Posts tagged ‘tribute’

November 24, 2012

Eulogy- A Tribute To My Father

My father passed away in Trinidad on Monday evening ( November 19th) at the age of 81. We had a complex relationship in some ways and yet a very simple one in others. He was cremated yesterday after a really beautiful service in which all his children who were present gave a short eulogy. The church was packed with everyone from dignitaries to simple folk who traveled long distances just to pay tribute to a man they only knew by voice from his morning radio program. This weekend was the first time in a long time that most of his immediate and extended family came together in love and sadness. I also met my older brother from the UK for the first time which was wonderful. It has been a week filled with tears and with the joy of experiencing family once again.

Several people have asked for a copy of the eulogy I delivered which I wrote in the wee hours on the day of the funeral while drinking a Carib beer which was one of his great joys in life. I am including it here exactly as it was written on my tablet in Central Trinidad while staying over at Sam’s home so I could get to the funeral home visit in time that morning. It is very personal but it is also my tribute to a man whose greatness I never fully appreciated as a child.

I start with a fragment of a well known poem by Dylan Thomas. ..

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

– My father never went gently in anything he did. Whether it was fighting for facilities for his students or as a patriot who never remained silent in the face of injustice or political wrongdoing whichever government was in power. As a school principal he dedicated himself to ensuring that students at Couva Government Secondary School had access to the same quality of education and facilities as students in prestige schools. He was a disciplinarian as thousands of students and his kids can attest but he did it because he believed in upholding the same standards he was raised with despite knowing he often flouted those same standards in his youth.

– his passion for his country was remarkable. He loved T&T and was always disappointed that we couldn’t just live up to the potential he knew we had. That we couldn’t just cast race aside and be an example to the world of how a people working together could achieve anything. Nothing angered dad more than seeing how greed, corruption and apathy have held this country back. When he embarked on his radio career it finally gave him   free rein to express his views and ask questions – retirement was never for dad. He always had to be moving forward. Typical of his  egalitarian view of the world he would travel to work in route taxis and insist on shopping at the Chaguanas market not because it was most convenient but because he wanted to hear the views of the average man and woman on the issues affecting this country – a practice our politicians might want to take a page from. An eighty year old man with cars at his disposal and fancy supermarkets  he could visit choosing otherwise because he respected the views of the common man. That is the stuff he was made of – that is the legacy he leaves his children.

Dad was immensely Proud of his family and the family name often to the puzzlement of those of us in the younger generation who, quite frankly, having grown up in relative privilege, didn’t get what the big deal was.  Many of us do now and my cousin Peggy who lives in New Delhi drew on that rich history in creating her book Jahajin.

Dad also had a real sense of place and his attachment to his hometown of Couva was legendary. To hear him tell his stories was to hear the stuff of which legends are made – of Couva as a wondrous land of adventure in which the chief protagonists were knights like dad and his valiant cohorts. like the late Dr. George Dixon and Desmond Baxter.  I suppose in a sense they really were because I am not sure we will ever see men like them again and the world will be a sadder place for the loss of that incredible generation.

– Dad leaves behind 5 children. Four of whom were fortunate enough to experience him as a parent. His role as father has, I am sure, left different memories with all of us. My brother Victor ,  who is very little like me experienced dad through sports and adventure  and,  though he is unable to be here from Toronto through circumstances,  left a touching comment on my Facebook wall responding to my announcement of Dad’s passing…He gave me permission to read it here:

“I Loved him so much. My childhood memories of him have flooded my mind. When he stayed with me in Toronto we said so many things (all good) , that needed to be said. He Loved you Vern. And I will miss him so much. The tears have not stopped flowing. He was always , in my eyes, bigger than life. No one will ever understand the connection we had Unless you were on that Cricket field in Marabela when he deliberately got out to protect his Son ( he knows what Im talking about) , THANKS DAD.. I spent my childhood on the Couva river where your ashes will be spread, I think sometimes I left a part of me there , my innocence , my wonder of life. DAD , I ALWAYS LOVED YOU AND YOU KNEW THAT. LONG LIVE THE COUVA BOYS !!’

-For my part, if you asked me what my childhood memories of dad were you would get a flurry of answers.

Weekends spent at the clubhouse of Gilbert Park listening to dad ole talk or watching a cricket match – something I will never get to this day – at the Sevilla Clubhouse pool with Mom, dad and, inevitably Uncle george and Auntie Brenda, drives to Tortuga so Dad could proudly show us the old church and the plains of Caroni stretching out before us, playing with Victor outside drinking establishments in Couva as dad sat inside drinking his Caribs and loudly giving his views on politics, going for oysters by Couva market or Marabella, sereptitiously eating pig foot souse knowing that our Ajee would not have approved…so many memories I can’t begin to describe them.

