Shake, Rattle, and Die

Shake, Rattle, and Die

It was bound to happen.

My first earthquake experience in southern California occurred yesterday in the wee morning hours. Two o’clock in the morning to be exact, as I was snuggly tucked in my own comfortable bed, dreaming peacefully of warm sunshine, palm trees, and languid sunset strolls on the sand.

As many of you know, I’ve spent a lot of time on those Santa Monica beaches these past two years. Odds were growing that The Big One would eventually hit during one of my periodic visits. I fully understood the risks, but I still always dreaded the exact moment when nature would finally snuff me out.

Fortunately for me, this wasn’t The Big One. In fact, this one barely rated a mention on the LA morning news. The rattling only registered 4.2 on the Richter scale with a couple of milder aftershocks thrown in for good measure. The epicenter, however, was disturbingly close to my location—just a scant 16 kilometers south of Malibu Beach.

As close as it was to my neighborhood, there were fortunately no injuries with this quake, no reports of significant damage, no breakout fires, and no resulting tsunami warnings.

For comparison sake, the 1994 Northridge Earthquake registered a magnitude of 6.7, killed 72 people and caused more than $20 billion in damage. If that weren’t scary enough, the strongest quake ever recorded in California history occurred on January 9, 1857, around Fort Tejon, just north of Los Angeles. That one measured 7.9 on the Richter scale and ruptured about 225 miles of real estate along the infamous San Andreas Fault.

Still, my own “minor” earthquake experience left me a bit skittish and unsettled. We’re all familiar with being jolted out of a sound slumber in the middle of the night. You know the feeling. It’s pitch black. You’re disoriented, and your brain refuses to function properly—as if stuck in limbo between the primal stages of semi consciousness and partial cognizance.

Initially, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. To be honest, I thought my dog, Bingo, was running zoomies underneath my bedframe. When it dawned on me that Bingo was still thousands of miles back in Kentucky, that was when I knew something bad was up.

By now, I’m finally thinking “EARTHQUAKE”! My initial reaction was to get out of bed and run outside. You see, I’m on the bottom floor of a five-story condo. The last thing I wanted was to be pancaked by the floors above and buried in the ensuing rubble. I’d gladly take my chances with flying debris and burning gas lines as I made my heroic escape.

(By the way, I’ve since learned that the experts strongly advise against making these types of instinctive moves. You’re much more likely to be killed or severely injured by a dislodged potted plant or errant wine bottle to the head. It’s best to stay put, to take cover under sturdy furniture, and find creative ways to protect your vital organs.)

Before I could scramble toward my front door exit, however, the shaking suddenly dissipated. Twenty seconds later, it was all quiet on the western front. My adrenaline was still pumping, though. Try as I might, there would be no sleep for me the rest of the night. I had somehow cheated death and felt obligated to tell all about how I miraculously escaped the clutches of the Grim Reaper.

Okay, I’ll admit I’m embellishing a bit. I never thought I would actually croak, nor did anybody I talked to the next morning. In fact, most of the patrons at the morning Farmer’s Market weren’t fazed in the least by the overnight rumblings. They’d gotten used to these occasional disruptions of their rhythmic lifestyles. They’d all become fatalistic, foreboding, and furtive in how they lived their lives.

I’m hoping I don’t ever become like them. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I find myself thinking a lot more about death. Not in a morbid way, mind you. But rather in the context of savoring life’s blessings. I’m telling you, life is short. Every part of it is worth savoring in some manner or other.

The reality is that we can’t cheat death. We’re all eventually going to die from something. Either cancer or a bad heart is going to get us. Or perhaps we’ll meet a grisly demise in an auto accident, airplane crash, or a steamy crime of passion. Maybe an earthquake or some sort of natural disaster will eventually spell our doom.

The truth is, we don’t know how we’ll eventually go, so you better live it up while you can. There’s nothing like a near-death experience—perceived or real—to help us appreciate our blessed and charmed lives here on earth. Regardless of circumstances, I want to encourage each and every one of you to savor the moment, to smell the flowers, and to cherish the moments together with friends and family.

Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Go ahead—travel the world if you’re so inclined. Order the lobster. Dance like no one cares (which—by the way—they don’t).

Live with no regrets. After all, you never know when THE BIG ONE might hit.

Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist, military veteran, and award-winning author. He currently serves as a freelance sports journalist covering the Kentucky Wildcats and Cincinnati Bengals. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Monday Night Horror

Monday Night Horror

Buffalo Bills’ players, coaches, and team officials kneeling in prayer at Paycor Stadium after abrupt and chilling ending to Monday Night Football (Photo Credit @BuffaloBills).

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

In what was shaping up as a game for the ages, Bengals versus Bills on Monday Night Football abruptly ended on a chilling note. Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after making what looked to be a routine tackle. After the collision, Hamlin—a second-year player out of Pittsburgh—popped back up on his feet but fell immediately to the turf a split second later.

The Buffalo Bills later confirmed that Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following the hit. His heartbeat was restored on the field, and he was transferred to UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.

Talk about scary. In one fell swoop, the overflowing record crowd at Paycor Stadium went from a night of anticipated merriment to several hours of abject horror.

For coaches, players, and their families, it had to be surreal. NFL players are a different breed of tough. They’re desensitized to broken bones, torn ligaments, and concussions as part of what they do. This injury, however, was different. Life or death is not part of the job description. You could see the shock, anguish, and concern etched on the faces of everyone on the sidelines. Imagine being Hamlin’s mom, escorted from her seat in the stands into the waiting ambulance taking her precious son to his unknown fate.

For media members in the press box, confusion reigned. We came to cover a football game matching two of the top teams in the league in their hunt for playoff seeding. We didn’t sign up for this. It’s difficult in that moment of chaos to process reliable truth with the rampant speculation around an unconfirmed medical prognosis. All of a sudden, everyone in the media room had a medical degree, or at least a relative working at the local hospital texting furiously with the latest breaking news on Hamlin’s condition.

As media members, we did the best we could in disseminating accurate information as the events were unfolding before us.

According to my notes, the tragic moment occurred at the 5:58 mark of the first quarter with the Bengals leading 7 – 3. I’ve watched a lot of professional football over the years. During that time, I’ve never seen a stretcher and ambulance summoned so quickly. Medical personnel furiously attended to Hamlin for about twenty minutes while the 67,000 or so looked on in stunned silence.

Watching players from both teams kneel jointly in prayer for a fallen comrade is always one of the most sobering sights in sports.

