Saturday, April 24, 2004

Today, I originally read out this tribute to a crowd of over a hundred people, all who came out to pay tribute to my father. How my father passed on is irrelevant, as opposed to how he lived. This is what we all came out to comemmorate. For a person that normally talks like a caffeine addict, the tribute came out relatively smooth and people mostly laughed when it was appropriate. However, I really should have gone last. I probably should've practiced first too. But these are the collected thoughts of a week's worth of pondering on how to remember my father and no amount of practice or going last will change any of that.

Vince Yim

One thing I will always remember about my father was his sense of humour. Despite the fact that it was very rare to see him smile, he was always telling jokes, regardless of how dry and inappropriate. When I was initially writing this tribute, I was giving serious thought to starting it off by telling the last joke that he ever told me. We have memorial services to commemorate the departed, and to remember the way my father lived was to remember how and why my father laughed. If there is anything my father taught me, there is never an inappropriate time to laugh or make someone else laugh.

However, I came to realize two things.

1: We’re in a church.
2: There may be children present.

As much as I like to think that I inherited my father’s sense of humour, more importantly, I also inherited some of his sense of self-restraint. Plus, it might make for a few awkward glares for the luncheon afterwards.

That being said, the greatness of a man can be measured in a variety of ways. Some feel that a person can be measured by the company they keep, the friends that they make, and the people they work with. Judging from the outpouring of support I have seen, I can tell that my father was a great man.

Some also feel that a man may be judged by his achievements. From what I know, my father was a self-made man, growing up in relative poverty in a single-parent household to become the man that we all know and love today. He was well traveled, having spent some time in four continents, and well educated, using his training to become a teacher and eventually a registered nurse. Once one adds fatherhood and parenting to list of achievements, you can tell that he was a great man.

Some people feel that a person can be judged by the accomplishments of their offspring.

Two out of three isn’t bad.

People who knew and saw him recently only saw the outer shell, which needed help getting around. In a large sense, he did. Most of us know that he had a multitude of health problems for the past 16 years, which took a serious toll on his body. Those of us who were closest to him saw him slowly waste away, which is a very terrible thing to happen to a person. The memories of this are not the ones we will necessarily want to keep.

Sadly, many of my own memories of my father have him being much weaker than he should have been, as I was witness to many of these things. First, from my father being hospitalized due to a workplace violence incident, then with the diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease, and then everything that happened after that. However, one thing I never quite realized until now was that through it all, he never complained.

In a lot of respects, he was a lot stronger than I ever realized, as he was always putting the needs of others ahead of his own. Whether it be the role as a family provider or doing his best to avoid being a burden on us, given his attitude towards life in general, you wouldn’t know that he had a debilitating illness.

Through it all, I remember my father was always wanting to be a provider, continuing to work until the progression of his condition made it impossible, and even still doing what he could to stay active instead of just giving up. I do recall a certain level of stubbornness, and at times, it did make me angry, when I come home and find out that my father almost hurt himself doing something that I could have very well done for him. However, that’s not the way my father wanted to live.

Despite the fact that my father was having health problems for most of the time I knew him, that’s not the way I choose to remember him. What I choose to remember are the lessons that he taught me. One of them was learned on a fishing trip. Before my father’s health began to deteriorate, he would always take my sister and I crab fishing at White Rock beach. Part of this involved catching bullheads for use as bait. Using my father’s fishing rod, I cast the line, only to have the fishing rod come apart and drop straight into the water.

Being about 7 or 8 years old at the time, I was understandably upset, but my father was there to lend a hand. Being that the hook and sinker were firmly attached to the line, we were easily able to retrieve the part that came off. My father properly re-attached it, and then after wiping away the tears and assuring me that everything was all right, we continued to fish. Whether or not we caught any crabs that day was irrelevant. Not only did I learn the proper way to assemble a fishing rod, I learned that little mistakes were a part of life and were nothing to get terribly upset over, as long as you learned something from the experience.

