A year ago Father’s Day, Akemi was brave, braver than I expected her to be. After Bing passed away in January 2003, she and I have found it tough to be at church on Father’s Day when the whole agenda is suitably, predictably about fathers and fatherhood. For one who has put a priority on showing up at church and church events, Father’s Day for a few years after was the one day I excused ourselves from the pain of being there.
I figured, though, we couldn’t escape the day forever, and she and I have mustered through a number of them since. As the years have moved on, I have recognized that for Akemi, each Father’s Day represents another year, and an increasing part of her life, without her father here.
Then last Father’s Day she was asked to speak in church about honoring fathers. I think the invitation came at a time when she was able to consider it, and she was asked to speak by someone whom she respects and in whom she sees a lot of her dad. After she agreed, I reminded her that the most memorable Father’s Day talk I have ever previously heard was by our good friend Marsha, whose father had passed away when she was a baby, and who spoke about her brother and other men who had stepped in at important times in her life.
I was very proud of Akemi for her willingness to accept the assignment, as well as for what she said. She cited how she can live her father’s legacy by following his good example of “how he respected my mother, how he loved his parents, how he was excited to serve others, and how he chose to be happy, even in stressful situations.” She said she realizes now that when someone shares an experience with her about her father, it’s Heavenly Father’s way of giving her the ability to know the man she only knew as a child. She also shared that one of her friends thought she has “some kind of weird sixth sense” ability to “know things,” and Akemi recognized, perceptively, I think, that the Holy Ghost was prompting her friend to let Akemi know that the presence and influence of family members beyond the veil is real.
As Akemi and I arrived in Boston at the end of August 2009 for the start of Akemi’s college life, my girlfriend Linda, her husband Henry, and their son Jonny were “all hands on deck” in helping us move Akemi into her dorm. The morning of move-in day, Henry said something that touched me so much I will never forget it. He said, “I could never fill Bing’s shoes, but on a day like today, I am honored to stand in his stead.”
While nothing can replace him not being here, I’m continually grateful for all of the sensitivities extended and support we’ve received. This past week as I was swimming with Akemi on a short east coast visit, in the water I felt so happy and, well, satisfied: happy that I was doing something that I could not have managed even a few months ago, and satisfied that we were enjoying life, just as Bing wanted us to, as complicated as that has become. As Akemi recognized, Bing chose to be happy; so should we be, and we are.
P.S. I have always liked this photo of the two of them together at the back door of his office because it captures Bing’s cheerfulness.