My father’s last words magically revealed who he truly was
Can this beautiful prayer come from an atheist?
Last words almost always breathe powerful insight about the mystery of life. This prayer was my father’s last written words. My father’s prayer helps me understand who he was. Years later, I also discovered who I am.
My prayer to you, Heavenly Father: 祈求天上主
May Your grace heal the world. 德救世間人
~Kwok Chi Kin (1919 – 1997)
The beginning character of each line was from the name of the Credit Valley Hospital 祈德醫院, where my father stayed during the last stretch of his earthly journey.
My father was not religious. He never went to church or worshipped at the temple. Like most Chinese of his time, he believed in honoring his ancestors.
Faith and Heritage
After I became a Christian in my twenties, I attempted to share my faith with my parents. My father told me that since Jesus Christ was not Chinese, he would not follow him. He preferred to seek protection from a Chinese god. Yet, he did not object for me to go to a Christian church since I was deeply influenced by western culture.
Time passed. Truth unveiled. I believe that his faith orientation changed before he bid his final farewell at the age of 79.
Manhood in Turmoil
My father was born in mainland China during turbulent times. His mother died shortly after giving birth to him due to a common illness. While raised in traditional Chinese culture, he lived through economic instability in the 1920s, the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 to 1945, and the Chinese civil war that followed.
He only had about four years of primitive schooling. Despite his limited formal education, his Chinese was at a scholarly level. However, he believed that his lack of credentials prevented him from securing gainful employment and pursuing a meaningful career.
He worked extremely hard to provide for his five children. My mom took care of us and did whatever she could to supplement the family income. I had seldom seen my father read or write for leisure. He was totally pre-occupied with making ends meet. Everyday presented itself with new challenges for my father. He was frustrated and disheartened while the stress of life heightened.
Thankfully, relief came. His children grew up. He could finally join the calligraphy club, submit his poems for poetry contests, play Chinese chess with his buddies, and learn to enjoy the Chinese harp. Looking back, that might have been his midlife crisis, much delayed!
New Life in Canada
I immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in 1987. My parents reunited with me in Toronto a few years later. My father was in his seventies and remained mentally sharp. He emerged himself in reading Chinese ancient literature, poems, and novels. He wrote lots of poems and also did calligraphy. Unfortunately, other than a few nods from us, he didn’t receive much recognition for his creativity. But, he was happy, fulfilled and delighted to be freely ‘in his zone’.
A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. ~Abraham Maslow
Who is he?
My father is a poet. Through his strives and struggles, he managed to become ultimately at peace with himself in his writing craft. He found joy exercising his creative brilliance in words. He became who he was designed to be.
What my father can be, he must be. He conveyed his feelings, aspirations and blessings to his family and other people through poetry. His words will be forever cherished. My father’s passion became his legacy as he wrote what he cared about. He impacted our lives by being who he was.
My father’s wedding gift to me and Philip brightens our living room daily. This timeless poem sits in a pair of chestnut wooden frame with golden metal trim on the corners. The main theme is wrapped within our given names. His lyrical diction continues to touch my soul.
Something stirs in my heart: Who am I?
I am an author who must write, a musician who must sing, a teacher who must train, and a speaker who must inspire.
Wow, my father’s legacy continues to encourage me. I am motivated to cultivate my own gifts. I still have potential to grow. I am committed to develop what I am capable of becoming.
My passion becomes my legacy as I impact lives through writing, singing, teaching, and speaking.
I serve others by staying true to who I am and doing what I care about.
How about you? Everyone has unique gifts and talents. We all have learned valuable life lessons.
What does it look like to stay true to who you are?
What are the things that you most care about?
What will your legacy be?