Tuesday, October 13
EULOGY For A Princess
could see the winding roads on the hills in the distance. The sky was blue dotted with
white clouds. We could even hear birds chirping. My wife said to me, “What a beautiful
morning. I love the autumn smell. The air is so crisp and fresh.” Out of the blue, my son,
Gabriel wanted to take a family photo. I have to tell you something here. My wife loves
taking pictures. She blew up quite a few computer hard drives by storing too many
photos. On the other hand, my son, as handsome as he is, really does not like his
pictures taken. We usually have to bribe him to take pictures with us by promising him
more game time or outrageous cash. But that morning, Gabriel wanted to take a family
picture. So we lay down by Regina’s side and took the picture. She had not been eating
for 13 straight days. Five minutes after we took a couple of pictures, we heard her
having a couple of short breathings. Then she left us. She left us on the second day after
family picture. She was forever 10.
Regina Melody Tan was born on the 19th of September, 1999 in Red Bank, NJ. I
remember the first time when I held her in my arms. She opened her eyes and moved
her lips as if she were calling me daddy. At that moment, I grew out of boyhood into
fatherhood. I made the promise to love her and to protect her forever.
She was a beautiful and smart girl. Watching her growing was a joy. I know, most fathers
think that their daughters are the most beautiful and smartest girls in the whole world. I
do not disagree. Here I just want to tell you the story of her. How she fought her battle
against cancer. How she became my role model.
In May 2004, she was diagnosed with malignant brain tumor. After the surgery, as soon
as she opened her eyes, she told me, “Daddy, I want to become a doctor. I will not poke
kids. Poking is no fun.” It made me cry and laugh. The brain surgery was just a poke to
her. I cannot even look at the needle every time when I get a poke.
Right after the surgery, she got strong chemo and radiation therapies in St. Jude
Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Then again in June 2007, she had her relapse. At that
time, most doctors told us to give up. But we did not give up. Thanks to her mom’s
determination, we found Dr. Dhall of Children’s Hospital of Los Angles. Regina had
strong chemo again after surgery. She miraculously lived. In September 2008, she had
another relapse. She then had another two surgeries and gamma knife radiation. As her
surgeon Dr. Loudon put it, she was a trouper. She was baked, she was grilled. Yet, she
was still here smiling just like a normal kid. That was amazing.
You all must wonder how the past five years were alike. That was her story.
Thanks to my wife’s love and care and the support of our friends, extended family
members and even strangers, she lived a normal and happy life even for the past five
years. Yes, HAPPY life. I remember when she had her first treatment, she was
conscientious about her look. She would put on a hat to cover her scar when we went
out. She would put on a bandanna to cover her bald head. Yet, she grew to accept her
new look also thanks to her many friends and schoolmates. They never excluded her
because of her look. She was surrounded by those wonderful kids. She attended school
even during her chemo sessions at CHLA as soon as her white cell counts bounced back.
She seldom complained pain. She enjoyed living very much, not lying in bed complaining
While she was losing her capability to walk, she would climb and slide the stairs by
herself. One night when I came home from a business trip, I carried her upstairs to sleep.
She told me, “Daddy, you do not have to wake up early tomorrow to carry me
downstairs. I can slide down the stairs.” Hearing her saying that and seeing her losing
her mobility made my cry. She was happy, no complaint. She accepted things without
whining and found joy in doing things while she could. Even towards her final days, she
told us again and again that she was happy and content with us by her side. She was
THAT happy. As a matter fact, for her final two weeks, she never complained pain and
she never cried. We did not see a single teardrop in her eyes. Her mom had to ask her
whether she needed morphine and most of the time she even said no.
She was daddy’s girl as evident by hair style. She taught me how to play Barbie and how
to play princess tea party. She would proudly tell everybody, my daddy was the best
Barbie player ever. We would dress up Barbie and Ken, pretending they would get
married and have many kids. She would cook so many different dishes.
Talking about cooking, it was her dream to become a baker and chef. She baked cookies.
She made sandwich for her mother on Mother’s Day. Of course she put too much onion
in it. She thought daddy said that onion was healthy, the more the better (Sorry, Diana).
She loved to make salad for daddy. She would cut different vegis into small pieces. It
was not an easy task for a small kid. Consider this. At later times, she was losing her
mobility of her right hand, she could not even use her right hand to color. Yet, she
managed to make salad for daddy because daddy just came home from a business trip.
Every cut took a lot of time, a lot of concentration and a lot of strength. She wanted
daddy to know how much she missed daddy and how much she loved daddy.
She was also such a caring kid. She loved to take care of everybody. You know, taking
care of a cancer kid is never an easy task. You woke up in the night and sometimes you
barely got any sleep. It was my wife who took the lion’s share of taking care of her. One
afternoon, my wife was totally worn out. She fell into sleep on the sofa. Regina just had
a doctor visit and had her chemo. When she saw her mom fell into sleep, she took her
own blanket off, limped from her sofa to her mom’s, and covered her mom. I noticed
that she was shivering. I asked her, “Are you cold?” She said, “I am O.K. But mom is
sleeping. I do not want her to catch cold.” I could not help but crying. She was such a
caring person. She loved everybody. Every time when I took her out to the mall, when
she had her own money for shopping, she always remembered to buy something for his
little brother. She was a great big sister to Gabriel.
You might wonder how we managed to live with her cancer. It was simple. Because she
was a happy regular kid, always waiting for that sleepover with her best friends,
planning for her next birthday, writing Christmas wish list in the summer, and dreaming
of growing up. She was really easy to be content. She did not complain. Gabriel and I
could make silly faces to make her giggle, even when she was totally bedridden. She had
fun in her short life. She brought happiness in our lives. She brought happiness to many
people’s lives in her path. And she taught us the most valuable lesson in life. She had the
courage to fight while she could; she had the serenity to accept what she could not; and
she had the wisdom to know the difference. And she lived a full and happy life.
Now she is no longer with us. But she will always be in our hearts. May you rest in peace.
Let us pray that we all have the courage to change things that we can; the serenity to
accept things we cannot; and the wisdom to know the difference. You, my baby girl,
were my role model, are my role model, and will always be. I love you forever, ever and