I can’t even put into words the heart-wrenching pain that I’m feeling, but I will try my best.
I just keep falling in and out of sadness and periodic breakdowns trying to come to terms with everything that has happened in the past few days. It has been 3 days since my father’s death as I am writing this, and every day that passes, it feels like a fever dream having to wake up and realize that he isn’t here with us in this physical world anymore.
The hardest part with a sudden death is really reconciling with the fact that all you have left are the fragments of memories you had with the person. I crawl into my bed and stare at my door late at night, hoping that he’ll come into my room one more time to tell me that it’s time to go to sleep. There are no more opportunities for this or to create new moments even if you wanted to, so now you’re left desperately trying to latch onto all of the good times you spent together like they’re souvenirs.
So here I am now, listening to Louis Armstrong’s “La vie en rose” picturing my dad sitting on the chair in front of me burning a CD that is curated with his favorite playlist, all filled with obscure French music and American favorites. We’re driving down PCH again listening to “Moondance” by Van Morrison, taking in the crisp ocean air of Crystal Cove, his favorite place to be in California. Doris Day is singing “Que Sera, Sera” and he’s teaching me the correct way to eat oeufs à la coque (French soft boiled eggs) with bread for the first time at breakfast. And now the playlist queue is over, and I am listening to Lianne La Havas’ cover of “Say a Little Prayer,” and alone in my bed, back to the hard reality that he’s actually gone.
When I was in second grade, I experienced what it’s like for someone to die for the first time. My grandma on my mom’s side passed away from diabetes back in 2009, and I saw firsthand the amount of suffering she had to endure with her amputated leg and countless prescription bottles. I didn’t really understand the concept of death, so when I saw my mom mourn and grieve so much, my anxious self ran to my dad immediately for clarification on why she’s so sad.
I asked him, “Does everyone die?”
And he told me the truth — “Yes, everyone dies.”
So now I’m lost for words and my second-grade self is just staring at him with the blankest expression after that curt response. I’m expecting him to console me before I relentlessly break into tears as he answers my next question: “Even you and Mẹ?”
“Yeah, me and Mẹ will also die.” And now I am distraught in tears, hugging him with all of my heart hoping that both of them would never leave my side. And he’s just sitting there laughing because he thinks I’m so silly for crying so much. I remember getting so upset with him because he couldn’t stop smiling, but my dad was always the type to never not smile.
We had such an open and long conversation about death that day. He told me that people generally live really long lives and that living forever would be really lonely, because when everyone else is gone, what happens then? I felt better — although still very perplexed as a second-grader — and I realized that day that this lifetime was extremely limited and because of that, we need to continue to create moments and memories with those that we love the most before they’re gone. My dad just gave me a big hug and told me that everything is going to be okay, making me a chocolate croissant to feel better.
Since then, I have lived every single moment of my life with the intent to create meaningful connections in whatever I do. My father has given me so many valuable lessons both explicitly and implicitly about how we should live, and these lessons are the reason I continue to value my loved ones over everything else.
Lesson No. 1: Selflessness
I have never met someone more selfless and loving than my father, and this is not an understatement. He has always placed such little value in materialism for himself, but somehow such great value in giving the finer things in life to our family. I cannot even put into words the countless times I’ve depended on my dad when I was feeling stressed out or when I just needed a second opinion. He dropped everything in a heartbeat if it meant he could support me in any way that he could.
Growing up, I always wanted to prove to others that I was capable and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. In fifth grade, my friend Bryan was telling me how if there was a student body, he would win class president. So naturally, I retaliated and made a bet with him that I would win instead. I went home that day and told my dad about this “very important” election, and despite being extremely confused, he told me he would support me in any and all ways possible in order for me to win this presidential race. We decorated snickerdoodle cookies that morning at 4 AM with the words “VOTE 4 BN” in frosting for the entire class, and the glow-in-the-dark wristbands that I got really sealed the deal for this fake campaign. Even though it wasn’t a real event and the cookies got crumbled in my backpack, it just meant so much to me knowing that my dad — who commutes to work every morning at 6 AM to Los Angeles and gets home around 6 PM — would do this for me.
I think the most admirable thing about my father was that he never viewed these tasks as burdens. He did any and all things for me willingly because he wanted to show in whatever way he could that he loves me, and I think I hold this philosophy to this day in how I treat my friends and family. To always help out those that you love is a luxury in itself because it gives you the opportunity to create these memories that you will hold dearly for the rest of your life. My father knew this, and he treated every moment spent together as a blessing and never took even a second of it for granted. All of the times that he drove me to my friends’ houses before I had my license, all of the times he spent reading my short stories and reacting to my ukulele songs — all of this was to make a meaningful memory that we would hold together until the day we died.
I don’t think in this lifetime I will meet anyone as selfless and loving as my dad.
Lesson No. 2: Dedicated to the details
My father was also the most detail-oriented person I have come across. Growing up, I never understood why he took so many notes and photocopied literally every single document. But that same meticulousness is the reason why it is so difficult for my family to live without him — he was the type of person to consider every single detail that the rest of our family would otherwise overlook. Whether it’s checking my car to see if the gas was almost empty so he could fill it up or making sure that my HydroFlask was filled up every time I left to go back to UCLA, I will miss how much he cared about these small things that made my life better.
