Remembering …

On this long weekend, I am remembering both my father, Chi-Houn and my mother, Shuyin. We lost them both within 3 months of each other, and I miss them terribly.

My father and mother were amongst the finest science and engineering minds ever produced by Taiwan.

My father, Chi-Houn (“John”) was gifted with a photographic memory and an incredible intellect as a young boy, born in a tiny village in Pintong county, near Kaohsiung in the southern part of Taiwan.  Everything came easily and naturally to my father, and he was the first ever from his village to graduate from primary school, eventually going on to graduate at the top of his class in chemical engineering from the National Taiwan University, one of best universities in the world and ranked along with MIT at the time.  That was where he met my mother, Shuyin (“Susan”), one of the first women to graduate from NTU with a science, technology and engineering degree — another giant intellect, affectionately nicknamed by her friends as “Madam Curie” because of her beautiful mind and her incredible work ethic. That work ethic, her relentless drive to never come in second, and an acute attachment to treating others (and being treated by others) with fairness and respect, defined my mother’s path in life – it was how she approached every challenge and every relationship, no matter how difficult or how daunting.  Together, they were the “golden couple”, and attracted no small amount of jealousy early in their “charmed life” together.

My father was forced to escape the military dictatorship of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in the 1960’s, leaving my mother with a young son (me) and a newborn baby daughter (my sister Fay) in Taiwan, sheltering with our extended family.  It took him over 3 years of enormous effort before he was able to get us out, with the help and kindness of Canadian friends who took up our cause and mobilized multi-party political support to reunite us in our adopted land.  We owe everything to this country, which gave us a new life, literally, when we needed it most.

My father and mother never forgot this, and were proud Canadians right to the end of their lives.  They were always thankful for their adopted country, even as they fought for improved support and built institutions to connect and support their community here.

It was not easy being the children of John and Susan.  Their standards were impossibly high, always measured by intellectual performance and as a family, there was very low tolerance for anything short of excellence.  Emotions and feelings were weaknesses to be overcome, and actions were respected far more than words.  I left home at the age of 17 to find my own way, and in embracing my lived experience as an outsider, became a serial entrepreneur as my chosen path in life.  Only later in life, did I come to understand all of the gifts that my parents had bequeathed me … my inherited values, outlook on life, resilience, boldness, commitment to community, relentless pursuit of excellence and a built-in mindset that would never accept failure – ingredients that have stood me in good stead in every company that I have founded.

My younger brother Edric was born to John and Susan later in life, while rebuilding their lives here in Canada.  Edric was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.  In many ways, our entire family learned more from Edric than anything that we may have taught him.  He introduced a human dimension to our family, and he taught our family the power of kindness, patience, tolerance, empathy and love.  My wife Katrina (who is an angel on earth) and I took over guardianship of Edric when my mother was later diagnosed with Alzheimers, and he remains a treasured member of our family now.

My mother passed away on January 18, 2020 at the age of 86, after a decade long battle with Alzheimers.  My father passed shortly after, on April 11, 2020 at the age of 87.  We think he died of a broken heart.  They had been married for 61 years.  They are deeply missed by their son and his wife Yung and Katrina, their daughter Fay, and son Edric.

I remember towards the end, Katrina was speaking with my father every day, and she told me that one day, my father told her that he loved her.  He also told my sister Fay and I the same thing.  I had never heard those words come from my father before – I knew that he was trying to tell us that he was walking towards his next path in life, but that he did not want to leave this world without letting us know how he felt.  It broke my heart.

It is a powerful personal reminder that time is not an unlimited resource. And that it is incredibly important to make every moment count, to never let anything go unsaid and to make sure that we spend the time that we have w/family & close friends, on initiatives which leave enduring impact.