Monday, September 28, 2009

My Dad - Forever My Inspiration

Around 6am on Sunday 20th September, I received the phone call that I had been dreading. I knew before answering who it would be and what the news was about. You see, no one ever calls that early on a Sunday morning... oh, how I really didn't want to answer that call.

It was of course, my Mum, with the news that my dear Dad had lost the battle, and had passed away just 10-minutes earlier (around 7:50am Brisbane time). Although we knew this moment would come sooner or later, it was still very much a shock because of the very short time between learning of the untreatable cancer and the day that we lost this great man (just a short four weeks).

We flew out the following night (Monday) and arrived in Brisbane early on Tuesday morning. Dad's body was cremated at 12pm that day, and we held his funeral (memorial service) on Thursday. Although the circumstances were very sad, it was at the same time emotionally uplifting to be able to spend time with all the family (brothers, sisters, nephew, nieces, uncles, aunties, etc etc) and so many, many close friends. Some of my closest relatives I had not seen for more than ten years.

The day of the funeral was one of the toughest in my entire life. Not usually short of words, and very confident when it comes to public speaking, I had trouble just starting the speech I had prepared for the memorial. As I approached the lecturn in the church to talk to the overflowing crowd (how my Dad was truly loved by so many), I knew the words would be difficult in coming... I read out the title "My Dad".. then it took an eternity to be able to read any more - I was just choking on my overwhelming grief and sense of loss. My older sister, Angie, came up to join me and cuddled me for support. This helped a great deal, and I managed to get through the entire speech.

I'd like to thank all of my very good friends and colleagues, regular readers of my blog and even the odd random visitors, for all the messages of condolence and offers of assistance... it was a real pouring out of emotions - I have seen sides of people that I didn't even know existed. I was especially touched when a very beautiful arrangement of flowers was sent to my Mum's home in Brisbane from Motorola Asia - a very thoughtful gesture indeed.

Today is another special day in the previous week's activities and occurrences. It would have been my Dad's 80th birthday today.

Happy Birthday Dad - you are with us in our hearts!!


Following below, are the words I spoke at the funeral service...


"Anyone that knew my Dad will be able to relate to the following descriptors: COMPASSIONATE, TOLERANT, SELFLESS, HEROIC, HANDSOME, INSPIRING, FUNNY.

Well, there's something else that not everybody knew (that is, unless you lived within a one block radius of our house) and that's my Dad's ability to sing jazz in the shower (I think the style is called 'improvised scat'). Perhaps what he lacked in talent, he more than made up for in volume. When I was very young I asked my Mum "Why does Dad always sing so loud in the shower?"... Mum's answer to me, was "I don't know love, maybe it's because he's so happy". As I got older, I came to know that this was without doubt, a very, very true answer. You see, my dad had many reasons to be happy!!

Looking at the descriptors, let me offer just a couple of examples (of the many) where Dad had displayed just some of these traits.

TOLERANCE: When I was around 17 or 18 years of age, my driver's license was converted from a 'provisional' one to an 'open adult's license'. If my memory serves me correctly, in those days, that meant that I had a total of 11 demerit points available, instead of just 4. As it turns out, I needed those extra points, because after getting caught for speeding by the police three times in just one week, I was left with just 2 demerit points to last me for 2 years.

On the third of these offences, I was obviously very worried about how I would tell my parents. After Dad's reaction to the previous two, I decided to first approach Mum and tell her what had happened, and I asked how I should approach Dad.

I already knew that although Dad was very tolerant and very rarely lost his temper, he had made it quite clear to me after my second speeding fine, that I should well and truly have learned my lesson and under no circumstances would he tolerate a third offence.

I decided to approach it 'head on', and when Dad arrived home from work, I broke the news. To my surprise, very few words were uttered in response. Instead, he looked at me, shook his head, and through gritted teeth he said "You'll never learn, Speedy Gonzales". I'm sure he was boiling deep inside, but on the surface he was completely composed and tolerant.

This tolerance left him about 1-week later however!! Travelling home from work on this day, Dad went through a police radar trap doing 78 km/h in a 60km/h zone. He lost three demerit points. When he arrived home, I could see that he was visibly upset by something. So I asked him what was wrong. When he told me of the speeding fine, I (in typical ignorant teenager fashion) replied "Way to go, Speedy!!"... Needless to say, tolerance has it's limits with everybody!... (I've not received a speeding infringement in the 25 years hence).

