One of Dad’s favorite quotes from the Bible is this: Teach a child on the way that he should go, so that when he grows up he will not depart from it (this is paraphrased; this is probably from Proverbs, but I forgot the actual passage.). When we were children, he taught us zealously and often reminded us that when it’s finally our turn to be parents, we should teach the same to our children. Here are a few things that I learned from this great man.
Lesson No. 1: Learn to trust in God
Dad made me remember Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your paths.” I never forgot that verse. Whenever we found ourselves in dire times (and there was a lot of those times indeed), Dad would always remind us that the things that happen to us happen for a reason. We may not see God’s purpose immediately, but trusting Him is a far easier than tossing and turning in the night in anxiety.
Lesson No. 2: Never let failure make you give up
Dad was a jack of all trades. He experimented with a lot of businesses, and many of them failed. For some reason, failure never made him give up; he kept trying and trying. As I grew older I began to understand why he failed in most of those endeavors; sometimes he aimed too high and failed to sustain interest in one thing for a long time. But I admired his perseverance. I’ve never met anyone more stubborn.
Lesson No. 3: Always do your best
I know, this oft-repeated phrase is nothing new. But there’s an interesting anecdote about this, something that I still vividly remember after all these years. Dad pushed me hard to excel in school, and I tried every way I could to meet his expectations. He encouraged me to aim for the top in every competition, and that any other place below that was simply unacceptable. No other place was good enough except for the first place. Anyway, one day I came home from school feeling so low and depressed because I didn’t win in a contest (if I remember right, it was a science quiz in elementary). Hearing about my sad report, Dad lovingly embraced me and asked, “Did you do your best?” As I nodded, he told me that it was the only thing that matters. To this day I can never forget that incident.
We can’t always win all our battles, but we can always do our best. In the end the only person we have to compete with is ourselves.
Lesson No. 4: Learn to fight alone
Dad loved boxing, and he often likened his life to being a fighter on the ring. The crowds on the side may cheer, the manager can holler his instructions, but the fighter will be alone to meet his opponent on the ring. When I was in Yamagata trying to fight boredom and depression wrought about by the winter season and loneliness, he wrote me to remind me that being alone is everyone’s business. Learn to fight on your own, and never depend on anyone else to fight for you.
In the end, Dad fought his own battles against his own body, and remained defiant until his very last breath.
Everytime I reflect on Dad’s life, I feel refreshed and seemingly renewed with a second wind (like a boxer, haha). I can only hope and pray, that when it is Aya’s turn to reflect on my life, that she will likewise find the same inspiration and strength.