Thank You, Dad.

My father, George Shitabata, DDS, passed away on the evening of October 5, 2015. He was 82 years old and was surrounded by his family in Hawaii. The following was my birthday gift letter to him, presented at his surprise 80th birthday party in Honolulu.

I will always love you, Dad.
Thank you for always giving me your very best.

Dear Dad:

Vangie and I are so pleased to be able to celebrate your 80th birthday! I sincerely hope it was a surprise for you. But if not, it is still a wonderful celebration of your rich life; a celebration that is richly deserved.

As my gift to you, I recorded several songs for you in this CD, songs that I know you love, and songs that have meaningful messages. The first song, Danny Boy, was requested by you for me to play at your funeral. I will, of course, be happy to play this for you, but a sadness overcame me when I realized that I did not want to wait until your passing to play this song as a tribute and honor to you. So I present it to you, as it will be played for all to hear on that day.

The song has been variously interpreted as representing the pain of a father seeing his son off to war, a wife seeing her husband off to battle, or even Irish revolutionaries departing to defend their nationalistic identity.

Regardless of the true meaning, one theme is constant, it is the pain of separation and the longing for the safe return of a loved one. Through the years, you have always made sure that your interests came second to my success. The years have not diminished my memories of us living together, cooking, cleaning, and learning about the trials of two stubborn individuals seeking to exert their will upon each other. During those tumultuous years, I grew up and you were always there to guide me, firm and with reassurance. I hope that you look upon your children with pride and know that you did your very best. I am a reflection of your best qualities.

But Dad, as much as I love you and have emulated you in my life, my very best qualities are a reflection of my Lord and my God, my saviour, Jesus Christ. He transformed my life over thirty years ago. I learned that religion is not about rules, acting a certain way, or even going to church or to a temple. It is a personal relationship with a real and living God. Over this past year, you have been witness to how mom has dealt with her cancer. You marveled over the peace she has. Yes, she is at peace, not because of any mental lapses or denial of her condition, but because she has the reassurance that she is secure in the arms of her saviour, Jesus Christ. When she first learned of her diagnosis, she told me she was stunned, but then quickly realized that she would now see her Lord sooner than she thought. And this brought her peace and comfort.

God desires all to come to Him and accept His gift of eternal life and salvation. But we must come to Him, on our own will, and recognize our need for a savior, to recognize that nothing we can do, no accomplishments or titles, no amount of money or friends, will ever qualify us to be saved until we come before Him and acknowledge our helplessness and lost state without Him.

As you listen to Danny Boy, please ponder the message of separation and a safe return. Since the day you were born, God has been speaking to you, in many ways and through many people. On this birthday, I pray that you will experience a true rebirth and understand what it means to be in love with Jesus Christ and be adopted as one of His children.

With all my love,