COMPASSIONATE: I cannot even count on two hands the number of times that I have needed a wound sutured or a broken bone set. This is an obvious advantage of having a father as a doctor. Most of these medical procedures occurred at the kitchen table. As I'm sure any of my Dad's 'real patients' would attest, he always showed the most amazing compassion and displayed a level of empathy that would somehow make you feel relaxed and confident, no matter how serious the affliction.... this was a talent, that combined with his professional ability, made him one of the most respected and sought-after medical practitioners in the community.

Which brings me to another of the descriptors - FUNNY: Many years ago, the only way for a girl or guy to get their ear/s pierced, was to visit the local GP. It was not the norm (nor was it available) to visit a beauty parlour or a local pharmacy as one can do today (piercing studios weren't even invented yet). Also, it's important to note that Dad always seemed ahead of the trends in the medical community.

But late one night when we were awoken by a 'would be' patient, dad's tolerance dropped and the humour kicked in. When it soon became apparent that there was in fact no medical emergency, and the gentleman asked if Dad could pierce his nose for him, dad politely but curtly replied, "Listen mate, I'm a doctor not a veterinarian!!"

Finally, HEROIC and INSPIRING: there is an ad on television back home in Singapore. I'm not sure if you have it here also. It states that "The World Truly Is Awesome". I believe in my heart that some human beings are also awesome, and that my Dad was truly one of these people.

My Dad taught me many things: My Dad taught me how to bait a hook and fish for redfin (without tangling the fishing line); My Dad taught me how to overcome adversity; my Dad taught me critical life values such as respect, compassion and the importance of family; my Dad taught me how to love; my Dad taight me how to be a good husband and father; my Dad truly was awesome, and was (and still is) my inspiration. He and Mum have moulded me into the person that I am today.

So far, I have lived to be more than half of my father's age. If I can also live to be just half of the person that he was, than those around me will indeed be truly blessed.

My dear, dear dad... you are now at peace and you will live on in our hearts. I will still be calling on you from time to time, for your guidance and your strength. 'Yong yuan ji li wo'... You continue to be my inspiration."

Click here for more pictures from the week in Brisbane (on Facebook)


Neville said...

Pete. Thanks for the words you wrote. It was great to see my brothers and sisters again, pity about the circumstances, but there was a lot of good and healing or me that came out of the time we were all together. I have dealt with the whole death thing as I know that Dad is now in the best place in the cosmos, and has no tears and pain. But I am having to deal with the fact that I chose to put Mum and Dad aside because I knew everything when I was 16! I was glad when I finally did get together with them, but I still have this nagging guilt and perhaps more than guilt, an envy that you all spent more time with him than I did. I am coming to terms with that, and I am so glad that we all seemed to get on with each other now, and look forward to keeping in contact in the future. Love and Blessings to you, Sammi and Jaime. Neville

Aussie Pete said...

Hi Neville... thanks for the comments. Mate, we all 'know everything' when we're teenagers :D

Life does work in mysterious ways sometimes, but I'm a firm believer in looking forward. So, let's keep in touch from here, and we can be positive in the memories of Dad as a truly great man!!

Blessings to you too.

Marcia Carter said...

Hi Pete
I'm sure you wouldn't remember me, but I used to work as Centre Manager at the Woodridge surgery with your dad in the 1980's and have many many wonderful memories of him. I happened by chance on your site here, and was saddened to hear of your dad's passing and touched by your words.The lasting memory I have of him is his wicked sense of humour. I always remember fondly, how he knew one of my least favourite jobs to do was to syringe patients ears out, and would get this cheeky little look when he was leaving the patient's file with the little "ear syringe" card on it. My dad used to travel to the surgery just to see your dad - he wouldn't go to anyone else if he could help it, and my dad had the worst blocked ears of all. Your dad and my dad used to gang up on me - both with their cheeky little grins, and I knew I was in trouble. When I left the surgery he gave me a written reference that I treasure to this day. I also remember how passionate he was about his family, and used to enjoy the little visits to the surgery.
My thoughts are with you, your mum and your family. We may not have our loved ones with us as long as we wish, but the memories live forever, and I will always be forever thankful that your dad shared a small part of his magic with me.
Marcia Carter