my dad would have turned 61 today. it's been 11 years missing this vibrant smile.
11 years ago it was 2003. this photo was taken with a film camera. not a digital, a film camera. my mom's 35mm camera that she used til the bitter end. in a world where our phones have become our portable cameras, fully stocked with apps to crop, resize, filter, and customize photos of our daily meals or our feet in a pair of new kicks to share with anyone and everyone… i find it so hard to adjust to the fact that photos with my Dad ended in 2003. there is nothing NEW and RIGHT NOW that i can browse through to share in my times of grief. when i look back at what i have in terms of photos, there is so much less. and it isn't because we didn't take a lot of photos, but we didn't take the excessive amount of photos that EVERYONE takes EVERY SINGLE DAY.
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it's so easy. it's so immediate.
looking back through the photos i have, also forces me to realize how much older i am getting. i think this photo was from 2002. this was my birthday, my last birthday with him as i chose to spend the following year with kevin instead, god knows i can't even remember what we did. yes, it must have been 2002 because he passed away a year before i graduated from Kwantlen and transferred to Emily Carr. plus, i had cut my hair into a bob with bangs and i remember him telling me how great i looked.
it's been a rough couple of weeks that i have not really discussed. exhausted and overwhelmed but emotions. my uncle, eldest brother of my mom's 6 siblings and father to my BFF cousin, was diagnosed with lung cancer back in October. he passed away July 12 in the afternoon. i had just spent 4 hours shooting the Khatsalano Festival and drove straight to the hospital when i heard the news. i rushed to be with my cousin and her family but arrived late. in my haste, i was not prepared for the reaction my body and mind would have when i entered the same ground level elevators that i took up to Palliative Care the morning my Dad passed away…
i sobbed uncontrollably. my aunt, wife of my uncle, got on the elevator half way and i cried harder. it was so hard to feel like it was happening all over again and my heart ached knowing my relatives were going through the very same pain.
the family was fortunate to have my cousin's wedding ceremony in the hospital the saturday prior to his passing. it was set to be the same day he passed with the reception taking place the day after. the reception, as per his request, still took place following his passing. it was a bittersweet day for everyone. my cousin looked beautiful as ever.
the funeral took place this past Friday. my sister flew down and after the burial, my mom, sister, kevin, the kids and I walked over to my Dad's gravestone to say hello and wish him an early Happy Birthday. the kids painted pictures for him which we burned and sent up to him.
my cousin, the son, read a beautiful speech at the funeral mass. he honoured his father and all the great qualities that he really respected. i felt sad that i had not given a similar speech at my Dad's mass but at the same time, i was so young and still so volatile at 20 that i don't know if i would have had the same maturity as i do now to really vocalize how i feel now at age 31. as my cousin touched on the many great qualities of his father, i couldn't help but think how different my uncle was from my Dad. i would have focused and praised so many different things in my speech of who my Dad was as a person and who he was to me.
what i remember most about my Dad was how well-loved he was by everyone. he was so easy going. he didn't let things rile him up and he never got into heated arguments over little things. he let things go. he respected that everyone was different and that nobody was perfect including himself. whenever me or my siblings went on a rant about someone, he would always ask us if we were perfect. he encouraged us to forgive others for their faults and shortcomings since we had our own as well. he was great at letting us know when we had said or done something disappointing in a way that made us and continues to make me want to be better. all my relatives loved him and i know they miss having him around. he was so genuine, so funny and so easy to talk to. you couldn't help but enjoy his company and so it doesn't surprise me that he also had a lot of friends.
11 years later, though my memories are foggy and my collection of photos is pathetic compared to the collection of photos i have just from this week, he continues to inspire me to be a better person. i think of him often when i am trying to make a hard decision. he told me many times during my many years of adolescent revolt and horrible behaviour that it didn't matter how much money i had or the success i achieved in my lifetime, it only mattered what kind of person i was. what mattered was how i treated others, whether i liked them or not. that is an ongoing challenge.
i'm sad he isn't here to enjoy his grandkids. i'm sad he didn't get to dance with me, my mom and my sister at my wedding. i'm sad he went so very very early in life and that he is missing out on so much love and joy that life has continued to shower on my family. i miss his ridiculously goofy sense of humour but feel so grateful that it has been passed down not just to my brother and myself, but to the kids as well. they love my mom and kevin's parents so much. they have top billing along with my sister, but i can't help but think that my Dad would have been without a doubt inarguably NUMBER ONE in their books. he would make them laugh like nobody could ever do. he would crack Moses up like crazy and he would shake his head at how much Chloe is just like her mother. we had Dim Sum this weekend with his family before my sister left, and one of my aunts translated for me that my Gung Gung (my Dad's Dad) described Chloe as being fearless and undaunted like her mother. i can't help but think my Dad would have felt the same.
i'm afraid of forgetting. 11 years was so long ago. i mean, how much do you really remember of your Dad throughout childhood? how much do you remember of him through high school? that's what i had and i am worried that with time, i won't have a lot left to hold on to. i can't beat myself up about it, but i wish i had done what my cousin did, have my Dad tell me stories of his life and keep them written in a journal. perhaps i need to tap into stories through my relatives...
it's been a good year since his 10th anniversary last year. the headshaving in his memory really helped to heal my heart and mind after many years of anger and regret. i've finally made peace with myself and hopefully from here on, i can do my part to instill the same things in my kids that he instilled in me.