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My Dad

April 1, 2010
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M. Chin - a great man & loving father

This weekend my mom and DH are going to the cemetery to visit my dad.  It’s Chinese tradition to go every few months and perform a little ceremony where we burn things that we want my dad to have such as paper clothes, paper money, paper mah-jong blocks etc.  I am not too sure of the significance of the burning but I’m guessing it has to do with the smoke that drifts up into the air and therefore carries whatever was burnt up into heaven.

I have not been able to participate in this ceremony for about 2yrs because I wasn’t allowed to when I was pregnant and I can’t bring Kayla because she’s too young.  Chinese custom states that pregnant women and young children aren’t supposed to go to the cemetery because when you have a young child or are pregnant, your soul is ‘soft’ but what I think my mom means is that other (bad) spirits could enter the body or follow you home.

In September 2004, I got married and two months later, we flew to Anguilla for our honeymoon.  We were booked for 2 weeks on a beautiful secluded beach in a beach-front villa.  It was amazing – we would open our doors and the beach was two steps away.  White powder sand and crystal blue waters.  At night we could hear the waves crashing onto the shore and the local cuisine was incredible.  I will never forget Anguilla – not because it was incredibly romantic and perfect (it was) – but because about 5 days into our honeymoon, I received a call that changed my life forever and devastated my entire family.  My sister, mother and mother-in-law were trying to track us down because my father had passed away from a sudden and massive heart attack.  It was stupid of us  to forget to leave our hotel information with our families but we were so excited about the honeymoon it completely slipped our minds – a mistake that we’ve never repeated since.  I remember that Sunday morning when I heard the phone ringing – which prior to that day, I just ignored it – and felt a lump in my stomach.  It was the weirdest thing; almost as if I knew something was wrong yet I wasn’t sure if I was just making it up.  I missed the first 2 calls because whenever I ran to get the phone, it would stop and then I would wait for it to ring again but it  never but then when I started back towards the beach, it would start ringing again.  After the 3rd call, I sat on the bed and waited; I think even then, I knew I was waiting for a reason but fear or whatever it is that protects our minds prevented me from panicking although that starting to bubble up inside of me.

I remember looking at the phone the exact second it started ringing and I knew something was wrong – terribly wrong.  When I heard my sister’s crying voice on the other end of the phone and heard that my dad has passed away I clearly remember her voice fading and a strange buzzing sound filled the room.  Or maybe in my mind.  I don’t know what she said after that or what happened but I found myself on the floor crying and DH talking.  What he was saying, I’ll never know because that buzzing sound was all I could hear.  It was a blur of events after that – somehow my bags were packed and I ended up in the hotel manager’s office and he was trying to make arrangements for us to fly back home.  I think the trip back home took almost a day even though Anguilla is only 7hrs away but I think we had a few layovers; I don’t even know where or what city they were in.  We eventually made it home and I went straight to my mom’s house.  She was on the couch crying, surrounded with consoling friends and family and to this day, I don’t even know who was there because all I could see was my mom and sister and the agony that we were all in.  This is why I will never go back to Anguilla.  Although it’s a beautiful island, it will always remind me of that tragic day when I got that horrible phone call.

My dad was a strong, loving, gentle man, husband and father.   You know how there are people who are nice but have made mistakes in the past that people sometimes think about or have left a sour taste in their mouths?  Well, my dad never harmed anyone – ever.  There was never a person who said one bad thing about my father because he just didn’t do anything mean or bad to anyone.  That’s pretty hard to do, considering that we all have faults and although we try and let civility and morale govern our lives, we all falter at some point and make mistakes or hurt people that we later regret.  Sure, my dad made mistakes and he regretted a lot but it wasn’t because he hurt other people; his regrets mainly revolved around his feelings of inadequacy to provide for his family.  Not that he didn’t work or didn’t try to find another job – he had left several successful businesses in Jamaica to immigrate to Canada to give us a better life.  He didn’t want us growing up in the streets of Jamaica where crime was of the norm and people carried guns because you had to for protection.  Instead of selling his share of the businesses, he let his partners (my uncles) take over and he left for Toronto.  You see, my dad never let money get in the way of relationships.  He would rather keep the peace between friends and family than argue over money and he knew that even if he tried negotiating his fair share – my father was not a greedy man –  it would still spark controversy and change their relationship.  So instead of going through that, he kept the harmony, signed over his share and walked away.  Of course, his prediction was right and the other partners spent years arguing over who would get the largest share or how they should split it up.

