Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Services weekend

This past weekend we held services for Dad in two parts. The first was a Visitation on Sunday, held from 1-5 at the funeral house. This was the first time I saw Dad since he passed, and it was difficult. The embalmer did a good job, though. He looked a lot like he did in recent weeks. Mom had him dressed in his favorite suit; the same one he wore to my wedding.

We were glad to have many visitors and well-wishers spread over several hours. It gave us a chance to spend some time with each of them. I told many people that our neighbor Lou's father (a big deal in the lung cancer world) said that it was likely that something broke off in Dad's bloodstream and cut off his oxygen. He must have passed quickly and painlessly. He said "If you've got lung cancer, that's the way to go." Julie and I have personally witnessed a much worse way to go, and we believe him. So I'm very thankful that Dad got everything important that he wanted done, and then went without a big fuss. It would have been pretty dreadful for him to have a long hospice stay with declining functions. As it was, so many people couldn't believe he was gone because he was out at dinner parties just days before. This photo by Helen Chew on 6/28 is one of the last photos ever taken of him. He was having a great time!

The second event was a Memorial Service, held Monday at 2 PM. There is a block with half a dozen churches by Mom and Dad's house, and last week I spotted one that looked appealing... nice stone lower-wall construction, beautiful open areas. We checked it out, and it was perfect: The Unity Palo Alto Community Church. Not only was the facility and the support excellent, but the affiliation was appealing: rather universalist and open. I'm not big on dogma, especially Christian dogma. While Dad did call himself a Christian, he did not attend church, read the Bible, or follow any particular sectarian practices. He basically believed that there is a God, and that he had many sons, among them Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha. It's a liberal interpretation of Christianity, to say the least. So I think he would have approved of this site himself.

I spent all week working on the program for the service, three 20x30 collages for display at both events, and my speech for the closing words of the service. There were about 300 people coming out for the service... we were very gratified to see the love for Dad reach so many. We also had some amazing tributes from some fantastic speakers:
  • Dad's niece Ramona Mar delivered a heartfelt, endearing eulogy
  • Mom's nephew Gordon AhTye recalled many stories of Dad around their family over the years
  • Good friend Clarence Bakken told tales from the golf course, and other parts of Dad's social life
  • Nine people eloquently spoke during the "open mike," including nephew Gary Mar, my wife Julie Minoff, and Pearl Chang from Dad's time at NASA. But the showstopper was Dad's niece Winnie Leong, talking about how much it meant to her that Dad was able to find her and the rest of brother Lim's family in Oakland in the late 60's after a dozen years of separation.
I will have to get video up from this later, but it will take some editing as the video ran out of power during Winnie's words. Fortunately, Brian the fabulous sound guy got audio of the whole thing so history is still kept.

Thanks so much to everyone who came this weekend to pay respects to my father. We very much needed and appreciated your support, and I'm confident that Dad was out there, savoring it all as well. I am also thankful to my wonderful colleagues at work, who empathized with my pain, sent flowers and a plant, and covered for me all week even though there was major stuff going on.


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