back and told me he was going to take me for a walk, to help me relax and take my mind off the competition. He told me he found a path that he was pretty sure would lead us to the beach. So off we went down these steep flight of stairs, and sure enough, at the bottom was a beach. I was so excited — my first time on a beach!
That’s when my dad turned to me and asked, “um, are those people over there naked??” I turn and look, and sure enough, there were a few people suntanning with no clothes on.
“Dad, I think this is a nude beach!!”
“Don’t tell your mom.”
I miss my dad. Everyday. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. But memories like this one do bring me comfort, not to mention a few hearty guffaws, even on the darkest day.