My dad felt inadequate because I think he sometimes felt that maybe he should have argued for his share of the businesses and he didn’t  like seeing us struggle with money problems.  We didn’t have much growing up and that bothered my dad a lot.  Not that he wanted an extravagant life – far from it – he just didn’t like not having much money in the bank.  No matter what we told him – that we didn’t care about that and it  never bothered us – it didn’t matter.  My dad felt that as the man of the house; as a father and husband, he should be the one to provide for his family and he didn’t  like being strapped for cash.   By then, my dad was at the retirement age and he also had a heart condition so we forced him not to work.  He hated being at home and he didn’t like being stagnant so when he told us that he was going to work with some friends, we made sure it was an easy job and something that he liked.  We knew that we couldn’t afford much and it never bothered me and my sister.   He didn’t like that we got jobs after school to help pay for bills or for pocket money because I think deep down, he felt it was his responsibility to do that.

My dad lived a simple and happy life.  He was never one to enjoy the frivolous things that life had to offer and he never got caught up in gossip, talked bad about anyone and he never held any grudges.  In a lot of ways, if not all ways, he lived his life according to the principles and philosophies of the Dalai Lama – compassion, peace, harmony, forgiveness, contentment, self-discipline.  My dad didn’t belong to any religious groups or anything;  he didn’t go to church and I don’t think he knew much about Buddhism; he just lived his life according to the way he felt humans should:   with kindness and compassion towards other people.  He never felt any ill-will towards anyone; even towards those who did  him wrong – like my uncle who tried to put the moves on my mom when he was away on business.  Or when one of his business partners stole money from the businesses.  My dad talked to my uncles and everyone else who wronged him and after the conversation was over, he forgave them – honestly and truly forgave them – and their friendship (at least in his mind) didn’t change.  It takes a strong person to do that; to be able to look beyond feelings of anger, hurt and betrayal and still call them a friend.  He was a man of very few words but when he spoke, it resonated through you.  It made you think.  He didn’t care of people didn’t like him – he still treated them with kindness and respect.  These are only several examples of how my father lived his life.  He taught me a lot about family values and the goodness I should see in people.  He always told me that my temper would get me places but would also burn bridges in the process (which ended up to be very true) and that I must learn to control my temper and attitude in order for me to be truly happy.  After everything I went through – past and present –  I now understand that what he said was right all along;  I just didn’t have the foresight like him to see it until something happened.

There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t think about or miss my dad.  I don’t like visiting him at the cemetery because looking at his gravestone reminds me that he’s not here.  Even after all this time, it still feels like he went away on a trip and will return any moment so I guess that’s why I don’t like going to the cemetery because it’s then that I realize that’s not true.  My dad was my rock and he always gave me strength.  In any given situation when I was younger and as I got older, I pushed through every challenge and accomplished every goal.  I was always the stronger one between my sister and I.  I was always the strong one that held together when my family needed something whether that was money or when my mom had to go into the hospital.  I was strong because my dad was there; because my rock was there.  When he passed way, I fell apart and I didn’t know what to do.  That was the first time ever, that I felt weak and uncertain; that I couldn’t face the reality of things and I wanted to run and hide – something I’ve never felt before.  I couldn’t take the burial arrangements and I could barely look at him in the casket.   I miss him so much and I wish he was here today.

I don’t have any regrets in life except the fact that my dad isn’t around to be with Kayla or my niece/nephew.  My sister and I both think that we should have married and had kids sooner so my dad could enjoy spending time with them.  When I see my mom and Kayla playing, I know my dad is with us in spirit but it would have been amazing to see her hug and kiss my dad like she does to my mom.  I am blessed that Kayla looks a lot like my father.  When she was first born, the first thing I  noticed was that she looked exactly like my dad and I think that’s why I always feel that he’s around me.  When I look at Kayla, especially when she’s sleeping, it’s like I’m looking at my father.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2010 9:13 am

    Kat, this was really beautifully written and I have tears in my eyes. The first thing I thought when I saw your Dad’s photo at the top of the post is that Kayla looks so much like him. Maybe that means that Kayla has also inherited some of the qualities that made your Dad the wonderful man that he was.

  2. April 1, 2010 6:16 pm

    I am really glad that I read this at home because as I predicted, it brought tears to my eyes. Like Steph has mentioned, this post is beautifully written and I would like to thank you for sharing. I can see why you miss your dad so much. Your father sounds like he provided you with much strength and motivation. I am glad that you have wonderful memories of him that you can treasure always.

    I am the same as you. I really dislike going to the cemetery to visit my brother because it makes it real that he is gone. I also pretend that he is on a trip or that he is really busy and we will get a chance to catch up soon. I do like the tradition that you have about burning items that you think your father would want to have. I would love to do this for my brother but since he has been put to rest in a building, I may get in trouble for lighting a fire.

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