Setting out to inspire is not a task that will be accomplished half-heartedly. And to be a part of someone’s story, creating a specific scenario in which another is inspired, takes a great level of dedication, skill, and sacrifice.
One of the most inspirational figures in my life is my father. Growing up it was clear he loved his family very much. Although he was a man of few words, unless it came to a joke of some sort, he mostly showed this love through his actions. He worked as a nurse at Riverview hospital and various group homes around the lower mainland. Having such a demanding job certainly took a toll on him, although he hardly showed it. He typically worked 12-16-hour days and still managed to spend time with the family – from hanging out with me and my friends to coming to my sport’s games (and there were many). Dealing with the mentally-ill, on a daily, over-time bases, to come home to a wife and three children was honorable enough, but to do it in such a loving way was downright miraculous.
On Christmas I would go with my mom and two sisters to visit him at his work. He always jumped on the opportunity of over-time and Christmas was never short of people taking time off. Each year, I found myself timid and frightened walking up to the doors, preparing to encounter who-knows-what! My fear was certainly justified. I was a shy boy as it was, but being surrounded by socially awkward people, often saying derogatory things or performing unpredictable acts, this was entering the lion’s den. But I never experience anything traumatising. Quite the opposite! Through watching my father’s passion for helping the mentally ill, and in the manner he did, giving them attention, love and respect, he certainly inspired me in my thinking and approach toward my own family and community.
ALS, also known as Lou-Gehrig’s Disease, is a neuro-degenerative disorder, incurable and hereditary, with no known predictable cause. Once my father was diagnosed with this disease, our family’s life was flipped upside-down. But the impact run’s deeper than we could ever-know.
Our family started to attend the yearly Walk for ALS, first in Abbotsford, then Port Coquitlam. The walk was aimed at raising awareness to the disease, and funds for research and helping those dealing with the everyday struggle of living with ALS. The first one I attended was certainly memorable. Being diagnosed with an incurable disease, and beginning to lose his motor functions, my dad was put on permanent disability. As friends and family began to gather at Mill Lake, not much was said. It was not a day to be joyful, that’s for sure, and most could only greet my dad and the family with a compassionate eye. Some managed a choked-up sentence, but for many, silence spoke volumes.
There was a specific moment where I came to a loss - when a few of my dad’s patients showed up. As they walked up to us the emotional grandeur grew. They came with hugs, sympathies and even complaints. As these few mentally-ill relented at my dad being gone from work, and as the tears fell from his eyes, it was clear my dad had a strong heart for those on the margins of society that he had spent so much of his life caring for.
He was an inspiring man in so many ways, and I only got to spend a fraction of my life with him. I believe his inspiration runs endless, and there’s no way of knowing how many people he helped in his career and in his life.
When my dad died, I had many loved ones show support and sympathy. I was given thoughtful messages, calls and even some gifts. One gift certainly stood out from the rest. Two close friends of mine, Katelyn and Kristen, wanted to come visit me one night roughly a week after his passing. As they showed up, I was greeted kindly as was expected, but also with something I did not expect.
Kristen is a talented painter. But her talent goes much deeper than simply creating a piece that is visually appealing. Her art has so much depth. It pulls from the physical and reflects the spiritual.
It takes great discipline and talent to create art that is deeply meaningful. As someone who has poured hours into my own art of music and writing, I have spent countless hours and energy into these crafts. Even though often I would prefer to play video games, or watch Television, what makes great art, and real inspiration, is the fact that it is rooted in tremendous sacrifice. The art itself is simply a reflection of this.
A while before my dad died, Kristen began to share her work publicly! There was a piece that captivated me instantly. I requested to purchase it! Unfortunately, there was already a buyer, and so I was disappointed but not surprised. As my two friends came to my place, Kristen was holding this specific piece in her hands. My heart jumped and my excitement grew. She told me her buyer fell through, and that she wanted me to have it as a gift.
I was deeply moved. This was such a necessary act of kindness that I desperately needed at such a time. As she not only sacrificed hours into developing her art, formulating the specific concept of this piece, placing each stroke of colour carefully and attentively, she also sacrificed the commission, giving an old friend a priceless gift. I couldn’t fully express my appreciation to her, and still can’t. All I can say is thank you, and that she is certainly inspiring.