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My Eulogy for Dad

This Eulogy was read on June 25, 2014 during my father’s service.

On behalf of my mother Pui King, my brother Ken, my sister Cheryl, and myself, we thank you for taking this time to gather with us in remembering our father Buck Wan. There are few specific people that we would like to thank – Sui Ling Wong, and her son Ming for travelling all the way from Toronto to attend this day. Michelle Pan and all of the palliative care team were so supportive. A big gratitude to Joanne, my sister in law, as well as my brother in law Wesley, and to my cousin Fung for going above and beyond in helping us during a very stressful time. We would also like to give a special thanks to Denny Yu, for his invaluable generosity, presence and energy during our father’s illness. My father was so comforted when you were around. Thank you so much Denny.

I am eternally grateful to my brave niece Lauren, who contacted me early enough in time which enabled me the opportunity to see Dad just before he left.

My dad, he was man with incredible energy, curiosity, beliefs and devotion. He was a man who definitely made his opinions clear and knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it. There was nothing ambiguous about him. My dad comes from a special generation of immigrant Chinese who led storied lives of hardship and heartaches. As with many of his fellow immigrant males from Canton, he maintained a single minded determination to create a beautiful life for himself, his wife and kids. He fought hard but he loved affectionately and tenderly. He was a fighter from the beginning to the end. Even as a kid in China, he was already known as someone not to be messed around with.

With this fighting spirit, he overcame and survived the period of the Sino- Japanese war, where he witnessed unspeakable barbaric atrocities and cruelties. Dad himself was almost recruited to fight in that war as a child-soldier, luckily his cousins went and saved him by pulling him out of the truck that was taking him towards the front Iines to a certain death; imagine he was only 8 at the time. My father was forever grateful to these cousins and never forgotten the love that they showed for him. This traumatic period must have influenced and deeply shaped his philosophy of life and how he was to live it.

His perseverance to succeed reflected in his work ethic as soon as he arrived in Canada. He worked hard in the family store and in both Canadian and Chinese restaurants learning and earning a living. During the summer months, he would head north to Prince Rupert where he worked in the Canneries to earn more money. He diligently saved his cash and avoided the many distractions that are often tempted on a good-looking young bachelor as he kept to one singular vision, to return back to China to find a wife. He did just that, my parents got married in 1958.

When I was a child, I saw my father as a larger than life, authoritative, and proud figure, always working and a little impatient at times. This tough exterior however hid one of the most sensitive, caring, and thoughtful human beings who believed in karma and the well being of others. He was a protector, a provider, a caretaker and a teacher. Dad always made sure everyone was properly fed, taken care of, whether it was family, friends, or just mere acquaintances. He sponsored my mother’s side of the family to this country in order help them build a better life. He talked dearly of his own father and elder brother Shong Buck Chong of how they helped him in immigrating over to here. At the time, it wasn’t simple for the Chinese to immigrate here. He also kept a special place in his heart for his sister Sally, his other brother Sonny, his nieces and nephew Jean, Pearl, Gladys, Leona, Joyce, Diane, and Stephen. He always mentioned how amazing his friend Morris was to him. My dad enjoyed the many excursions with his long-time friend Bong and his wife Yuen Joe who also happens to be Wesley’s my brother in law’s parents. After retirement, Dad enjoyed hanging out drinking coffee and bantering with his buddies at the Oakridge Mall food court. My father was extremely appreciative of all the people that touched him and in turn he was generous towards many around him.

I would like to tell you of this one incident during the time my father was working at Ming’s supper club. Ming’s would contract female singers from Asia, flying them from overseas to sing with the house band. At the time it must have been very glamorous and lucrative for these entertainers. On one particular evening, after finishing the Iast night of her contract, one of these singers went celebrating with friends before flying back home to her infant daughter. During the course of that night while driving back, they had an accident, a full head on collision with another vehicle. The driver escaped with minor cuts and bruises however the woman sustained critical life threatening injuries. She was here alone, had no insurance or any financial means and was far away from her child who was thousands of miles away. When dad learned of the accident he would often take the time to visit the woman in the hospital. He took it upon himself to help her as he felt it was his duty to do the right thing. When it was evident that she was not going to survive from the injuries, Dad told her that he would to take care of everything and not to worry. He promised on her deathbed that he would make sure that she would receive an appropriate burial in order for her spirit to make the proper passage, plus money would be sent back home to help her daughter. So Dad did a fundraising drive in Chinatown and collected enough money from the community in support of this cause. When the woman eventually succumbed to her injuries and died, as promised she was given the proper funeral and burial and money was sent overseas. Dad could not have lived with himself if he did not try all he could to save her soul. He believed passionately in social responsibility and justice. My father tried to live a life of integrity and in my opinion, heroically.

My father was heroic up to the day he left. He was the ultimate caretaker, making sure all of his bills and responsibilities were taken care of. Even on the night before he passed, he asked my sister Cheryl if his property taxes were paid up yet. He fought so hard and nobly till the end.

