Holidays are a time for celebration. For some of us, it’s also a time to miss and remember our loved ones who may have passed on. This Christmas, for the first time in my life, my father will not be with us for this holiday season. My father recently passed away and this is my memory of my beloved ‘Daddy.’
Many would say that their father is the best there is/was. I can truly say that my dad was the best that I could have ever asked for! He was a 100 percent devoted father to his children and a loyal husband to our mom. My Dad gave us unconditional love, 24/7, and always gave us more than 100 percent. I say 100 percent because that’s how my dad was. That was his standard –anything less than 100 percent was not my Dad.
When I was 10 years old, I took a pair of scissors to my mom’s favorite dress to make doll cloths claiming that I wanted to be a fashion designer. Instead of getting mad about the situation, my dad encouraged me and complimented on what a beautiful dress I had made for the doll.
When I was 12, my dad took me to the Children’s Art contest at the Seoul National Park which has many exhibits of historical monuments and statues. Most of the children who were there spent their time in front of monuments or statues and they would draw sketches of them. My dad took my hand and guided me to the different areas of the park and told me that ‘beauty’ is present in everything and everywhere so I should look deeper and wider and not just focus on what I see on the surface. He told me that it is important to see and think outside of the box if I wanted to be an artist. I ended up winning the national contest with his wise advice. This was the defining moment in my life that set the tone for everything I do.
Things changed for my dad when our family moved to the United States. He never really showed great emotion, but we all knew that inside he had a heart of gold. I never knew how loving and compassionate my dad was until I was living out of the country during my college years. He would write me the most loving letters; I couldn’t believe those words were coming from my Dad.
My Dad was not the easiest person to live with. He had very high standards – his 100 percent was also what he expected of us. He taught me the most important thing in a person was to be a person of decency, before being the best designer, before being a good businesswoman or any other person for that matter. He never tolerated us being late, so we are never late! He never tolerated us not being responsible for our actions or possessions. He would never break a promise. And he never tolerated one’s unkindness to another person.
These things were embedded within us when we were growing up. Every dinner my Dad would tell us some inspiring stories about people of distant past and present, famous or not. Again, stressing the importance of simple acts of kindness to ensure that we understood the virtue of being righteous and descent human beings. He also never forgot to tell us, always, how proud he was of us.
My dad was born what is now North Korea, the last country to stand divided on Earth. He was born during a time of turmoil, during the Japanese occupation of Korea, in the midst of Confucius ideology transitioning to modern times. With help of his parents risking their lives, he was able to escape the area of the country where it was becoming saturated with Communism. He was only 12 years old. My dad never spoke of how he missed his family in North Korea, but I know that he had lived with the guilt of being the only survivor. All his life that I know of, he longed to see his mother, father and the home he left behind over 70 years ago. I now experience the pain of losing my dad in my 50s. I can only imagine what it would have been for my dad to leave his beloved parents at 12 with no promise to ever see them again. Now I am sure he is with them reunited, catching up on lost times.
Perhaps, the greatest tribute I can give will be when I come to the end of my days and people say to me, simply, “She was just like her father.” Daddy, I miss you more than words can express. I know I will see you again – I am sure. Hope you will be proud of what we all become when that time comes. I love you, Daddy. I miss you every day until I leave this earth. I promise I will never let you down and I thank you so much for the extraordinary, unconditional love you have given me all my life. You will always be my ‘Hero!’
Your daughter, Tiffani