This was something I wrote and posted to my personal Facebook page on July 30, 2014. It's my tribute to my father, who passed away on July 26, in Berkeley, California. He was nearly 82 years old.
My father passed away late last Saturday night. We thought for a while that he was making a recovery, but his body had begun to endure too much strain, and there was nothing we or the doctors could do. We were blessed that in the few days before he passed, he was conscious and able to communicate. He held our hands, smiled, looked at us as best he could, and spoke words that really mattered: Thank you. I love you. To my mom, I miss you, I appreciate you and your devotion. Fortunately, the nurses called us in time to be by his side when he finally passed, and I am beginning to understand what a rare thing it was for him to be surrounded by so many in our family. He recently told me "I knew my family was my life but now I know they are my world;" I know that nothing could have been more important to him than to have the comfort of us there for him this last week.
My dad taught me so many things, but among the greatest were a sense of adventure, the importance of being innovative, the values of patience, fairness, humility, modesty, and that finding real happiness in everything we do, whether it be in our work or relationships, is what's most important. He gave me courage and wanted me to know that life could be thrilling as well as productive and serious, and that hard work was important but so was enjoying the beauty of trees and mountains and the love of family. One favorite memory was from when I was four years old: he rode me on the gas tank of his 350 Honda motorcycle, hot Tuscon wind blowing my hair. My mother understandably hated that he did that, but all I could think then was I am the luckiest kid around to have a dad like that who wants his little girl to share the excitement he loves. He also advised me at every crucial point of my life -- he was always there to listen, consult, and steer me in the best way he could, while still letting me make the stumbles and wrong turns that he painfully knew would help me grow and learn on my own. The day of my wedding, my dad did the traditional thing and “gave me” to Aaron. He walked me down the aisle, beaming. I had my arm hooked into his, feeling so happy and high on life and love. I’ll always remember the way he looked at me, and the smile we both had. His arm was so strong, and his presence so distinguished and stately, yet we shared a tenderness that only dads who love their daughters as much as I know he loved me can share. I was his little girl and he was walking me down the aisle. Don't worry, dad, I'll always be your little girl.
The last few days have been difficult, and the grief ambushes me still, but I’ve also found a rare and precious comfort in sharing my grief and celebrating my father’s incredible life with my friends and family. Through the uncertainty and challenges of the last few months, my brothers and I have all become so much closer and far more understanding of each other. My dad's many near-death episodes also granted all of us a chance to come to terms and make peace with his dying in our own ways.
Though the travel was challenging, I am grateful to have been with him as much as I have been. I know I've done all I can, and I know how much my father has appreciated our efforts to be with him and give him comfort and strength. My mom's been incredibly strong, as she always has been, but she's tired and deeply affected. I'm so glad I could be here for her and share many tender and teary laughs and cries. In some ways she's been preparing for this for some time, but nevertheless the impact is hard to imagine for her, and I hope she gives herself time to heal. She's planning on moving back to Beijing after my dad's funeral service. She still loves it there; for her, Beijing is definitely still home.
We've been making some funeral arrangements and settling things as best we can. We had a very small, family dinner and commemoration for my dad last night, and will hold a full service on August 24th here in Berkeley at a beautiful chapel in Oakland designed by Julia Morgan, the Chapel of the Chimes. We'll also have a memorial service for him in Beijing in September sometime.
I believe that the loss of my father – and the loss of anyone close and dear – directly shapes my ability to love more fully. If there’s one gift I truly treasure now, it’s a sense of timeless love that I’ll always keep in my heart for him, and for my whole family. His slow departure from this world also granted me affirmation that our time on this earth is precious but that our spirit is eternal. I know my dad is always going to be close. Nevertheless, the grief is there and I welcome it – it is sometime beautiful, and other times commensurate with the weight of losing my father, whom I loved so deeply. I'm going to miss you, dad, but I know your spirit is shining brightly, as it always has. You've returned to the universal energy that you always believed -- and I believe -- animates this magical, mysterious world we have.
I love you, and will always love you, dad. Mimi