I remember a man that was fiercely independent and autonomous that he drove his car even up till the day of his diagnosis. I remember a man with a smile that was so radiant that it would charm the nurses at the Grandview highway dialysis clinic. He would be so charming that one of the nurses one day brought him gifts of freshly caught crab from their husband’s catch. He really enjoyed that particular clinic because it was a happy place of gather and laughter. I remember when he cackled and laughed uncontrollably all over the couch while watching Peter Seller’s in the movie The Party, I remember the time he would take my mom and us kids driving through Stanley Park every Sunday on his rare day offs, or taking us out to eat with him to discover and develop our culinary palettes. I remember the man who looked forward to planning and preparing diligently 8 course meals every Sunday for the weekly family dinners. He was so happy seeing everyone eating and sharing meals together as a family. I remember the man who loved all of his amazing grandkids, Lauren, Devon, Chris, and Ryan and how proud he was of Cheryl and Wesley, and Kenny and Joanne for being parents. I remember the time how he talked about how he wanted to marry my mother from the very first time he laid eyes upon her. I remember my moments that we shared together, the conversations on life, social issues, politics (l especially liked our common hatred for the Harper government). I remember the time that I was able to have with him, unfortunately in hindsight, it really wasn’t enough. I remember the man who will always be my beloved father, Buck Wan Chong. I love and miss you very much Papa.

November 12, 1932 – June 14, 2014

Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night

Do not go gentle into that good night

Old age should burn and rage at close of day

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Though wise men at their end know dark is night

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night

Good men, the last wave by crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night

Grave men, near death, who see with blinking sight,

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

And you my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray

Do not go gentle into the the good night

Rage, rage against the dying light


– Dylan Thomas

Entering the Twilight Zone

For some strange reason my trip back to my hometown this time around was like starring in an episode of the Twilight Zone.  I was literally in a time warp witnessing life rapidly advanced before my very eyes – suddenly transported  or pushed into the future. In fact my flight was more of a time travel that brought me years ahead into the future rather than being my simple annual visit to see my family. Everyone that I have had a chance to see here has in some form physically changed from the last time I’ve encountered them. How could this have happened so quickly and how have I’ve never ever noticed it before? Within a span of two years, everyone and everything has physically gone through a noticeable aging process which means that I too must have aged dramatically in the eyes of others… and that sudden realization has hit me hard. I am no longer the person who I thought I was while instead I’ve become myself in the future. That means that I too must have grown up and have become older…. much older. Why is this so shocking? I guess I’ve always continued to view myself and everyone else around me as the youthful, energetic, starry-eyed, idealistic 20 year olds. Now does that mean that I should wake up a face reality? The aging process is sometimes still a surprising reality for me. I have subconsciously tried to ignore it but obviously can no longer avoid it.

Man drowning in his emptiness

Today I overheard (perhaps eavesdropping is the proper word but it was definitely not intentional) a conversation between two strangers while leaving the gym this morning. I caught portions of a dialogue between a man and a woman in a very private conversation in a public environment – it was exactly like a scene within a movie. What caught me was the frank emptiness leaking from the male figure’s voice and in his physical demeanor while the consoling female tried to provide a bit of advice  in order to alleviate him from his disposition. The brief dialogue went somewhat like this:

Female: Is it because you are lonely?

Male: ….uh… yeah I don’t know what to do.. about… this…

Female:  You should really definitely think of social clubs or activities with other people like you.

Male: ….. Can’t get this feeling out of myself… maybe should…. I’ve stopped taking the ant-depressants you know….

Female: … okay… maybe you should….

Male: maybe should….

That was basically the entire moment that I was able to witness and yet it struck me kind powerful. It was not a huge conversation but it was the sparseness of it which added to the moment. It was the placement of these two bodies in that tight space that intrigued me as well. Even though they were in a rather intimate conversation, there was a huge distance between the two. They were definitely not in the same place in their lives. The tin-like tone along with the time it took the male to deliver his words molded  his whole being. The intense sadness of loneliness was coming out of that man and it was clear he that was losing himself somewhere within. He was void of who he was and could not find the path of getting back to himself. He seemed to be drowning in his sense of nothingness. It was a very quiet and soft cry for rescue that was heard loud and clear by only a few.

A little thought for 2011 and beyond

I am back again reflecting about what I want to achieve for the next 40 or could it be 50? years of my life. There are so many possibilities and projects that I still need to see realized. Dance is still a strong and uncanny passion that will never be  abandoned from my being. There is much more that I NEED to say therefore I am planning to get back into the studio very soon. I already have a few projects that are swirling around my head/heart/stomach and loins just waiting to get out. I’ve missed the creative environment in the studio with crazy courageous dancers and collaborators. The craziness in the kitchen is intense and fun however I do miss a certain sense of magic. Still have a deep appreciation and love of cooking but I am looking for ways to balance these two things that I do in my life. I have come to realize that I am able to achieve anything that I want to if it peaks my curiosity to learn. I guess that is the answer…. I need have to have fun, continue to learn, and to make art. BALANCE of the practical and the impractical will always make me happy…. makes sense doesn’t?

