For Dad

March 3, 2021

This is the eulogy I delivered at my dad's funeral service on January 12th, 2021. For more details on my caregiving journey and our family's story, please read my previous blog post: Parenting your Parents: What happens when your parent dies.


When I think back to my favorite memories with you, I remember taking afternoon naps with you when I was little on that old futon in the office room in our old house, eating 稀飯 (xifan, English translation: rice porridge or congee) on Sundays before running out to Chinese school, driving over to 六姑姑’s (English translation: 6th aunt's) house on the weekends after we went to see yet another house for sale and determining it had bad 風水 (fengshui), and touring every single college you guys could think of way before it was time to actually think about college. 

I remember being in the car on the way to school and hearing the news about the planes hitting the towers, and then later hearing Mom say you came home covered in ash that night, and not putting it together until you talked about running out of the PATH train and seeing bodies falling from the sky. I don’t think I told you, but I had an absolute crying breakdown in school the next year because at that point, I had realized how close we were to losing you then, and so I am infinitely grateful to have had the last 20 years with you. 

I remember weekend afternoons spent together at the driving range at Fairway Golf Center, and my 3 or 4 clubs that I kept using even after I grew out of them. I remember when I went away for a Model UN conference for a weekend and when I came back you and Mom told me that we were moving. When you finally got our Princeton house, and we moved everything over and then kept going back to finish painting the old house to sell it, I remember that entire summer. Mostly because I spent it on the floor, painting wood trimming. Sometime after that I remember laughing because you sent Jesse back upstairs to change because you thought her shorts were too short. 

A photo of Ada as a chubby baby, with her mom and dad wearing formalwear
Mom, Dad and me, when I was a few months old

I remember when you had to talk to us about the layoffs and money and what we could afford and not afford anymore. I remember it kind of breaking you, when you realized how college financial aid really works, and what I would have to go through to pay for college. I also remember multiple conversations about you wanting to open a bubble tea shop in town, and making me do all of the business plan and math for it. I think at that point, you probably should’ve called my bluff of being pre-med, but I suppose I figured it out on my own. 

There are so many things that I remember, that I know you remember too. And then there are so many things I wish I had shared with you, but I feel like you probably might have already known or guessed. 

Like, how I decided not to get a driver's permit after passing the written test in driver's ed in high school. Remember how I waited until I was 18 so you could teach me? Well, the good thing is 1) it's been 10 years and I can still drive, 2) I am also really really good at parallel parking and 3) they now make parking sensors and auto parking features for turning into a spot, which is literally the only thing we did not practice together. I wish I had told you that while the rest of my friends were doing driving lessons on the weekends, I didn’t bring it up with you because I knew lessons would cost money and I didn’t want you to spend it. I know it seems silly now, but I am still so happy and grateful that I learned how to drive from you and that we got all of those hours together in the car.

I think you also probably knew how much I hated commuting. I didn’t have a good appreciation for how much you went through to be on the train that long every day, both ways, until my first internship in the city. Even at 18, I was exhausted doing 4-5 hours of commuting every day, I have no idea how you did it all those years.

And every day those two summers when I went into work next to the towers, I thought of you. When the building shook from an aftershock, and I literally watched the walls turn into jello, I thought of you as I was running down the stairs, asking myself, "what would Dad do?". You have no idea how relieved I was when I got outside and found out it was an earthquake aftershock and that you had felt it in the subway uptown and had gotten out safely. Just thinking about it, I can understand why you hated the city so much, and how much it must have puzzled you that me and Jesse turned out to love it.

You taught us to be proud of being Taiwanese, and to appreciate our heritage and stand up for Taiwan from a young age. I know you know I ran a bunch of Taiwanese American organizations, but I don’t think you know that most of that was because I was inspired by you. And your legacy will include the literal thousands of students I was able to meet and influence.   

I don’t know if you know, I think maybe you sensed it, but your siblings and their children love you a lot, too. I remember always being surrounded by aunts and cousins my entire life. Every cousin has so many good memories of you, and I know you were everyone’s favorite uncle. Honestly, I think being such a good uncle made you an even better dad to have. I never told you, but when I was 21 and going out to parties right before graduation, 四姑姑 (English translation: 4th aunt) called me and cried about you and Mom getting a divorce, and begged me to stop it. Yes, I know it’s not exactly great to meddle, but I think it was at that point that I realized how much she and your siblings loved you as a brother.

You don’t know how hurt I was, when people would treat you differently after your PD symptoms started to get worse. From waiters to cashiers, I think you sensed that I would take over the conversation so you wouldn’t have to deal with judgmental stares or people. Or how much I struggled at work to explain why I needed time to take you to appointments. I wish I had been better at all these things earlier, but because of your PD, I am a more compassionate, empathetic and understanding person.

You always taught us to be independent. I remember you sounding it out in the car for us, too.  I’m not sure how much of that was wanting us to be individually accomplished people or maybe a little resentment you had towards Mom. But, either way it stuck, and I am grateful. You should know that whenever I tell people about my career path, they are in awe and say wow, you’re so accomplished and so independent

In fact, I am also so independent thanks to you, that I never told you how I made poor Vincent wait six months before we even officially started dating. I guess his revenge was making me wait about a year for a ring. You were right, he is “a nice guy”, and I’m glad you guys got to hang out. I wish we had hung out more, you guys have a lot in common. 

I’m sad you won’t be at our wedding. I’m sad you won’t be here whenever we decide to have kids, and whenever Jesse gets promoted next. I’m sad that America and the American dream failed you. I’m sad you’re not here to see me admit that Jesse was right, writing this down last night was a good idea. 爸爸 (baba, English translation: daddy), I’m really sad.

Even though our time together has been cut short, I want you to know you are the best dad I could ever ask for. I know you always wanted to give us more and give us a better life, but in my mind, you gave us all we could ever ask for and then some. 

I know we will be sad for a while, but I know you must be happy to be free of pain and illness now and I know we will meet again someday. Like you always said, “I’m okay, don’t worry about me.”

I’ll see you later, Daddy.

Ada's Dad, Yuan, sitting on a bench shaped like a slice of cake, while holding a cane
My dad in Taiwan

If you would like to donate in Dad's honor, please consider donating to one of the following organizations:

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