But his attention to detail extends more than just being considerate. Fast forward to 7th grade, where I am running for another election, only this time as class treasurer against some really popular, rich kids at my middle school. I really had no chance given that I wasn’t able to give all this free stuff like them, but regardless, I wanted to give it a shot. Me being a professional procrastinator, I waited until the day right before students were allowed to put up advertisements around the school to make my giant banner. Fed-Ex takes around 3 to 5 days to print out big posters like that, so now I’m overwhelmed and stressed because I had nothing. I told my dad about the situation and that night, he and I stayed up together printing and taping roughly fifty pages of 8.5 x 11 pieces of my banner together.
He took the day off of work that following morning, helping me put up my poster next to the most optimal spot that he believed would get the most attention. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up winning, but I couldn’t believe how dedicated he was to make sure every piece of that banner fell into place perfectly — from the tiresome taping process to the exact placement of the poster — all because he wanted to see me succeed.
Even in his final days, he was so dedicated to making sure he was able to follow through with all of his responsibilities. My dad had been struggling with this health condition for the past 7 months, writing down in a notepad his heart problems and the amount of medication he took every day. Before going to the ER the afternoon he passed away, he messaged his manager, Sunny, to inform her that he was going to the emergency room, as he anticipated not being able to work that following Monday. Still, despite it being Sunday along with the pain he was going through on his last day, he refused to become a burden to his coworkers.
He wanted to make sure that he gave everyone in his life 110% in whatever he did so they wouldn’t have to worry. There is not a doubt within my mind that there is someone as dedicated to detail but equally as dedicated to his family more than my father.
Lesson No. 3: Take it easy
Still, I think out of all the values that my father has instilled within me, the most paramount one is to take it easy. My mother has always been the type to worry about everything, and I think my father was always the exact opposite of that. He always had such a lax mentality on life, because he realized that life was too short to be so stressed out about everything. I took after my mom in this regard, and I think he really was my go-to person that grounded me whenever I needed a different perspective on life because he always emphasized taking things slow. He would always just tell me to take it easy and reminded me that everything will be okay, and he’s lived by this mantra for as long as I could remember.
As I am writing this eulogy, I am trying to emulate this as much as possible, but today is different. There are no words to describe the pain that I’m feeling thinking about how there will never be another opportunity to make more memories with my dad ever again. To live without him here is going to be one of the most challenging moments that I will have to do, and being 19 and having to be strong and hold what’s left of my family together without him is even harder.
So if you’re hearing this, Dad, I wish I could go back and relive every single moment I had with you again. I just want you to know that you are the best father I could ever have and that I am proud of you and how far you’ve come to give Chris, mom and me the life that we deserve.
I keep reminiscing about the time we were at Autopia at Disneyland, where I’d be driving the car and bumping into Chris and mom on purpose. Or in other times I would pretend to be an amazing driver as if I had my license. I definitely think Disneyland holds some of our fondest memories together.
I keep thinking about the first time you took me down PCH and showed me your favorite spot at Crystal Cove, even though it was only accessible to hotel residents at the Beachcomber. We parked at Mastro’s, but that day you bought me mac and cheese from another restaurant nearby because I said Mastro’s was unreasonably expensive, even though you insisted on getting it for me.
I remember I would wake up at 5 AM when I was in elementary school just so you would draw me a car every day because I knew that you had a hidden talent of drawing.
I miss the time we went to AMC to see movies literally every Friday, and I miss the times that I would yell at you for taking so many napkins and straws (so much that Chris and I nicknamed you “condiment man”).
You’d drop everything in a heartbeat when I was sad, and I took those moments for granted. I could never thank you enough for giving me everything that you could to be the best dad. I know you didn’t always know what the right way was to be a “good” parent was, but you let me make my own decisions and gave me the privileges to be where I am today. You’d do anything and everything for me and are one of the reasons I place so much value in such meaningful relationships — you taught me that life is too short not to give to those you love. They will always give back to you if they love you the same.
I can’t even process what I’m feeling right now, but all I know for sure is that I miss you so much and that I love you so much. I am so lucky and blessed that you accept me as I am unconditionally and am so fortunate that you always try your best to do whatever you can to support our family, both physically and emotionally. I can’t even begin to imagine living a life without you, and I don’t really know how I’m going to adjust but right now, everything feels broken and incomplete. I just want you back in my life and I just want you to know that I’d do anything to have you back.
You are truly the best dad in the entire world, and one day, I hope I can tell your grandkids that you were such an amazing man with so many passions and interests and character. I know you liked the simple life, but you let me see a deeper side of you that others weren’t able to see. To this day, I attribute you as one of the reasons I got my creativity and passion for all of the things I love, from my affinity for movies (because I know how much you loved streaming foreign films) to my passion for writing, as you have always cheered me on, reading every single piece because you believed in me. I would not be the person I am today if you didn’t share all of your experiences and a piece of yourself with me.
I will never ever forget all of the memories we had together. All of our hearts are broken, and quite honestly, I don’t think it will ever really be fully mended. Though I am happy that you’re no longer suffering and are in a better place now. This impact you have on our family is transcendent and everlasting, and at this point in time, we just really need your presence with us wherever we go — looking over us and protecting us every step of the way until it’s our time to be with you.
I know it’s a little late, but I hope you know how proud I am to call you my dad. I am so grateful I am to have someone like you who goes out of their way time after time for me without fail, and every day that passes, I miss you more than I did the last. Your legacy will live on forever, because I have made it a personal mission to share these moments you shared with me so people know how amazing of an individual you are. I love you so much — please look after our family because I don’t know how we’ll have the strength to recover from this.
See you soon.