Five minutes after the ambulance pulled out, we all got the word that “the game was temporarily suspended until further notice.” Forty-five minutes later, after discussions with both teams, the NFL officially postponed the contest. During the next hour, people filed out of the stadium in a very orderly fashion, fully cognizant and accepting of the fact that no more football would be played that night.

In the tunnels underneath the stadium leading to the locker rooms, we witnessed players consoling each other and hugging their family members. Understandably, we had no access to any players, coaches, or administrative personnel.

“I don’t care who you are, you are not coming down this hallway,” said one Bengals’ official.

The evening was a stark reminder that as much as we love the NFL, the league embraces a brand of competitive violence that always leaves the door slightly ajar for these types of potential tragedies.

To be fair, however, this incident was indeed different and somewhat unique. I’m old enough to remember the Darryl Stingley paralysis in 1978, or Joe Theismann’s gruesome ankle injury on Monday Night Football in 1985. The Mike Utley, Ryan Shazier, and Tua Tagovailoa injuries are all nightmarish events. They’re all part of tragic sports moments everyone wishes never happened.

This was worse. Don’t get me wrong—career-ending injuries are awful. Life-altering paralysis is unfathomable. The long-term effects of CTE are becoming exposed as a living hell. But they simply don’t compare to the immediate acuteness of what we all experienced tonight.

Hamlin’s injury was akin to Hank Gathers collapsing and dying on the basketball court. Thirty-three years later, I still can’t get that image out of my mind.

I doubt if I’ll ever be able to dismiss this one either.

Dr. John Huang covers professional sports for Sports View America. This post first appeared on If you enjoy his writing, you can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Meeting the Challenge

Meeting the Challenge

Bill Owen enjoys his last official day on the job at his beloved Rupp Arena (Dr. Michael Huang Photo).

(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – If those Rupp Arena walls could talk, I’m sure they’d sound a lot like Bill Owen.

Owen, President and CEO of Lexington Center Corporation for twenty-two years, retired from his position as chief cook and bottle washer for one of Lexington’s most iconic and recognizable public-gathering facilities on December 31, 2022. A big Kentucky basketball fan, Owen appropriately spent his last official day on the job—at Rupp Arena—watching the Wildcats dismantle their in-state rival, the Louisville Cardinals.

“You can’t grow up in Lexington and not be a Wildcat fan,” Owen explained. “When I was in high school, I had a paper route, and [UK Athletics Director] Bernie Shively was one of my customers. Once a month, I would go to Memorial Coliseum and walk past Coach Adolph Rupp’s office, and Bernie Shively would pay me my $3.20.”

Growing up Blue

As such, Owen’s connection to Lexington and the University of Kentucky was solidified early on. Born in Gainesville, Georgia, Owen moved to Lexington when he was only two years old. His father served as head pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, so the preacher’s kid grew up in the Ashland Park area of the city, attending Cassidy Elementary, Morton Junior High, and Henry Clay High School.

Owen would naturally go on to attend the University of Kentucky. After graduating with a degree in history (class of ’73), he surprisingly found himself working in commercial real estate development and asset management. Six years learning from Wallace Wilkinson (before he became governor) and another six years working with the renowned Webb Brothers honed his business skills to a tee. That led directly to Owen taking on his Chief Administrative/Financial Officer role for Lexington Center Corporation in 1991. Nine years later, when Tom Minter retired, Owen took on the role of President and CEO.

Lexington Center Transformation

If you somehow hadn’t noticed, the Lexington Center recently underwent a transformative facelift under Owen’s dedicated watch. The project was unique—not a mere renovation, mind you, but rather a virtual complete replacement and restoration. Because most indoor sports venues traditionally have short shelf lives, you won’t find many comparable basketball arenas like Rupp—not only surviving, but still relevant and thriving forty-five years after initial construction.

“They blew up Charlotte Coliseum after only nineteen years,” Owen ruefully recounted. “I’ve got underwear that’s older than that.”

In today’s climate, working with a daunting $310 million budget is nothing to scoff at, and Owen made sure every penny of it was properly distributed and allocated in this latest rebuild. The result is a brand spanking new looking Lexington Center, a shining beacon of pride within the local civic, arts, and business communities. None of that would have been possible without Bill Owens spearheading the charge.

And what a fabulous charge it’s been. Big-time concerts, memorable sporting events, and world-renowned visitors are all part of Lexington Center Corporation’s rich and vibrant pedigree crafted during Owen’s sparkling tenure.

Rupp Arena

The parade of concerts featuring A-list celebrities visiting Rupp Arena is long and lengthy—everybody from Paul McCartney to Elton John to Tina Turner. Owen specifically remembers being wound tighter than a banjo string the time he booked Turner. When it came time for her sound check the day of the concert, the “queen of rock ‘n’ roll” was nowhere to be found. It turns out her limo driver had mistakenly taken her to Louisville instead of Lexington. Fortunately, with the help of a police escort and a slight curtain delay, the Rupp audience rocked for a full two and a half hours as Owen looked on in relief.

Then there was the Garth Brooks concert on Halloween weekend in 2014. If you remember, Brooks played four performances over two nights in front of 70,000 adoring fans. Over the years, Owen admits to becoming somewhat celebrity desensitized, but he remembers meeting Garth backstage and talking about their kids attending the same colleges.

“By gosh, here I am standing here talking to Garth Brooks, and it’s like I’m talking to another dad I just met at a tailgate,” said Owen, himself a proud father of three.

The very next night, however, it was back to reality as the University of Kentucky hosted Pikeville in a college basketball game. When it came to Rupp Arena, there was never a dull moment.

“What that building contributes to the community,” Owen gushed. “Obviously it’s the home of UK Basketball, which is its marquee and our most important relationship—but for the community and for the state of Kentucky, it’s so much more. You can’t underestimate its impact. Being able to stretch its life well beyond its peer group, that’s kind of special.”

As far as basketball games at Rupp, Tayshaun Prince’s five three-pointers to begin the game versus North Carolina stands out prominently in Owen’s mind. Hosting NCAA tournament games also provided quite a thrill. Coincidentally, Owen served as the official scorer’s table representative when Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad was upset by Texas A&M in 2007.

“Had Pitino not done that, we would have never heard of Billy Gillispie,” Owen quipped.

Convention Center

Not to be outdone, the Lexington Convention Center has had its share of grand moments and distinguished visitors as well. President George W. Bush came a calling for the Little League International Congress in 2010. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also made visits to the Lexington Center during subsequent years.

