Besides getting to hang out with and enjoy the company of my parents and good friends here in Canada, another cool thing about visiting from Taiwan is that every time we come, we gain a day. For instance, this year, Onan and I left Taoyuan airport at about seven o’clock on the evening of January 24th and arrived in Toronto at a little after eight on the evening of January 24th. Crossing over so many time zones allowed us to enjoy(?) a fourteen-hour flight and fly halfway around the world in a little over an hour. Amazing. However, as is true for so many things in life, nothing is given for free. There is always a cost. In this instance, our price for the gift of time travel is the loss of one full day on our return.
What strikes me as odd this year is that our lost day will be Valentine’s Day. We leave Montreal on the evening of February 13th and arrive in Taoyuan on the morning of the 15th thus skipping the international day of love altogether. Of course, this sucks as I would have loved to have spent the evening of the 14th with my beautiful bride either snuggling at the movies or enjoying a candlelit dinner. However, my parents have taught me well and have shown me that the calendar should in no way dictate when we must acknowledge special occasions. This decoration on the wall or app on our phone should act as a reminder that certain events need to be celebrated; however, the love that is inherent in each special day is in no way locked into one particular date. Love is something that can be and should be celebrated at any time. Of course, keeping tradition alive is a beautiful thing. Nevertheless, there are always little hiccups in life such as traveling halfway around the world that make it impossible to celebrate on schedule. Trust me when I say that Rachel and I will enjoy both a candlelit dinner and a good snuggle at the theater when I return. We will celebrate Valentine’s Day together. That is not an issue. But then again, that is not what makes missing the 14th of February so strange.
In truth, I have been thinking about Valentine’s Day 2018 for quite some time. For a year to be exact. And not for the love that it represents. Quite the opposite in fact. It was on this day in 2017 that a good friend decided so wrongly and so selfishly to take his own life. (See track 79.) This is something that has weighed heavily on me over the past year. I cannot begin to imagine the palpable pain and suffering that his choice has caused his family. Having shared words with his wife and mother, I know that the burden is immeasurable and at times unbearable. For me, more than anything, I am left confused. No. That is not true. I am equally sad. I am equally angry. Nevertheless, without a doubt, I am confused. On this day. A day for love. Such a horrendous act in so many ways. More than I care to say. I just don’t understand. And I never will.
Even as I write this, I can’t stop wondering what it is I really have to say. What haven’t I said already? I know what I would have liked to have said had I been given the chance. I know the words I would have shared. Likewise, I would have loved to have just listened to what he might have said to me. To try to understand. But as I said, life gives and in this case, it takes away. I must simply accept that I will never get the chance to say those words or to lend that ear. I must admit, however, that for me, this is extremely difficult.
I think in many ways, it is a relief that I am flying over Valentine’s Day this year. That this day will be lost in the limbo of air travel. I am grateful for some time alone to process the loss of Ran. To celebrate his life. To ponder his death. So many times over the past year, I have thought about him. Hearing certain songs on the radio, reading certain quotes or happening upon certain pictures. He remains very much a part of my life even in his passing. And as I said, it remains very difficult.
Nevertheless, with this stretch of soul searching, I am reminded of how fragile life is and more importantly of how much I need to appreciate all that I am and all that I have been given. How much I need to try and give of myself to those around me. To share all the love with which I have been so blessed to have received.
On that note, maybe it really is no coincidence that Onan and I will be in transit on this day of all days. As my father has said to me on so many occasions, maybe things really do happen for a reason. On this, the anniversary of Ran’s death, I am going to be travelling between my two families. This of course means that I will once again be leaving my folks behind as I always do. I will taste the bitter reality of the life that I chose nearly twenty years ago when I moved to Taiwan. Over the past three weeks, the four of us, Onan, my parents and I, have had an amazing time talking together, laughing together and just enjoying each other the best we could. For me, some of the best moments have been those spent watching my parents connect even more with their grandchild. It has been, in a word, awesome.
But on the flip side of that, I have also become acutely aware of just how long Scott and I have been away from home. I can count every one of those years in the lines that cover my parent’s ageing faces. And I have little doubt that I will feel their heartache on my cheeks as I hug them goodbye once again. I know that for myself, these farewells become harder and harder each time we head back. I can only imagine that their pain is much more tangible than my own. I at least have some sweet to help choke down the sour. My family.
As I ready myself for the longing and sadness that will most certainly fill my heart as our cab pulls away from my folks’ driveway on the 13th of February , I am comforted with the thought of going home. With the image of Rachel and Siaya awaiting on the other side. Seeing their smiling faces giddy with the excitement of Onan’s and my return. Feeling the warmth of their loving arms as we embrace. As I said, life gives and it takes. Nothing comes for free.
And, maybe this is what I was meant to reflect upon on this day of days. The duality of love. Appreciating the bitter and the sweet that it offers. For me, I know that February 14th will forever be a reminder of both.
Then again, maybe I think too much. Maybe I am reaching for something that isn’t there. Faith though. Faith in love tells me that there is something to my ramblings. I am reminded of a comment my mom made to me while we were driving home from the mall the other day. It led to a brief rebuttal that has suddenly struck me as rather profound. “Thank you for giving up your vacation for us,” she said nonchalantly. I instantly shook my head and looked at her. “I gave up nothing, Mom. Nothing. I am here to be with you and Pops for no other reason than I want to be. I want to SPEND my time with you both. I want Onan to spend time with you both. I am spending my time. I am giving up nothing.” I can only hope that I am able to continue spending my time in the same way throughout the rest of my life. To give. To receive. Love. For me, that is what I hold onto whenever I think of Ran. That is what keeps my anger and confusion at bay. The belief in Ran’s words. The words he expressed. Of love.
Angel, by Sarah McLachlan, is a song that we played for Ran at his memorial service in Taiwan. It seems fitting now that I will be up there in the heavens with Ran and the angels on the anniversary of his passing. I can only hope, Brother, that “you’re in the arms of the angel. May you find some comfort…” Rest in Peace, Ran. And of course, happy Valentine’s Day.
Angel Youtube link: