Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Father's Day Tribute - In Rememberance of My Father

John and Margaret Morrison - My real parents

As we celebrate this year's Father's Day, I thought I'd share with my readers a tribute I wrote to honor my father at his funeral on behalf of the family on March 29, 2006.   I share with you the man who changed my life and today as a father myself to five children, I am just an imitator of this great man who I thank God everyday for having brought him into my life.  My mother still lives in Colorado Springs with my sister's family. The above photo was taken in July 2001 as we clelebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in Colorado Springs.

Dear Mom, family members, members of the Village Seven Church, and friends.
My name is Steve Morrison, and I am the eldest son of John and Margaret Morrison.

In order to fully understand and comprehend the greatness of the man we are here to honor and bid fond farewell on his earthly life, and to celebrate the joyful beginning of a new life in the everlasting arms of God, it is important that I share with you the impact he has made in my life and in the lives of my family members.

Although my face doesn’t resemble any of my family members, today I declare to you, as I have before for many years, how proud and happy I am to bear the name of Morrison, and how privileged to have been chosen to be a son of John and Margaret Morrison. 

I was born in Korea, but lost my parents when I was a six years old lad, and grew up in an orphanage.  There I met James who was to become my brother later.  Mom and Dad had three of their own biological children named Rhonda, Cheryl, and Mark.  In 1968 they adopted James.

Shortly after adopting James, both Mom and Dad felt called by God to adopt another homeless child from Korea.  While browsing through a Holt’s bi-monthly newsletter, they came across a list of many children with pictures, in need of homes.  While Dad was reviewing the pictures and the descriptions, his eyes caught the picture of a 13 years-old boy in a Boy Scout uniform. Dad would later mention many times that as soon as he looked at my picture, he knew that the boy was his son. 

My mother wasn’t too thrilled at the idea of adopting a trouble-prone soon to be fourteen years old boy.  At which she pointed to another boy who was eight or nine, but my dad did not relent, “I have already made my decision.”   Mom pointed to another younger boy and said “What about this boy?”  To which my Dad would firmly say, “I have already decided. This is my boy.”  Mom was getting more and more worried about the whole idea, and decided to bring out James to the table to settle the question.  According to Mom, James looked at my picture and smiled and said, “He is a good boy, get him!”  That was how I got chosen that night.  That night I truly believe God spoke to my Dad, “John, here is your boy!  And I will bless you through him.” 

On May 28, 1970, I can still recall vividly the first day when I met my Dad at the S.F. Airport.  Because our home was in Salt Lake City, we took another flight to get home.  When I left Korea, I wore a brand new clothes and shoes.  When I got to the S.F. airport, there was a bundle of clothes from the Morrison family waiting for me. The first thing I had to do was to change my clothes and shoes at the airport. I guess it was a regulation at the time.  I was shocked to see that the blue jean had holes, and the shoes I put on were worn out and had holes in them.  When we landed at the Salt Lake City Airport, my dad took me to his car, and I was surprised to see a 1956 Chevy Bomber with rusted sides and torn up upholstery inside.  I looked at other cars and they were shiny and new.  By then I was beginning to feel uneasy about coming to America.  But then it wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t because my parents were poor, but it was because they were modest.  That was one of the first qualities in Dad that I saw.

I can also recall that same day Mom let me taste her version of Kimchi that is the most unique Kimchi that I’ve ever tasted (I later called it the Irish Kimchi). But that night as Dad tucked me to bed, I remember Dad gently kissing my forehead and saying good night.  For whatever the reason, after 36 years later, I can never forget that loving gesture.  That day, I knew I had finally found a Dad for my life, and a family of my own.

I enrolled into a Jr. High School and I began to sense a new found purpose and desire to study hard. While in Korea, I disliked studying because orphans are considered second class citizens, and marginalized by the culture. You heard nothing but discouraging remarks for being an orphan.  Consequently I did not do well at school because I had no hope.  But in the US, being in a new family, with a new hopes and dreams, things began to change for me, and I began push myself hard with studies, and had good results in school.

I remember watching Dad each day.  As he left each morning for work, he would always hug and kiss Mom and say, “Have a good day today, Honey” in front of us kids.  And at the end of the day when he returned, he would hug and kiss Mom again.  Not used to seeing that kind of affection in Korea before, at first I felt odd, but later I came to like what I saw.  Those images of my Dad being affectionate to my Mom have left a special impression in my heart that taught me that is how a man should love his wife. My mother taught me English and although I was a fourteen years old boy, she made me watch Mr. Rogers Good Neighborhood and Sesame Seed Street.  I remember the characters like Ernie and Bert, the Big Bird, and the Cookie Monster, and learned how to count backward.

I remember then how happy I was with the Morrison family. As a family, each day we would gather together at the dinner table, and each day we would take turns in saying grace before the meal.  My brothers and sisters got along harmoniously and I fondly remember playing hours and hours of card and board games with them. My mother made all the decisions at home and managed the house perfectly. And Dad was an avid reader who always had either newspapers or books in his hands. 