Mind you, had I actually lost the pole to the bottom of the water, I would have been in a whole mess of trouble. No cartoons for me for a whole week.

Another important lesson from my father was that there is no such thing as a free lunch and nothing good comes without effort. While the large pile of non-winning lottery tickets might tell you a different story, my father was someone who didn’t believe in a free lunch. As he grew up in relative poverty, all of the things he had he had to work hard for, whether it be his career or his education. There is no denying that he spent the majority of his working life working for other people, but he understood the value of a hard-earned dollar, much of which was spent making sure his family was given the necessities such as a home, food, and a proper education.

The most important lesson I learned from my father through example was not to give up. There were many occasions when my father could have given up on any number of things, whether it be his own health, his own children, or on life in general. After his initial on-the-job injury, he returned to work almost immediately and clung on for as long as he could, even after the Parkinson’s diagnosis. And even when he was unable to work, he still did many of the things that he did before, from cooking to even going out fishing with his friends. And even when that too became impossible, he never complained about being unable to do those things and still enjoyed what he could.

Even though he has left us, he leaves behind a full life. He was well traveled and well educated. He made lots of friends and treated everyone with respect. He worked hard to get to where he was and has a lot to show for it. And through it all, he never had any regrets. Save for that time that he gave himself a tattoo.

To me, he was a father, but to all of us, he was a friend. And he will be missed by all of us.

Victor Pui Kay Yim: July 5th, 1937 - April 16th, 2004.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, April 16, 2004

Today just started out like any other day where I don’t have to work.

I woke up like I always do, checked my e-mail, brushed my teeth, ate breakfast, and then hit the gym. Played video games for about an hour. Drove out to the local movie theatre to see “The Punisher.” Swung by work to pick up my paycheck. Went home to prepare a meal for my mother and myself. Checked my voicemail and got a message from my Dad’s doctor, saying that he had a recurring infection and was being treated with antibiotics. Packed up my stuff and went to my martial arts classes.

About 6:35, I am on a Skytrain towards Vancouver. I get a call from my mom on my cell phone.

“Turn around and come to the hospital right now.”
“What’s going on?”
“Just come back to the hospital right now.”

There are either two possibilities as to what happened, either he passed away or was in the process of passing away. She didn’t have to tell me what happened over the phone. I already knew.

Victor Pui Kay Yim died on April 16, 2004 at about 17:45 due to complications from a bacterial infection in his lungs.

My dad was going through a lot before that happened. First, from being stabbed during a workplace violence incident at Riverview Hospital back in 1987, to developing Parkinson’s disease, to a gradual deterioration to the point of developing osteoporosis, a spinal fracture, and then an antibiotic resistant lung infection. It’s been a long time coming, and in a way, I am relieved, especially when one considers the amount of suffering that he’s been through over the years.

Most of my memories of my father involve seeing him in some sort of pain or state of weakness, having had to deal with this for a really long time. However, through it all, I have never heard my dad complain about his condition or the bad hand he was dealt. He took it in stride and did his best to cope with any condition he was in. Of course, he did need help when his condition progressed into its later stages. He needed to be taken places when he couldn’t drive anymore. He needed help walking when his legs began to fail.

In spite of it all, he was pushing himself until the end when he was simply physically incapable of doing it anymore. He was still doing work around the house, cooking, and cleaning, refusing to give up. But as all things must come to an end, so did this.

Despite the fact that the majority of my memories of my father have him in some sort of an enfeebled state, I do have memories of a father that was strong and robust. These are the memories I prefer. I remember a father with a dry sense of humour that would crack jokes during breakfast. I remember a father that took care of me when I was sick, even when his condition was beginning deteriorate. I remember a father that taught me to rely on myself and no one else. I remember a provider, a parent, a role model, a spiritual guide, a mentor, a joker, and a hero.

I mostly remember a father who was physically weak. But he was stronger than I ever knew.

Goodbye, Dad.

I’ll miss you.

Sphere: Related Content