He crashed into the side of a transport truck.
I was at school at the time and was called to the staff room.
“That’s unusual,” I thought. “I wonder what I got in trouble for today?”
I wasn’t in the habit of getting in trouble at school. After all, Japanese public school was strict, and there’s one man I didn’t want to face — Mr. M.
Mr. M was the social studies teacher and basketball coach.
During orientation for new students, he would put on a face and pretend he was a nice guy. But a nice guy he wasn’t.
And there was no way to avoid him going to that school. You were either in his homeroom, had him as a social studies teacher, had him as your coach on the basketball team, or some combination thereof.
If the entire grade were called out to the gym for a rally or equivalent (it was rarely if ever for anything fun), he would be there.
Sometimes, much to our chagrin, he would even show up to Phys Ed. class to scream at us. Fun.
Of course, you never knew when you might encounter him in the hallways on campus either.
Look, maybe Mr. M was a decent guy once upon a time. But at some point, he got kind of mean. Some say it was after he got married.
He would shout and yell at you. He would hit you over the head with a stack of papers. He would pull your hair, throw basketballs at you, or even give you a swift kick if he thought you deserved it.
In Jr. High.
What a guy.
The Long, Dreadful Walk to the Staff Room
I’d already had my share of encounters with Mr. M though I don’t think I had it as bad as some kids did.
Maybe my turn had come.
My heart was beating out of my chest heading into the staff room.
To my surprise, I wasn’t chewed out by Mr. M or any of the other teachers.
No. It was much, much worse.
They were all looking at me with sympathy. I was confused.
The only thing I could hear was my dad was in the hospital.
I couldn’t feel a thing.
I didn’t know everything that had happened. But I soon found out my dad had crashed into the side of a transport truck, on his motorcycle, at an intersection with flashing yellows.
I had no idea how bad it was.
But as we were beckoned over to inspect his condition at the hospital, my heart fell. My dad wasn’t conscious and was being heavily operated on.
He was cut and bruised all over.
My dad remained in a coma for 10 days. He never woke up.
A New Feeling
My dad had two funerals. One in Japan (where I had grown up), and one in Canada (where I was born).
The turnout, in both cases, was far beyond my imagination.
I couldn’t believe how many people he had impacted, as an evangelist, teacher, leader, and more.
For once I felt something, I’m not sure I had ever felt before — I admired him. I admired my dad. I’m not sure I even understood what it meant to admire someone completely up until that point.
His life was cut altogether too short, but as my family and I would come to see, with everything he’d accomplished, it’s as if he had lived two lifetimes already.
He was one of the most knowledgeable men alive when it came to the Bible. But ever the forward-thinking innovator, he was early to the internet, email, building websites, and making videos (and he made videos that were far more entertaining than most vloggers do these days).
He was incredibly prolific in each of his pursuits and loved traveling and playing the trumpet too.
Reaching for the Stars
I guess you could say I was a bit of a late bloomer.
When my dad passed, I was 13, and I didn’t even know how to read or write in English.
My computer and technological literacy were relatively strong, but I didn’t understand the internet, email, or building websites. I did not play an instrument, either.
That all changed in a hurry. I was determined to correct it. And the only reason I can see I sought to correct it was because of my admiration for my father.
Reading and writing? I conquered that in a matter of weeks.
Figuring out the internet, email, and building websites? By 14 I had built my first website, and before long, I had multiple websites up and running across the internet.
As for learning music, I had already written my first song by that point.
I was also given a guitar by a friend of my dad’s (and that’s a story worth telling too) and started learning when I was 17. My guitar teacher later told me I surpassed him within a lesson!
Music brought into my life a much-needed sense of belonging, in a country where I had few friends, and no sense of community.
I took everything upon myself to fix, and soon became like Atlas crumbling under the weight of the world. But that’s another story for another time.
Tribute to Dad
In some small way, I’m still paying tribute to my dad, every day, with the admittedly ridiculous amount of work I take on.
This post is a tribute to him too.
I’m sure he would be proud. And he would also tell me to take more time to enjoy my life, no doubt.
I will, dad. I will.