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Friday, December 18, 2009

My Epitaph For My Father


My father was a good man. He was also a walking contradiction. He was tough, but gentle, stern, yet kind; concerned about money and how it was spent, yet generous to his family. From what I could say to God (Kamisama), he was a wonderful father. He was not perfect. No person is. And I’m not a perfect son either. We had differences of opinion as I got older; some would say that some differences were quite acrimonious. He felt I had a future in piano, I didn’t. He did not like the fact that I had quit music, but I felt that I had no talent in it.

But I feel that he had an opinion and a valued opinion at that. He recognized in his final years that I had some talent in photography and encouraged me to pursue it if I felt that it was what I was meant to do. After all, he did cultivate the seed and I will pursue photography as a business and make it a success in my father’s memory.

My first memory of my father was of him holding me. I was a little baby not yet a day old as he wrapped his strong arms around me. Throughout my life he has been my inspiration and my guiding light.

My father was a pillar of strength for this family. My paternal grandfather died when my father was 6 which left him to be the sole family supporter. My father was 6 when the war started; 11 years old when it ended with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He saw the flash of the bomb from across the strait from Kyoto, far enough away to not suffer flash burns to the retinas of his eyes.

He married my mother in 1956 and emigrated from Japan to Canada. My maternal grandfather was like a surrogate father to him, and he learned the trade of gardening. My father had a natural green thumb and anything he touched grew. He also went to work as a glass-cutter. That cost him his dream of playing the cello as he suffered an injury to his right hand where he lost his thumb and his index finger to his knuckle joint. It took him an year to recover full use of his hand and from then on, he had to write out checks and other business related things with the pen cradled between his middle finger and ring finger of his right hand.

My father always wanted me to do well at the things I did. He fostered my love of photography; he also catered to my love of scale modeling, as well as my love of airplanes. In short, anything I wanted to do was fine with him, just so long as it was legal and that I did it well. When he was growing up, if he didn’t do well, his family didn’t eat and he had three brothers that he had to take care of when he was growing up. My father was a hard-working man. He wanted to leave a legacy for his grandchildren and he worked into his early 70s. Because he was such a great worker, the company was reluctant to let him retire.

I remember the times that he used to take me to the air show or to the airport to photograph airplanes with the Polaroid Land 100. That was a gift, a gift of his time and his love for me, to see me happy and I enjoyed the time that I spent with him.

I know during my 20s, during my years in real estate, I think he despaired if I would ever get married and that he would ever see grandchildren. I finally met the woman that I would marry in 1999. In 2000, I brought her up from Louisiana. My parents were not at the wedding as we had a falling out over differences of opinion over the friends I kept. And the first few years of my marriage, our relationship was tenuous at best. The first years of my marriage were times that I wish that if I could do over, I would do it differently with us keeping better relations with my parents.

When my first son was born, that was when he was overjoyed. And when Heather provided him a second grandson to go with the first, two years later, he was “over-the-moon.” My mother said to me yesterday, at the funeral home where we were making arrangements for my father’s burial, when I was choking up over “not being the son that I wished that I could have been to my father when he was alive”, that I “gave him the best possible gift that I ever could have given him by giving him 7 years to be with his grandchildren”; grandchildren that he thought that he wouldn’t ever see as his father’s early death weighed heavily on him.

My father and two of his beloved grandchildren

My father loved his family, though he was not a demonstrative man. None of his generation was. They were the generation that got through the Second World War, on the battlefields, on the home-front, and trying to live life while a war was going on and taking lives. My mother was going through his personal effects this morning and when she got to his wallet, she sat down and cried when she saw the contents: a picture of me and Heather, and pictures of his grandchildren. Those pictures were absolutely important to him because they represented his family.

We are an interracial family. My wife is Caucasian, my grandchildren are Hapa (half and half). We have extended family roots that span Japan, Canada and the United States. My father was not all that interested in pursuing his roots, but I’m sure he’s going to get one heck of an eye-opener at all the people in our now expanded family who are waiting to meet him at the gates of the place where we all go to when we pass on. Because it isn’t just going to be his father Masumi and his mother Chizuru who will be waiting for him at the gate, it will be my father-in-law, my grandmother and grandfather on my maternal side and all our extended relations.

I just want to extend my thanks to all the people who expressed their well-wishes and their condolences at this time. To my dear step-sister Terry Klos, our step-nieces Tanya Anthonisen, and Denise King and our dear cousins Paris and Eve Saizan who are also keeping my father in their hearts today. Thank you. And to all my friends who grew up with me and went to school with me who expressed their sadness and their condolences, Thank you again. That means so much to me. And I thank you for your love and your kindness in expressing your thoughts to me.

My last memories of my father, which are just as vivid as the first is of my father’s vitals flickering one last time as I walked in the hospital room. My mother says that he tried to convey something to me; that he loved me at the very last. When they turned the machines that were keeping him alive off; his spirit and body lingered just long enough to ask me if it was alright to go. I held his hand throughout the entire process, and leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Go, be at peace…I love you, Dad” in Japanese and his heart stopped immediately. He heard what I said, knew that I had taken on the mantle of the “head of the entire family” and that it was alright for him to depart this earth. Being there with him felt like the right thing to do: My father was there when I came into this world, I wanted to be there with him guiding him as my father went from this world to the next.

When my wife, my children and I were heading home on the SkyTrain; we saw the clouds break as we got to Main-Street Station and it stayed that way all the way to Edmonds when I saw this absolutely beautiful rainbow. I would like to think that it was my dad, saying his final goodbye to me and to my family. It just stayed long enough for me and my family to see it and then it dissipated.

I will always have the memories of my father in my heart. I will always remember what a strong and caring man he was. Despite the pain in my heart, I will always know that he loved me to the very last, that he loved my wife (who he felt was like a daughter to him) and my children. My mother is lost without him and it tears me apart when I see the expression in her eyes that makes it seem like she doesn’t want to live without him. All I can do is to be a bulwark of strength that she can rely on.

I write this with tears in my eyes, but I know that he lived a good life, that his passing was quick and relatively painless. I know that he would not have wanted to continue to live considering the damage that the heart-attack had caused. He was an independent strong man and the last thing he would have wanted was to live the rest of his life as an invalid. He knew that it was time to go and that his entire family was there together to say goodbye.

I ask that my extended relatives who have gone before me: “Take care of my dad, he’s probably lost and lonely because his family that meant all to him is back in this world. Take care of him for me until I get there.”

My last words are to my father: “Dad, you were the one who brought me into this world. You guided me into being the man I am today. You have now given me the responsibility over the Chikamori family as a whole and passed your inner strength on to me. I will do my best to give the same example as you gave me to my own children. You told me always to never give up, to always keep fighting; to not let anything bring me to my knees. I am the stronger, because you were in my life. You were always loved, Dad, and you will never, ever be forgotten. Farewell, dear Dad, but I can’t say good-bye; because I know that we will meet again, when I pass from this world. I love you, Dad…and I will miss you for the rest of my life.”


  1. This is a wonderful tribute to your father, and you are very lucky to have shared such a close bond with him.

    (Lydia from Loss of a Parent group)

  2. YOU, are a very lovely loving heart-felt man. I have such respect for you, such generosity of spirit displayed. May all the GODS, in heaven and beyond .. in the Universe, be they Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish, whatever.. crown your blessed holy head with the jewels of the spirit in this life and in the next. For, you are wonderfully loving.. I love you..Dorie, from, '' bless you, and bless you again Hugo.. I bow to you, with Japanese respect of old world customs.