“Growing up in Lexington, I think of our little burg of a community,” Owen reflected. “But yet, here we are hosting sitting and former presidents in our convention facilities. It’s something you think about. Our organization met that challenge. I guess that’s one of the things that’s significant with the Lexington Center’s staff. As an organization, we met every challenge. I can’t think of a thing that we were ill equipped to achieve. And now opening this really grand new facility, that’s kind of the zenith of it.”

Owen, with President George W. Bush, at the Little League International Congress held at the Lexington Convention Center in 2010.

Opera House

And finally, there’s the Opera House, one of the smallest theaters in the country that still offers its patrons a touring Broadway series. The city bought it through Lexington Center Corporation, renovated it, and gave it new life.

“I’m reminded of the line from The Wizard of Oz,” Owen said. “Dorothy, with tears in her eyes, looks at the Scarecrow and says, ‘I think I’ll miss you most of all.’ And they put that on a plaque on the entrance to the Opera House. And it’s next to a plaque where the original founders and board of directors of Lexington Center Corporation are listed. And to think that my name is up there with them. That’s very humbling—particularly for somebody who grew up here.”

Owen’s commemorative plaque at entrance to the Lexington Opera House. “I think I’ll miss you most of all.”

Disasters Looming

Lest you think Owen’s tenure was all sunshine and roses, think again. Two of the most significant world-wide crises occurred on his watch.

For Owen, 911 resulted in many sleepless nights. As a public assembly building manager, he spent countless hours poring over those endless reviews by Homeland Security. Think about it. That fateful Tuesday morning in 2001 forever changed the manner in which people gathered for concerts, conventions, and ballgames.

Covid-19 threw Owen an even bigger haymaker.

“March 12, 2020, for me was the day the earth stood still,” he recounted. “We’re in the second day, first game of the girls’ Sweet 16 tournament. We had just come off of three record-setting financial years. The arena is deeply under construction…and it all comes apart.”

In one fell swoop, Lexington Center went from one hundred twenty-six full-time employees to, at one point, only seventeen. Personnel decisions are always difficult. After all, it’s your work family. Time after time, Owen had to tell a lot of good friends that they couldn’t work there anymore. That was especially tough.

Tensions with UK

Here’s something I perceived was even tougher on Owen. Over the years, it’s been well documented that the city of Lexington and the University of Kentucky have engaged in a tireless (and often bitter) tug of war over ownership rights to Rupp Arena. Should a downtown location be the major community focus, or would an on-campus facility better serve the needs of the university? With so much at stake financially, it’s natural for friction to develop between the two negotiating factions, especially when they possess different end goals.

You know you’ve struck a nerve when you’re satirized in an editorial cartoon.

And yet, Owen kept his cool and remained philosophical through it all—the fickle fate of his beloved arena forever at the mercy of an unexpected regime change, a newly elected public official, or the ever-shifting whims of the state legislature.

“I’ve been married fifty years,” he told me. “UK has been in this building forty-six years. Our relationship with UK as our tenant is not unlike my relationship with my wife. It’s not like it’s been fifty years of wedded bliss and everything great. Nor has it been fifty years of combat and conflict. There’s been a share of both. But overall, both of us are a lot better off because of the relationship. And that’s kind of the way we are with UK. There are times when it’s been more of a business relationship. And other times it’s been more of a partnership.”

Who’ll Steer the Ship Now?

At age 71, Owen appears fully prepared for the upcoming retirement transition. In 2018, Lexington Center Corporation entered into a booking and management agreement with OVG, Oakview group. The California based private management company fully took over operations in October of 2021 and has since become the new Bill Owen—just as the old Bill Owen dutifully served out his term as Director of Construction in order to complete the final phases of the building project.

Understandably, Owen has a few reservations about an out-of-state corporate entity making future decisions regarding his community treasures.

“I’ve had to make my share of decisions,” Owen acknowledged. “In twenty-two years as CEO here, I’ve made an awful lot of decisions with my head. But I’ve made some with my heart too. Can you develop that if you don’t have a personal connection with the community? You probably can, but it’s easier to develop if you’ve got that connection.”

Grandpa Bill

On a personal level, I can’t see Bill Owen sitting on the couch watching Netflix and eating Bonbons. You never know, though. Everyone has their own way of dealing with major life changes.

Family Strong! Seated Left to Right: Owen, wife Debby, daughter Katie. Standing Left to Right: Daughter-in-law Sydney, son Grant, daughter Kristen.

“You can prepare for retirement every way but emotionally,” Owen said with a wry smile. “You can’t prepare emotionally until you experience it. I’ve worked steadily since I was fifteen. I got my last paycheck a week or so ago. I told my wife, ‘I’m not getting a paycheck anymore.’ That’s an adjustment.”

Owen’s wife, Debby, hates to fly, so large-scale travel most likely won’t be an adjustment problem in the years to come. Although they own some Florida property, Owen assures me he’s staying put in Lexington. He may do some consulting. A distillery docent or a horse farm tour guide aren’t out of the question, either. Most importantly, Owen just enjoys spending time with his three-year-old grandson, L.J.

“He’s taken over without firing a shot,” Owen joked. “Had I known they’d be so much fun, I would have had them first. It’s nice being close to family. I’m blessed with that.”

Owen, with grandson L.J., at a recent UK basketball game.

Thoughts Regarding Legacy

Sitting in the concourse of Rupp Arena, I asked Owen about leaving a legacy. What were his most significant professional accomplishments? How did he want others to remember him as he walked out the door?

“That’s a tough question,” he answered pensively. “I managed to be a part of keeping the torch lit. And improving all of our facilities—Rupp Arena, the Convention Center, the Opera House primarily—and extending our facilities’ contribution to the city, and to the community for a long while.”

Owen then whipped out his phone and showed me a picture of a brand-new street sign on the private driveway connecting Manchester Street to the Rupp Arena garage. The sign said “Bill Owen Way.”

“That was bestowed on me just two weeks ago,” he said. “I’m very proud of that. I’m very humbled by that.”

The newly dedicated Bill Owen Way leading up to Rupp Arena.

The Importance of Faith

Appropriately, I concluded my chat with Owen about a topic very near and dear to his heart—his Christian faith. Over time, I’ve interviewed a lot of successful individuals, and I’ve noticed one thing in particular. People of faith are somehow different. There’s a special aura surrounding them. That was certainly true of Owen. Through all his business successes, the son of a Baptist preacher always managed to keep spiritual things at the front of the line.

“I’ve grown up in the church,” he said. “I was active in leadership. I taught Sunday School. A personal faith and belief in God and reaching him through a Savior in Jesus Christ for me is an important part of my life. It always has been. The hope of something grander after this life is something I was taught, something I believed—and still believe.”