I was probably not the sort of son dad would have ideally wanted, bookish, a dreamer, not the least bit interested in sports but interested in music and  poetry- my brother Victor was all those things so that saved me – but dad loved me just as much and accepted me for who I am. He was proud of me as he was of all his kids. I spent much of my childhood puzzling about dad and a little embarrassed. Wondering if I had been dropped by aliens into the most unlikely of places. It was only as I got older and perhaps wiser that I saw, as do most people, we were not as different as I had thought . .Many of the things I am today, my ambivalent attitude towards authority, my lack of regard for what people may think of me when I know I am speaking the truth, the unbridled pleasure i get in going to Felicity for oysters with my friends, the knowledge that everyone has a fascinating story to tell – not simply the powerful and wealthy- the firm belief that we learn from listening and not from talking, my passion for news and politics – spawned from a childhood with dad glued to local radio and the Beeb – they make me who I am and they are all Dad pure and simple. I would not be a journalist today were it not for him making me truly believe in the importance of knowing what is going on around us and that what is said by those in power – to co-opt Cole Porter –  ain’t necessarily so. (Note – as my friend Clay pointed out I got the attribution wrong  – it is Ira Gershwin not Cole )

In some ways perhaps I was too much like dad – and I never thought I would find myself saying these words – in recent years we didn’t stay in touch as often because I was doing what I was doing and he was doing what he was doing. I knew what he would be thinking about any issue and I probably thought and said the same thing on camera. People think we fought and yet we never did in my adult life. There was just an innate understanding that I knew he loved me unconditionally and I loved him in exactly the same way. It was as if he existed within me and that was enough. Sadly, of course, it is never enough. I wish I could stand in front of him now and talk to him in person and tell him again how much I love him but all I have now is that Big Vernon I carry inside of me. There will always be a Big Vernon and a Little Vernon ( a family name I used to resent as a kid but embrace now) .

Many people have told me Dad was larger than life and i didn’t understand what they meant but I do now.  In one short human lifetime he created two families that will now forever be one.

You married two incredible women, Dad  –  my mom Ida and Myda ( a phoenetic choice that must have caused a problem or two) , you brought five kids into this world who despite our quirks are the sort of people you would want to change the world in whatever small way. You spoke out against injustice and forwarded education not just in Central Trinidad but nationally.  Just as you admired what Ajee and Nana achieved we are now left to marvel at what you achieved and mourn the fact you are no longer with us. I know all of your kids thought you would outlive us because you seemed strong enough to last forever – I am so sad we were wrong.

To quote one of your favorite songs Dad…Last Farewell as sung by Roger Whittaker – For you are beautiful, and I have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken  word can tell.

Farewell Dad. I know you are out there looking out for all of us. I love you.

February 7, 2012

Jean Paul Gaultier’s Amy Winehouse Tribute at Spring 2012 Paris Couture Fashion Week | FashionTV

Gaultier is always fresh and creative. I think Amy would have liked it.

January 20, 2012

25 years of Kylie

Via Caribbean King on FB

January 18, 2012

Bishop Tutu Speaks To The ILGHRC – 2008

The wonderful Desmond Tutu makes a remarkable speech in tribute to the audience as he prepares to receive the ILGHRC Outspoken Award in 2008. Not sure if I posted this  before but it is well worth watching again. His tribute begins at  2:35.

December 1, 2011

Matthew Shepard’s Birthday and World AIDS Day.

December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998

The horrific events that took place shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998 went against everything that Matt embodied. Two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, led him to a remote area east of Laramie, Wyoming. He was tied to a split-rail fence where the two men severely assaulted him. He was beaten and left to die in the cold of the night. Almost 18 hours later, he was found by a bicyclist who initially mistook him for a scarecrow. Matt died on October 12 at 12:53 a.m. at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado with his family by his side. His memorial service was attended by friends and family from around the world and garnered immense media attention that brought Matt’s story to the forefront of the fight against bigotry and hate. The life and death of Matthew Shepard changed the way we talk about, and deal with, hate in America. Since his death, Matt’s legacy has challenged and inspired millions of individuals to erase hate in all its forms. Although Matt’s life was short, his story continues to have a great impact on young and old alike.  His legacy lives on in thousands of people like you who actively fight to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation

To all those lost to disease and hatred and to the hope for a better tomorrow.

November 17, 2011

DeFosto pays musical tribute to Anya Ayoung-Chee

Via  Anya’s Facebook  Page.

The Original DeFosto himself….

October 30, 2011

News segments on Anya Ayoung Chee

A special feature – Anya in the Spotlight – that aired on ieTV Channel 1 in Trinidad on October 30, 2011.

And the Acting Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Winston Dookeran also paid glowing tribute to Anya at a Divali function held by the Congress of the People on Saturday night.

Both segments were written and voiced by Melissa Wong

October 5, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address


‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

September 9, 2011

Watch “9/11 Bud Commercial – AIRED ONLY ONCE” on YouTube. Via my friend Steven..