I also remember thinking at the time that this is what a happy family is all about.  And I began to dream.  I dreamed that someday when I grow up, I would become a noble gentleman just like my Dad was, and marry a woman as beautiful and wonderful as my Mom, and have children of my own.  That I would treat my wife just like the way my Dad treated, like a queen with utmost love and care and affection.  I also began to have another dream.  I began to realize that adoption was such a beautiful thing, and I realized what a blessing it was to have a family. It was then that I decided that when I grow up and have a family of my own, I would also adopt a child in need of a home.  In December 2000, my wife and I adopted our son Joseph from Korea. 

On the night when Joseph arrived, I tucked him to bed and prayed with him.  When he was ready to sleep, I bent over and kissed him on his forehead, just like my Dad had done 30 years earlier.  Only then, was I able to understand what he must have felt towards me. 

Today I am living the dream that I had as a teenager.  I can also say that this dream was inspired by watching my Dad. But I also admit that compared to my Dad, I am just an imitator of a truly great man that he was. 

In 1979, right after my graduation from a college, I had a month of rest before going into the world of my profession.  That one month of time with my Dad was one of the most significant moments in my life. At that time Dad was recovering from a heart bypass surgery.  One day as he and I got into a conversation on many topics, he looked at me and said, “Steve, when we adopted you, we adopted because you were in need of parents and a family. We adopted you because you needed our help.  But I now realize that after all these years, it is we who have been blessed much more through you.”  When Dad said those words to me, I was speechless.  I don’t remember if I uttered any words in response, but I felt a special bond of love he had for me. 

A couple of weeks later, my Dad and I got into another man-to-man conversation about life, God, marriage, and my future.  That day was to change my life in a very significant way.  As we talked, my Dad looked at me straight and made a statement so powerful that I will never forget it as long as I live.  He said, “Steve, I have made some very important decisions in my life.  The best decision I have ever made was to believe in God, the second best decision was to marry your mother, and the third best decision was to have you in our family.”  When I heard these words, I was just floored.  I could find no words to respond to his remark.  I just absorbed all the love that he was pouring out to me. I knew that Dad loved each of his five children equally, but through those words, he was telling me how much he loved me.  That day, my love and respect for Dad rose to a new height.  His statement would alter my life.  His statement has now become my statement and my vision as well. That is, to put God first in my life’s priority, then to love and cherish my beautiful wife, and to value and protect my children.

Dad was not only serious, but he had very humorous side as well.  He would often brag about how he whispered sweet nothing into my mother’s ear to win her heart.  He would often say with pride, “I turned on my Irish charm”.  He and I would even up to a few weeks ago would joke one another with “Sure and vigora”  I could never figure out what that meant.  He introduced me a term called “floakie” to mean some stuffs floating around on the surface of a cup of water or coffee.  He would often be heard of singing, “My Wild Irish Rose, the sweetest flower that grows…” 

There are several tricks I have learned from my Dad. My Dad always relished telling the story of how he met Mom.  After having seen her three times, while sitting on a porch with his wife to be, he said that he would predict the future for both of them.  My dad predicted that someday he would marry her and have a happy family in the Lord.  When I was dating a girl that I really liked, I told her that I will predict our future together.  I told her that we would be happily married and have a wonderful family in the Lord.  Well, the trick worked, and sitting here is my beautiful wife who fell for the trick.

Three weeks ago when I visited Dad at a hospital, I could sense that his life was coming to a close.  But during my visit, he kept his spirit up.  Obviously he was in a very good mood, and began to sing a song to Mom.  “Every day with Margaret is sweeter than the day before.  Every Day with Margaret, I love her more and more.”  As I listened to him sing, I felt lump in my throat and my eyes welled up with tears.  I thought in my heart, “This is my Dad.  What a blessed man I am to be his son. His love for Mom is so admirable.”  Knowing clearly where the song came from, I asked him, “Hey, isn’t that from a Hymn where it should be “Every Day with Jesus…” To which he whispered at me, “Shhh, don’t tell anyone about it.”  At this the three of us had a hearty laughter. 

In closing, I would like to say a special thanks to my Mom.  You have been a faithful help mate for 55 long years.  You have always been at his side, always respected and submitted to his leadership, and you have raised five of us children with utmost love and care, and emphasized the importance of having the right relationship with Christ.  You have gracefully aged and have stood by Dad to the end.  However, you still have a lot of works to do.  You are still needed by all of us, especially by your grand children.  We will do our best to fill the void left by Dad, and we will all cherish dearly the loving memories of Dad as long as we live.

And to my brothers and sisters, Rhonda, Cheryl, Mark, and James, let us do our best to imitate our father, and pass on the legacy of Dad to our children and to their children.

To Rhonda, Cheryl, and Mark, I want you to know how grateful I am that you have shared your Dad with me.  Thank you so much for being the best brother and sisters.  I also speak for James, as this sentiment is equally shared by him as well. 

And to Dad, you are the only father I had.  Your life is an example for all of us to follow.  The memories of your life will inspire all of us.  We celebrate now that you in the arms of God.  May you rest in peace.  You will be missed and we will always remember you.

Your Loving Son,

Steve Morrison
March 29, 2006