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.’”

Congratulations, Bill Owen, on your retirement.

A very hearty “thanks” to you and your talented and dedicated staff at Lexington Center Corporation for always meeting the challenge!

Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION.

Daughter Dearest

<strong>Daughter Dearest</strong>

Our daughter, Katie, got married this weekend. From the very second she was born, her mom and I always wondered if her wedding day would conjure up some bittersweet moments. We figured we’d get sorrowfully choked up watching our one and only child cleave from her parents and unite as one with her brand-new husband.

Sadly, no longer would I be the main man in her life. Even though I loved her first, there was a new sheriff in town. Maybe I’m biased, but I think wedding days are especially difficult for dads with daughters.

Emotions ran high as I saw my little girl in her wedding dress. While standing in an alcove off to the side, my mind played through a kaleidoscope of images of her being born. Immediately after delivery, Katie had trouble breathing. The doctors thought there might be something wrong with her heart. That’s every parent’s nightmare.  

I remember the ecstasy of finally bringing her home from the hospital for the first time. Then, as the years flew by, teaching her how to swim, dropping her off at school, and taking her to Space Camp. There were also those god-awful piano recitals, suicidal toboggan rides down Stonewall Hill, and endless treks on our adventure vacations around the globe.

How could it have possibly gone by so quickly? How did she grow up so fast? Why didn’t I savor those precious moments more? I’d say that’s every parent’s lament.

Suddenly, the big moment was upon us. It was as peculiar as it was poignant taking Katie’s hand, walking her down the aisle, and proudly giving her away. As the wedding officiant, it was even more surreal leading the couple through the ceremonial vows proclaiming them as husband and wife. How many other dads get that honor?

Please God, don’t let me mess it up.

To begin the ceremony, I talked about how marriage is more than a legal contract between two people. It’s a holy covenant that God designed between a man and a woman to reflect the relationship between his son, Jesus, and his beloved bride, the church. As such, there are oaths and vows and sacred promises made to one another. There are signs and symbols and ceremony involved in the process. I emphasized to the bride and groom that there was much more to it than just my signature on a page.

Moving forward, I then gave Katie and CJ what I thought was the secret to a successful marriage relationship. The secret is twenty-five percent. Let me explain.

Everyone has heard that marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition, that the husband and wife are equals. But I’m telling you right now that it’s not enough for the couple to meet each other halfway. Fifty percent simply is not adequate. You have to put in that additional twenty-five percent. If both parties go seventy-five percent toward each other, chances are excellent that the marriage will overflow with grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the unconditional love that God desires for it.

And then occasionally when the sh*t hits the fan, one of the partners might just have to suck it up and go one hundred percent of the way.

I’m confident that Katie understands that already. She and I have been through the fire. We’ve battled through some horrific trials together in dealing with Kanisa’s life-altering mental health issues. I couldn’t have survived without my precious daughter. I can’t adequately express how thankful and proud I am of her for always being there for me. We’re as close as a father and daughter could possibly be to each other. And now I’m giving her away.

As the couple exchanged rings and I pronounced them husband and wife, I was struck by the sanctity of the moment. Strangely, there wasn’t a trace of sadness coursing through my mind or heart at all. Rather, the only emotion I felt was a pure sense of joy watching Katie and CJ embark on a lifelong covenental journey together. Kanisa and I weren’t losing a daughter after all. God was blessing us with a pat on the back.

Katie and CJ—on the biggest day of your young lives, I’m the happiest man on the face of the earth.

Brother, Colleague, Patriot, and Friend

<strong>Brother, Colleague, Patriot, and Friend</strong>

Here’s the last photo Dr. Durbin and I took together.

It’s been a tough week.

Today I attended the funeral of Dr. Douglas Durbin. Doug was my former business partner. We successfully practiced orthodontics together in the central Kentucky area for over twenty years.

Back in 1995, when I completed my orthodontic residency at the University of Kentucky, Doug already had an established practice here in town. My dream was always to practice in Lexington, but the opportunities for new graduates at that time were slim to none. Upon the recommendation of a mutual friend and colleague, Doug took me in without batting an eye and gave me that chance of a lifetime. For that I’m eternally grateful.

You don’t spend twenty years working intimately with someone and not get to know them. After all, business partnerships are like marriages. With all due respect to his beloved bride Gina, Doug really had two wives during our two decades together. Trust me, I knew Doug well. He had a big, compassionate heart.

Personality-wise, Doug and I were polar opposites. He was bold, brash, and confident. I was quiet, unassuming, and self-conscious. Somehow, we made it all work. That’s not to say I didn’t want to wring his neck at times (and I’m sure he wanted to do the same to me). But at the end of the day, I knew he was always acting on what he thought would best benefit our patients, staff, and practice.

I still can’t believe he’s gone.

Whenever a well-known person suddenly passes, it’s always a shock to my system. John Lennon, Princess Di, and Kobe Bryant come to mind. You always picture those icons as living forever. I thought the same about Doug. He’d be the one writing about me—not the other way around. For anybody that knew him, the guy was larger than life, like a real-life Captain America always swooping in to save the day. It’ll take a while for his death to sink in.

As we grieve, here’s what I want everyone to know about Doug. He did everything with gusto. He treated every single task—however menial—as if it were the most important duty on earth. Sometimes that attention to detail and persistent over analysis drove me nuts. Yes, he was often arrogant, pompous, overbearing, and bombastic in arguing his points. But I seldom felt uncomfortable because I knew exactly where he stood. I admire people with passion and conviction, and Doug was certainly passionate in what he believed.

As you might expect, a person such as that is also extremely competitive. Doug always wanted to be number one. I often wondered how we could coexist as equal partners within the same dental practice. Wouldn’t he always be looking to build himself up in front of our patients and staff at my expense? During one of our long discussions at the end of a grueling work week, I asked him about just that. His answer surprised me.

“There’s no competition between us,” he said. “I consider you totally a part of me.”

I didn’t necessarily understand it at the time, but looking back in hindsight, I can see where Doug always had my back. It really was like a marriage to him—united together in one flesh. Brotherhood, solidarity, and esprit de corps. Loyalty meant everything to him. What more could you ask from a colleague or friend?

At the end of his life, Doug had his priorities in order. He loved the Lord, he loved his family, he loved practicing orthodontics, and he loved his country. You might say he went out in a blaze of glory, completely at peace while surrounded by loved ones with all his priorities totally intact (although he’d never admit to the United States being “intact” with Democrats still in office). He was extremely proud of his military service.

Last but not least, Doug would have wanted everyone to know that he was an Eagle Scout. He once told me he valued his scout badges more than his orthodontic degree. It’s not surprising then that one of his favorite Scripture verses comes from the book of Isaiah.

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  –Isaiah 40:31

Douglas Drymon Durbin—my Christian brother, orthodontic colleague, fellow patriot, and friend—a superhero of sorts to all who depended on him.

May you—Captain America—forever rest in peace.

How a Super Dog Saved my Life

How a Super Dog Saved my Life

R-E-L-A-X. Take a deep breath. My beloved Boston Terrier isn’t dead just yet.

I’ve seen a lot of people writing on social media recently about the loss of their dogs. Their words and pictures are always poignant and soul stirring. But because their furry four-legged friends were already six feet under, the posts were also hauntingly sad. It got me to thinking—just like with our human loved ones, shouldn’t we be paying homage to our beloved pets while they’re still fully alive and kicking?

Ten years ago, I would have scrolled right past all those emotional social media musings without a second thought. You see, back then I wasn’t just indifferent to dogs, but I’d just as soon kick ‘em in the head. I was bitten by a dog as a kid, so I was naturally kind of scared of them. Plus, dogs were a genuine nuisance in my mind. They barked, they needed to be fed and groomed, they chewed on shoes and furniture, and they stank. I still remember going over to a friend’s house after school, and it always smelled like…wet dog.

Man, how times have changed. I’ve since learned that having a dog alters your entire perspective on life. Nowadays, I read every single one of those pet-centered tributes with moistened eyes and a sorrowful heart. Believe me, it took me half a century, but I finally fully get it now. They’re called “man’s best friend” for a reason, and I want to tell the world about my best friend, Bingo, while he’s still around to enjoy the accolades.

Bingo’s nine now. That’s the same age as me in dog years. We’re both slowing down, and I’m not sure how much more precious time we have left together. However long that time is, I’m planning on savoring it to the max. After all we’ve been through, I simply can’t imagine life without him.

The truth is, Bingo saved my life. No, he didn’t drag me out of a burning house ala Lassie or Rin Tin Tin. But my little Boston Terrier came along—a godsend from heaven—at just the time I needed him the most. As my wife was battling her demons, I got Bingo as an act of desperation—a last-ditch effort to ease the burden for Kanisa during her journey of spiraling depression.

Unfortunately, the ploy didn’t work. Man plans, God laughs. Kanisa ended up paying Bingo absolutely no heed. I was the one left filling his water bowl and scooping his poop.

During the first two years of his life, I was still working full time, so Bingo remained cooped up in his pen for ten to twelve hours at a time. I did my best to keep him active, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re always slumped over the dental chair. My heart literally aches when I think of those dark nights of the soul when that poor little puppy just laid around in solitude.

Saturdays and Sundays did, however, provide a temporary refuge of escape. I started taking Bingo on weekend trips. Glorious, fun-loving, carefree joyrides out to the countryside where we could both decompress and chill from the rigors of the work week and Kanisa’s psychotic rants.

Gradually, as I transitioned closer into retirement, those weekend activities became the norm. My worries of having this “mutt I had to take care of” gradually morphed into the merriment of a “little buddy I enjoyed having around.”

Those of you still reading know exactly what I’m talking about. As human beings, we’re wired for companionship. As that companionship with my wife teetered on the brink, many well-meaning friends told me to simply abandon ship. “No need to destroy two lives,” they said.  I didn’t need to hear that. Nor did I need any tempting distractions luring me into activities I would later regret.

No, all I needed at the time was a playful little slobber-mouthed, bug-eyed, tail-wagging, loud-snoring, foul-farting fur ball to keep me company. Bingo ended up going everywhere I went—on long runs, covering sporting events, jaunts to the beach, and cross-country airplane rides out to California. I found myself immersed in the world of pet-friendly hotels, dog parks, and restaurant patio decks. Although life wasn’t necessarily grand, it suddenly became imminently survivable.

And now, here we are—both Bingo and I on the sunset side of our fleeting time on earth. With the average life span of a Boston being ten to fourteen and that of an average American male being seventy-six, our most productive years are undoubtedly behind us. Those sobering statistics don’t lie. If I heed my own advice, I better cherish every single second of our remaining moments together.

Here’s the best thing of all about Bingo. Kanisa loves him more than I do. It took a little while, but he eventually worked his magic on her also. For the past couple of years, the two have been inseparable. He’s been the best therapy money can buy.

So, I want the world to know that BINGO IS A GOOD BOY. As I’m writing this, my miracle mutt is at my feet snoring away. When he wakes up, I’m going to give him a huge hug. Then I’ll leash him to my waist (and heart), and we’ll go running off into the sunset together.

Testimony Time

Testimony Time

My grandmother (third from left in back row) and her daily prayers played a vital role in my faith journey.

Rather than starting the New Year off whining about the weather, or the Wildcats, or the ‘Rona, I thought I’d begin 2022 by doing something many of you may have already done.

I had the distinct pleasure the other day of sharing my personal Christian testimony with a Saturday morning men’s group. Sure, I’ve shared bits and pieces of my personal faith journey with others many times before. But I finally realized I had never presented it as a complete story from beginning to end.

I’d certainly never written it out for all the world to see. So, here it is—the story of my spiritual walk, preserved in writing (and possibly in perpetuity) for anyone who might be curious or bored enough to take a peek.

For those of you looking for a “Saul on the road to Damascus” type transformation, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Because for me, there was no childhood abuse, teenage drug addiction, or young adult promiscuity to overcome. I didn’t rob banks or commit serial murders before coming to know Christ. In fact, for the first thirty-five years of my life, I was just your average Joe, living a mundane worldly existence, with nary a thought for spiritual matters.

Although devoid of much drama, my journey was certainly unique in terms of my family heritage. Faith, as you might agree, is often a function of geography. The reality is that if you were born in India, you’ll most likely be Hindu. If you were born in Thailand, chances are you’ll be Buddhist. Based on those odds, I should have been a godless heathen laboring away in an obscure Nike shoe factory in China. Instead, I’m freely and comfortably living out my Christian faith in glorious retirement in the greatest country on the face of the earth.

How does that happen? You’re about to find out.

My entire spiritual journey can be summed up in two words: PREVENIENT GRACE…that God loved me even before I came into existence. He was saying to me exactly what he said to the prophet Jeremiah. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart.”

