My father passed away a little before 10 am on Wednesday, January 29. I'll post more about that next; for now, I'd like to share the eulogy I gave at his state funeral on Sunday. I had written a draft the evening prior -- but decided to throw it out and just start writing what came from my heart to my head. I couldn't stop typing, and it was all done in just a little more than an hour. I can write about dad for the rest of my life, and it still wouldn't be enough.
There's a man I've recently just met, but whom I've known my entire life. For the past three days I've heard stories about this man, about all the friends he made and all the lives he changed. He was so many things to so many people: a teacher, a mentor, a colleague, an architect, an artist, a friend. These people say how much he did for them. And yet, despite all he accomplished he managed to be home at 6 in the afternoon on workdays and all day on Sundays.
I know quite well the man who came home. that man was the one my sisters and I knew as our father -- the man I'm here to tell you a little about this morning.
I'm here to tell you about the father who was so highly protective of his daughters that he feared the thought of us moving out and about outside the home he built. How worried he was that we would be harmed or hurt by those with bad intentions or careless actions. And yet, despite those fears, how he encouraged each of us to move across the other side of the world so that we would learn how to find ourselves, explore our passions, and learn to be best at whatever we chose to be so that we could each make a living, but more importantly, a life.
Our father was a man who once chased after a bus through the city and stopped it mid-traffic, only so he could come onboard and present his lady love with a bouquet of flowers that he didn't get to give her before she left town for the weekend. My mother passed away eight months ago, and my father chased after her as an old man as he once did in his youth, and finally caught up with her just this Wednesday morning.
I've always been convinced my father could communicate with all the creatures of the earth. Dad found nothing unusual about playing with the fire ants that reside in the tree outside his bedroom. He would let the potentially lethal insects crawl up and down his arm, and then back to the tree where they lived when they were done playing with him. My father not only was unable to harm a mouse, he even fed the few that visited his room with the snacks he always kept at his bedside.
Just outside the kitchen, dad created a safe haven for all cats that sought refuge. He once berated a veterinarian who thought it wasn't worth saving the life of a stray whom my dad found half-dead on our street. "What kind of an animal doctor are you, to choose which animals to save?" he demanded. And despite being warned that doing all of the above would backfire on him somehow, I can attest that the ants never hurt him, the mice never bit him, and all the cats treated our home as theirs.
Once, not long ago, I asked dad why we had so many fake flowers and plants in our house when he was a landscape architect. Shouldn't we have real ones, instead? He just smiled and then tried to convince me that they brightened up the place. When I complained about the plastic foliage again, our family driver, who assisted my dad every Saturday when he visited the local tiangge, explained to me privately that dad bought the "plants" and other seemingly useless things to help out his sukis there. These small things made him happy because they reminded him that he had made other people happy, too.
It really is no wonder then why, the first time dad met his eldest granddaughter, who was about two years old at the time and just starting to speak, she climbed on the couch beside him, looked at him in the face -- and then and there decided to call him only "Magic."
These past few weeks, my sisters and I have seen and heard all kinds of people from all walks of life express their love for our father. There was a tiangge vendor who said that dad taught her the scientific names of the plants she sold so that she would appear as an authority to her customers, which would help her sales. There was a young sculptor who almost gave up his art, but who was instead encouraged by dad to keep going and has never stopped since. We've heard so many people say they wouldn't be what they were if dad had never been around. I'd like to think that wherever dad was he sprinkled a bit of magic in the air.
I have no doubt that at this very moment, I.P. is whispering into God's ear how heaven can use a little more green space.
On behalf of my sisters, we thank all of you who have comforted us these past few days with your kind words of sympathy. We thank all who have shared your personal stories about life with I.P. Our dad lives on inside of us not only as we remember him, but as we continue to get to know him as only you did. On behalf of my father, thank you for all the love and honor you bestow upon him today.