Thursday, May 2, 2013


Proverbs 20:7

The righteous lead blameless lives;
    blessed are their children after them.

"Feeling like a dusty road inside me
Waiting for a drink of autumn rain
But inspite of all I am I can still turn and smile
When I reach the promised land I'll be stronger for the trial
Love's gonna rescue me"

I used to listen to this song when I went to the hospital to visit my mom while she battled cancer. It's by a friend named Bob Hudson. It really expresses that feeling when you are dealing with the dire circumstances of life. You feel lifeless inside; somehow you feel like you're going through the motions of living when in fact you're dealing with something deeply difficult. Watching my mom suffer was one of those times. It's almost as if God in His mercy allows us to dry up inside so that we can cope with such deep hurt. Along with that we so desperately desire relief - that drink of refreshing rain that can heal the hurt. I'm recalling all of this as I deal with the passing of my father. If you've read any of this blog you know that fatherhood, and manhood are recurring themes I touch on. So now I face the reality of mourning my dad. There's almost too much to deal with to express it all nor will I process it so easily. Grief and mourning is that way. We all do it in a personal way. I find myself more in a reflective mindset remembering my childhood and how my dad was in and out of my life. He was my coach, teacher, the hard working provider, mentor, displinarian and companion but also he was the yeller, the belittler and distant. I hold no animosity towards any of the latter. My dad was very much human as we all are.

The details of his passing are this: he suffered a hemorrhage stroke about three months ago. After surgery and rehabilitation, he was moved to an assisted living situation with the expectation of a decent and even full recovery. The past three weeks he started to grow weak and tired. The thought was that he still had fluid on the brain. Last Sunday, I spoke with my brother on plans for after his surgery. Those plans were not to be. That night he passed away peacefully expiring in his sleep. I think of how much my mom suffered and I feel that God was indeed very merciful to take my dad with minmal pain and very much like the man I knew. The next day came two strange feelings. The first came in the question, "Did I really hear that right?" I think shock has that effect on us. It's almost dream like when surprising and shocking news comes our way. The second was this emptiness knowing that this was the first day in my life that I have no earthly parents. From the day we're born, we have parents but for me after 48 years, that is not the case anymore.

Dealing with the details of putting his affairs in order has also reminded me of the differences between my generation and his. He was born into the Great Depression and his teen years were during World War II. His mother passed away when he was a teenager. I always wondered how the affected him. Like most Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) he was the dutiful son who went to school, got a job, started a family, provided for that family and retired to play golf and travel. He was a hard working man. All of these qualities come from the mix of Japanese culture and the American culture of his era. Duty, honor and sacrifice are noble words that would describe him and so many others from this generation.

The closest my dad got to telling me he was proud of me and confirmed that I was a man

I would be remiss to say that as a human he had both great qualities and left gaps in my life as a father. As kids he never hugged us, told us he loved us, or that he was proud of us. He was demanding in a good way but also lacked the ability to encourage us and inspire us. I really don't hold any of this against him. I just know that I am no better than him as a father. It also gives me the great desire to know my Heavenly Father who fills those gaps in.

Conversely, I praise God that deep down, I know he loved me. I know that we had great times together. He's the man who taught me to throw a curve ball, hit a driver, shoot a jump shot, do long division, drive a stick shift and brush my teeth. It's so amazing that if you ask any man what the remember about their father it usually is something they did with him or something he taught them. One unique thing he taught me was how to solder. Even today at work when I smell solder, it bring me back to my dad's garage. Those are warm memories where I felt his strength and bond. We also got to travel to Japan together. That visit included seeing his father's house. He also was able to meet his cousin for the first time. He has told me that that time was very special to him. For me that meant a lot. It's a memory we got to share and is something I can carry with me the rest of my life.

"Searching for a road that isn't as lonely
Looking for a friend to ease the pain
I go back to where this started to find out what went wrong
No miracle cures for the broken heart and only time and shoulders to lean on
Love's gonna rescue me"

Many have asked how I'm doing through this part. In spite of everything, I feel peace. I really believe it's because I've had so many praying for me. Also, I have the best friends anyone could ever imagine who are there for me. The process to mourn does take time, but also comes out in different ways. I also have to admit that I have to be in "business mode" helping with settling my dad's affairs. That's a distraction that I used to use to avoid the pain. This time, I'm going to write, take walks and sit quietly by myself. God seems to work best in me when I do that. I know I'm going to miss him. I wish we had more time and that we could really truly talk about the important stuff. I'm sad that he was only a few months away from meeting his first great-grandchild. Mourning seems to be a lot about regret and "what ifs".

"But in spite of all I am I can still turn and smile
When I reach the promised land I'll be stronger for the trial
Love's gonna rescue me"

I also am thankful that my last words to my dad were "I love you." Such simple words, but are packed with power. I seriously didn't think that it would be the last time I saw him, but it is one of those moments where I said the right thing at the right time.

I know deep down that this is not the end of my time with dad. When God does reunite me with him, I look forward to then talking about some of the deep stuff that was too hard to talk through. I want to deeply thank him for being a great dad, grandfather and a great man. God is so great when it comes to second chances and I know that I will have that with my dad. In that, Christ is always about restoring relationships and more deeply our hearts. His love does rescue us. It is deeply painful and hugely uplifting. So my hope is that when I hear myself parroting his words as I coach basketball, or when I smell melting solder, I can turn and smile.

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