My personal story of being “set apart” begins four generations earlier in southern China. Before my dad was even a speck in my grandparents’ eye, some missionaries snuck into my great-grandfather’s village and shared with him the love of Christ. He accepted Jesus into his heart, and subsequently became—of all things—a pastor in the Chinese Christian Church.

His daughter, my grandmother, was extremely devout. I’ve since heard stories of how she was the ultimate prayer warrior, rising early every single day to pray for God’s blessing and for the salvation of her family for generations to come. I’m firmly convinced that the power of her fervent daily prayers undoubtedly shaped how this unlikely story would play out.

One of her sons—my dad—fled the mainland in 1949 (right before the Communists took over) to the island nation of Taiwan. While there, he studied Civil Engineering and married my mom who, believe it or not, also came from a Chinese Christian background. My older sister, Mary, was born a year later. I came along three years after that.

In 1963, my parents took a leap of faith by pursuing the American dream. They left the comfort of their native homeland and immigrated to the United States in hopes of making a better life for their children. My dad completed his graduate studies at the University of Virginia before taking a job as an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Kentucky. Shortly after arriving in Lexington, my younger brother, Michael, was born.

Growing up, our family wasn’t exactly religious. We knew about Christ but didn’t really know Christ—if you know what I mean. My mom and dad were way too busy assimilating into American culture, raising a family, and paying the bills. We didn’t have the time nor the interest in going to church. Other than an occasional cursory prayer at night, I don’t really remember having any specific spiritual regimens at all.

Then, when I was 13 years old, my dad got severely ill and nearly died. My mom made a pact with God saying that if my dad recovered, we would all reconnect with our long, lost spiritual roots. Sure enough, my dad miraculously recovered, and our whole family got baptized together several Sundays later.

To say I committed my life to Jesus at that point would be a bit of an overstatement. To be honest, it felt a bit forced. I didn’t really know what I was committing too. If truth be told, I hated going to church—getting up early, wearing itchy pants, sitting through boring sermons, and being ridiculed in youth group for my lack of biblical acumen. I went simply because my mom made me go.

How liberating it was for me, then—several years later—to finally leave home and never have to step foot in church on Sunday mornings again. I could sleep in, wear sweats, and watch football all day long to my heart’s content. I wasn’t rebelling against God by any means. I just didn’t see the necessity of giving him any of my precious free time.

It wasn’t until our daughter Katie was born that those long forgotten spiritual pangs (or pains) began to resurface. Like many of you parents reading this, both my wife, Kanisa, and I wanted our children to grow up in a Christ-centered home. So, we joined Centenary United Methodist Church and proceeded to pour ourselves into every available church-related activity. Sunday School, Wednesday night dinners, volunteer activities, children’s choirs, social events—you name it, we were there.

Despite it all, my apparent newfound piety was crafted more out of a sense of responsibility, duty, and obligation—rather than a true love for the Lord. I found myself still just going through the motions. It wasn’t until I was “volunteered” for the church adult discipleship team that my journey toward spiritual maturity honestly took off.

In regard to church committees, let me just say that there are far better ways to waste your life (I’ll leave it at that). But this discipleship team was different. Led by Pastor Ellen, I gradually, grudgingly, and painstakingly discovered that a relationship with Jesus Christ was indeed not only important, but it should be the most important thing in one’s life.

Mind you, this was no eureka moment. I didn’t have the scales peeled instantaneously from my eyes. It was more like the germination of a ripe seed that was planted in nutrient-deficient soil. Suddenly—with just enough sunlight and water—my curiosity got the best of me, and I began to explore.

I read through the entire Bible and all the various commentaries. You’d often see me in the public library, choking down everything I could find from the likes of Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, C.S. Lewis, or Francis Chan. I listened intently through countless sermons, began memorizing Scripture, teaching classes myself, and leading spiritual retreats. I participated in service projects and joined accountability and prayer groups—anything and everything to draw closer to a God I longed to know more about. I thought I was well on the way to getting the prize.

If you’re still reading up to this point, here’s where the story gets complicated. My goal is to encourage you, but I also don’t want to mislead. This journey of mine has by no means been linear. There have been a ton of ups and downs, highs and lows, forward surges and spiritual backsliding. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been blessed by the comfort and assurance of knowing Christ’s presence. But I’m also ashamed and embarrassed to tell you that I continue to have doubts through it all—sometimes huge, ever-lurking, and crippling doubts.

It didn’t matter how many prayers I’d prayed, how many sermons I’d dissected, how many Scripture verses I’d memorized—it was still hard for me to reconcile my faith with all the death and mourning and crying and pain going on in the world around me. I’m familiar with all the various discourses regarding original sin and free will. I’ve heard all the stories about Moses, and Noah, and Jonah in the belly of a huge fish. I can recite many of the Apostle Paul’s letters by heart.

It’s just when all those trials and tribulations hit so close to home that those crippling doubts started to resurface and take root. A good friend passes away unexpectedly, a business venture fails, a long-lasting relationship disintegrates. A downward spiral began when my mom developed Alzheimer’s. I wobbled a bit more when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. And then, Kanisa’s horrible ongoing bout with mental illness had me precariously balanced on the edge of unbelief. I desperately wanted to shake my fist at God and cry out, “Why?”

I think it was Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote, “Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do or die.”

During one of Kanisa’s lowest moments, I was sitting with my pastor in our home listening to one of her numerous psychotic rants. I looked over at Pastor Tom with sorrowful, exasperated tears and asked him that burning question… “Why?”

He didn’t quote Tennyson, but his answer to me resonated just as loudly.

“I don’t know why,” he said. “But I do know this. God loves you. He also loves Kanisa. He’s with you right now, and he wants what’s best for both of you. No matter the obstacles, His grace is sufficient.”

There’s that word “grace” again. Prevenient grace—God loved me even before I knew him. Whether through my grandmother’s prayers, or my mom’s persistence, or just through landing on a random church committee, it’s easy to see in hindsight how God was preparing me for the challenges I’m facing today.

Here’s how else God has prepared me. Nope—it’s not through prayer, or Bible study, or worship, or meditation (although all those are certainly important). I’ve saved the best for last. Associating with other fellow brothers and sisters in Christ has done more to encourage and strengthen my faith journey than all the other spiritual disciplines combined.

I still can’t explain to you exactly why bad things happen to good people. But by watching how good people respond to bad things, you can’t help but be inspired by their sense of belief. It’s not their comprehension of God that’s compelling, but rather their connection with Him. Some of my dearest Christian friends have been through hell and back—but they continue to believe, persevere, and even thrive. I want what they’re having.