Love Montreal!

While walking around just recently, I had a sudden realization of how much love I have for Montreal (my adopted home for the last 17 years! – nuts). This city is remarkable with all of its history, politics, architecture, and language issues. It truly is the most fascinating, contradictory, passionate, artistic, and sexy place in North America… and it is where I call home! My neighbourhood is a melting pot of nations, styles, incomes, and professions. There is an incredible Montrealer and Quebecers pride that one doesn’t find anywhere else in Canada. The people are as diverse as they are the same. They are beautiful, ugly. pleasant. rude, aggressive. fun but not apathetic to their beliefs. Aesthetics, politics, and lifestyles may differ however the majority of us sing, scream, laugh, dance, drink, and fuck with all of their souls! Now that is what I call the spirit of living – Nous sommes vraiment les Bons Vivants. I am proud and happy to be part of and to share this wonderful place with my fantastic friends, family and fellow Montréalers!


Backyard Summer 2010

Autumn is definitely knocking on the door today. The wind and skies are churning with a mix of chill along with pinches of rain. Very intense and so exciting. It is brewing into something thick and rich. The summer has been incredible here with the sunny hot days and bountiful food and drinks with friends and loved ones.

summer is here montréal

Summer has arrived in my  incredibly wonderful  city of Montreal! Here in the Mile-End Plateau, the council seems to be doing an fantastic job in turning the quartier to an eco-conscious, sustainable, and truly livable paradise. More bike lanes, reduction in traffic, larger sidewalks, green spaces, planting of trees, plant distribution and public farmers markets are progressively brought to our neighbourhood. What is best is that most of my friends live within walking or biking distance… pretty lucky stuff I would say.

I will soon be having a little break from my culinary classes for July. I have to say that I am looking forward to taking some time away from school and the kitchen to rejuvenate myself for the next session. Will be doing a stage at l’Hotel W in August for the Banquet course for two weeks. It will be good to actually work in the field rather than in the class room. This last week at school has been a bit arduous. Everyone seems to be burning out a little and the passion or care by my fellow students and the instructors themselves seems to be wading thin these days.  We are all looking forward to getting away from one another. Visiting my family in Vancouver soon! Can’t wait.

Miss you my amazing friend from Lyon

It has taken me some time before being able to sit down and blog. Due to a recent tragic event, I have not been able to make a clear sense of things. Nothing ever prepares you for senselessness. My very dear  friend Bernard passed away on February 11, 2010… There are things that are so unexpected and inexplicable in life that no form of analysis can ever resolve or answer the many unanswerable questions. All I can say is that Bernard was an amazingly generous, fun, crazy friend. Someone asked me once if the Personal Fitness Course that I took was a waste of time because I didn’t pursue it as a career in it. I replied: Are you kidding me? I might have found the fitness industry boring, insipid and stupid but I made a great lifelong friend from it. Absolutely no regrets as the choices we make often leads to other possibilities and meanings. Making choices informs you on life and if you are lucky, puts you onto the path of meeting the people that might one day be very important to you. Bernard was one of those very important unique people that I have had the privileged to have met and called a friend.

Bernard and his beautiful wife Carolynn were the best Bon vivants and I wanted to emulate their love of eating great food. drinking amazing wine, and traveling the world. Bernard always found a way to laugh at things when it was going bad and there was always the typical French comment attached to it: “C’est Con!” He always made me laugh.

Eating dinner at their place was always an eventful feast with fantastic food and wine. Each meal was more decadent than the other. Delicious Foie Gras, Cassoulet avec Canard, Fresh raw Oysters on a half shell, Saucisse Boudin (only started to enjoy it at Bernard and Carolynn’s), Fondues, Sushi nights are some of the typical meals with copious amounts wine that was enjoyed at Bernard and Carolynn’s. I always ended stomach full and lying on the couch afterwards while they continued to party on. I admired and continue to admire their endurance and great taste for all the good and simple things in life. Damn, if we could have only eaten and drank our way around the world together! Glad we had a chance to attempt to just that one night in Paris where we met up and ate, drank, and walked as much as we could within a 7 hour period.  Didn’t have much time together but boy did we try to fill our stomachs as much as possible with the time that we had together. Man that was so fucking fun and so privileged to have shared it with these two beautiful people. It was extraordinary!

I devote my pursuit in the culinary arts to you Bernard. I will cook with the passion that you have instilled in me to appreciate food, wine, friends, and life to the utmost. Miss you very much my dear friend. Rest In Peace.

You are much loved and appreciated. Your friend, Tony