And you can have what they’re having too. Through God’s grace, a heavenly home for all of eternity is available for all of us. Won’t you accept His invitation? Just the fact that you’re reading these words is validation that He loves you and desires to have a relationship with you.

Here’s what I want to leave you with. Faith and Christian discipleship is a life-long journey. It doesn’t matter if you’re slow out of the blocks or if you’re fading down the stretch. You may feel as if you’re always running against the wind while dodging unexpected detours along the tortuous path. Just be assured that God is with you every step of the way on your way to grabbing the prize.

I don’t think I’m anywhere close to the finish line yet. But I do know that I’m closer now than I’ve ever been before. It’s the journey that matters.

Let’s press on together. It’s time to finish strong.

Meet the Fiancée

Meet the Fiancée

Many parents dread the day when their children fly the coop. Often, it’s a totally different experience with girls as opposed to boys. For those of us “blessed” with daughters, the challenge can seem especially daunting. And if you only have one daughter, letting your little girl venture out into the world on her own is—to say the least—anxiety producing.

Such was the case when our “little” Katie left home back in 2010 for college in California. Neither her mom nor I handled the departure very well. Kanisa went nuts (literally), while I warded off the pangs of loneliness and depression by straightening teeth, cutting grass, and smoking weed (well—two out of the three).

Seriously, though, ever since Katie was born, I’ve prayed protective prayers over her. I wanted some assurance that my little girl would always be in good hands—and that one day, God would bring the perfect soulmate into her life, and they’d live happily ever after. Over the past few years, I started having doubts about whether that was ever going to happen.

With Katie, boyfriend relationships have always been complicated. In the past, she actively sought out guys who had an edge to them—artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and Hollywood types connected to the film and fashion industry. They were all decent dudes at heart, but every guy she dated seemed to be passively rebelling against all the important things her stodgy old dad stood for: a steady paycheck, paid vacation time, and a 401k deferral plan.

Just when all seamed hopeless, however, in steps CJ. Katie and CJ met doing volunteer work at a local LA Farmer’s Market. After the first few dates, we all knew there was something special between them. A good Catholic boy, CJ currently works in the world of private equity, and he values many of the same traits that I deem vital for a spouse: loyalty, dependability, foresight, patience, adaptability, respect, and kindness.

But still, even if CJ were the second coming of Pope Francis, there would still be questions in my mind of whether he was good enough for “Daddy’s little girl.” Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. So, back in June of this year, I went ahead and gave my blessing to CJ to ask for Katie’s hand in marriage. Katie has told me on many occasions that she doesn’t really care for an extravagant wedding ceremony (whew!), but the proposal part in advance better be DARN GOOD!

Hey CJ…the pressure is on. I’m watching you closely.

That’s exactly why I’m flying across the country in the middle of Covid to take part in this surprise proposal extravaganza. Katie’s girlfriends have lured her away for what she thinks is a nice relaxing weekend getaway to San Diego. Meanwhile, CJ has arranged for a hot air balloon ride to whisk the two lovebirds away into the Friday night sunset. Somewhere up close to the heavens and power lines, he’ll pop the question, and I’ll assume Katie will say “yes” and melt in his arms.

Sadly, the only thing that melted away was CJ’s perfectly choreographed plans. People tell me it never rains in San Diego this time of the year. Well, people are wrong. Not only did it rain on Friday, but thunderstorms and lightning moved into the area and washed away the hot air balloon excursion. Give CJ credit, though, he didn’t freak. With some impressive last-minute bobbing and weaving, Katie still wound up at the end of the romantic kerfuffle with a rock on her finger.

Now it’s Saturday, and the surprise fest continues as many of Katie’s and CJ’s closest friends are sneaking into town to celebrate with the newly engaged couple. This is where I step in; dear old Dad secretly flying all the way in from Lexington to share in the intimate moment. As everyone gathers expectantly at her friend’s parents’ home, I’m waiting anxiously, hiding in a back bedroom. I’m wound tighter than a violin string as I prepare to spring into action for the grand reveal.

This is a bittersweet moment for father and daughter. You see, Katie and I have grown so close in these past few years. We’ve had to lean heavily on each other as Kanisa battled her demons. Honestly, I don’t think I could have survived without my daughter at my side. Now I feel selfish having to share her with anybody else. The thought makes me feel guilty and unbearably sad.

Just as waves of melancholy begin to pour over me, I’m reminded about God’s plan for love and marriage. In the Lord’s eyes, marriage should be honored by all. For just as Christ, the bridegroom, loved his bride—the church—so should a husband love his wife unconditionally. Scripture describes it this way: “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

One flesh—the perfect union—joined forever in mind, body, and spirit. How beautiful is that? Isn’t that what I’ve been praying for all along? CJ’s mom, Marita, tells me she’s been praying for the same thing. Immediately, comforting thoughts and feelings of gratitude flood into my mind and heart. It turns out that instead of losing my little girl, we’re all being blessed by another immeasurable gift from God.

Welcome to the family, CJ Faulwell. Take good care of Katie. I’ll be watching you. Now that the secret’s out, you know the rest of the world will be watching you too.



My dad died on Saturday, September 11, 2021.

The guy lived a heck of a life and passed peacefully at home at the ripe old age of 93—so shed no tears, please. But even though I couldn’t have scripted a more appropriate departure for the pearly gates, there’s still an overwhelming sense of sorrow and grief surrounding his immediate absence. It’s impossible to pay homage amid the emptiness when the wounds are so fresh—but I’ll give it the old college try.

Back in 2006, as Bah-Bah was clinging to life support after undergoing brain surgery for a subdural hematoma, I wrote the following eulogy in preparation for his passing. After a miraculous recovery, I read to him what I had written. He listened stoically, inscrutable as ever, brushing it off as if somehow knowing that there was more to his story.

(Remember that the following was written nearly 15 years earlier. Please excuse the over dramatic narratives, false assumptions, and run-on sentences. As they say in the stock market, past performance is not indicative of future outcomes.)

When I was in the third grade at Picadome Elementary, our social studies class sponsored a school-wide assembly on ancient Chinese civilizations. My teacher asked if anyone in the class knew any real live Chinese people who could come and talk about their native culture and customs. I quickly volunteered my father, who after meticulous thought and preparation, pulled off a presentation worthy of the most prestigious Academy Award-winning performance. He not only kept hundreds of hyperactive elementary school kids enthralled with his pictures of ancient pagodas and his Chinese calligraphy skills, but he also dazzled everyone with his yo-yo talents and shuttlecock kicking acrobatics. Imagine the immense pride etched on the face of an insecure eight-year-old boy as 4th, 5th, and even 6th graders came up to me on the ensuing days and told me how “cool” my dad was.

OF COURSE I ALREADY KNEW I HAD A GREAT DAD. That was evident the minute he  decided to leave his native homeland, traveling a world away in pursuit of the American dream of creating a better life for his family. In 1961, while entrusting my mom, my older sister Mary, and myself to the care of relatives back in Taiwan, my father left for the United States, alone with only a small, packed suitcase and a handful of change. Today, as I gaze at my daughter Katie basking in the luxuries of American teenage life—as I stand here with my brother the compassionate physician, my sister the distinguished professor of pharmacy, and my loving and supportive wife Kanisa—I can only imagine the courage it took to make that momentous decision which would impact our family for generations to come. Visions of my father tug delicately at my heartstrings—all alone in a strange land, yearning longingly for his family back home, working diligently on his studies, while subsisting on his daily ration of tuna fish sandwiches and Ramen noodles.

I ALREADY KNEW I HAD A GREAT DAD. My Dad was smart. There wasn’t a mathematical problem that ever stumped him. Whether it was solving polynomial equations, analyzing modulus of elasticity, or calculating the area under a curve, my dad always had the correct answer. I think he secretly looked forward to helping me every day with my homework, and I now treasure every single second we spent together during those personal sessions. I remember frequently showing up in class the next day taking all the credit for solving the impossible problems no one else (including the teacher) could explain. 

I ALREADY KNEW I HAD A GREAT DAD. My dad never complained. Like the apostle Paul, he was always content, regardless of circumstances. The day-to-day stresses of raising a family in a strange country, language barriers, cultural prejudices, graduate and doctoral studies, occupational advancement, and health and financial challenges just never seemed to bother him outwardly. He had a peace about him, an omnipresent positive outlook, a type of concealed joy derived only from the belief that he was living a life of righteousness and virtue.

I ALREADY KNEW I HAD A GREAT DAD. My dad was such a hard worker, making the most of every opportunity afforded him to teach and study. He valued education and exhibited such a passion for his profession, working long hours into the night to tweak a lesson plan or to develop a new formula. Even his retirement years were filled with doing what he loved—authoring a leading engineering textbook that is currently used by universities worldwide. Throughout it all, he never boasted, never bragged, maintaining that same, simple humble servant spirit he exhibited while filling drink cups at Wednesday night church dinners.

I ALREADY KNEW I HAD A GREAT DAD. The greatest gift he gave us kids was loving our mother so deeply. They were inseparable for fifty-one plus years. Whether they were going for walks, serving dinner, vacationing, or watching television, wherever you saw Pete, you also saw Jane. My dad frequently conveyed the need for me to “love my wife unconditionally”.  He walked his talk, and the most difficult aspect of his passing will be the painful empty void left in my mom’s own heart.

A couple of years earlier, my sister relayed to me stories of my grandmother—a deeply devout Christian woman who took it upon herself to pray daily for the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life. I frequently picture her in my mind, a feeble, stooped, well-weathered matriarch out in the bucolic countryside of a fog-shrouded Chinese river valley, surrendering herself in prayer every morning so that the salvation of her family and future generations would be secured. Today, in this bittersweet moment—a time of mourning and celebration—standing amongst a priesthood of believers, I take great comfort in knowing that my grandmother’s prayers were answered—that although we will miss my father dearly on this earth, that one day we will all experience  the inexpressible and glorious joy of being reunited as a family. I ALREADY KNEW I HAD A GREAT DAD. The angels are rejoicing! May the gates of heaven be graced with your presence! I love you Baba.

Left to Right: Number 2 son (Michael), Number 1 grandson (Gabriel), Bah-Bah, Number 1 son (me), Number one granddog (Bingo)

Of course, my dad didn’t die in 2006. In fact, he survived another decade and a half, teaching me more lessons about unconditional love that would resoundingly resonate within my own personal life and marriage. Despite everything I had written in my dad’s premature eulogy—up to that point—I hadn’t really seen anything yet!

Because almost immediately after my dad recovered, my mom started showing signs of dementia. For those not familiar with the devastation of Alzheimer’s, let’s just say that it sucks. Watching the matriarch of our family—someone so vibrant in her youth—slowly and agonizingly lose her memory, her mind, her bodily functions, and eventually her life is beyond gut-wrenching. My heart still aches just thinking about it. For you see, up until that time, my mom handled everything in our household—from the daily chores, to the grocery shopping, to the social calendar, to paying the bills, to organizing our lives. My dad, on the other hand, would have been hard pressed to balance a checkbook or set the thermostat.

And yet, when the tables were turned, my dad rose to the occasion. He was there at my mom’s side every step of the way—from the early days of trying to keep her mind active by memorizing Scripture together, to later on by driving her to appointments and cooking her meals, to near the end where he had to spoon feed her and change her diaper. All the while, he maintained that same positive contentment that I so much admired. In caring for my ailing mom, he taught me the greatest lesson of my life. He became the inspiration for me as I struggled in dealing with my wife’s ongoing depression and mental illness. As well-meaning friends encouraged me to consider abandoning ship, there was Baba—a rock of stability in the shitstorm of life.

In the years since my mom’s death, my dad has also taught me much about two traits which I sorely lack—compassion and generosity. As I was sorting through his mail a while back, I often wondered why he received so much junk mail. It turned out that all those free gifts were due to the multitude of random checks he had given to all the various charities over the years. His philanthropy was punctuated recently by the donation of his life savings to the university and church he so dearly loved.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t bristle a bit at having my inheritance given away. But those dollars pale in comparison to the values he taught me in his life here on earth—a life lived with industriousness, integrity, fidelity, humility, and love. Yep, there’s that word “love” again. My dad loved life, he loved his work, he loved people, he loved his family, he loved his community, he loved his church, and he loved the Lord.

I picture my dad in heaven now, finally reunited with my mom—holding hands, going for walks, and pouring drinks at that great Wednesday Night church dinner in the sky. Well done, Baba. Well done! It’s not a bad way at all to spend eternity, eh?

May your legacy here on earth live on through all those you have so graciously touched.

A big shout out to daughter-in-law number 2 (Michelle), who sacrificially provided Bah-Bah with all the daily comforts of home for the past three years

Me, Bah-Bah, and granddaughter number two (Katie) in our last photo together

Dr. Yang Hsien “Pete” Huang Obituary