“Move Your Feet”

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As many of you know, on January 20th, 2011, I lost my beloved Father, Westley Douglas Wong to a battle with ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease). I can’t tell you how much I already miss him. He was a man of great integrity, with both a passion for his vocation and his family. He lived and died with dignity.

Ironically, as one life was taken away, another one is given. In June of this year, my Wife and I will be expecting our first child. I still remember how excited my Dad was to hear the good news, I think even more excited than I was to tell him. While he had already lost most of his strength in his voice, and albeit we were talking on the phone – I could still sense his elation. You see, the time and effort it took Dad to talk was far greater than any of us will ever know. It took his breath away just to say a few words, and when he got excited about something, even longer. I never liked to burden Dad with long conversations, so when he got sick I tried to keep the phone calls short. This one lasted a bit longer, as he had more to say than usual.

Dad and I shared many of our life’s passions, most of which had to do with Sports and Outdoor Recreation. You could say our relationship was built around many of these things. Whether it was golf, hockey, soccer, tennis, fishing or hunting, Dad and I did it together. You know the old cliché? “He taught me everything I know.” Well it’s true, he quite literally taught me everything I know.

By now you might be wondering about the title of my Blog Post, “Move Your Feet.” That was a line Dad used to say to me during my tennis matches in High School and College. He was a great tennis player himself, and saw great potential in me, potential that I took for granted. I wasn’t exactly the most motivated player on the court, I had a lot of success, but I never gave it everything I could. Dad could see this, and he always pushed me to do better. In between games and sets he would tell me, “Rich, you have to move your feet, you’re flat footed, get on your toes, you look so lazy out there.” He was right, I was lazy, I did the bare minimum, I did the least I needed to do to win. A lot of times following his coachings he would imitate what I looked like on the court. He would portray me in a fashion and make gestures of being lethargic, bored, and not ready for the ball. He was never condescending about it, but instead he was always positive, encouraging, and instilled confidence in me.

So here I am today, thinking about my Dad and one of the greatest lessons he taught me, “Move Your Feet.” He wasn’t just talking about tennis, and I think he speaks to a lot of us about who we are and what we do with our lives. In the last years of his life he could barely walk, and barely talk, and yet he was so dedicated to his patients and saving their lives that he continued to practice. Dad passed away at work, doing what he loved to do. He never wanted to retire, and he never had to. He was a man who saw potential in himself, he worked hard, and made many sacrifices. He was a man who moved his feet.

He became the Chief of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and also held Office as the President of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. In Spite of all this success, I believe his greatest accomplishment was being a Dad.

It took me longer than expected, but I’ve found my own life’s passion just like Dad’s: His work and his family. If he were here today, he’d ask me two things: “How is your work going, and how is Leah?” I would reply, “Dad, I’m moving my feet, Leah is glowing, and your Grandchild is moving his/her feet too.”

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23 Responses to “Move Your Feet”

  1. Shane says:

    Great first post. Inspiring and uplifting. It will be very hard to follow it, but I know you will.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Rich, This is beautiful. I know how much your Dad meant to you and Leah. I know he was so proud of you. You are doing what you are suppose to do. Your work is amazing! I’m sure your Dad is looking down and smiling. I miss you guys. Love to you, Leah and little baby Wong.

  3. Lencho says:

    Amazing tribute to your dad. Awesome photos. Maybe you should start shooting film? :-)

  4. M. Jensen says:

    Beautiful site Rich, and your blog post is heartfelt and so well written. I am sorry for your loss. Your father sounds like an amazing man. You were lucky to have such a devoted parent.

  5. Nancy says:

    Very proud of you, and your journey to this point – it continues on, and glad that you’re on a path that is meaningful for you. Much love and respect.

  6. Joel says:

    Your dad was a great man and I am happy to say that I had the privilege of meeting him.

  7. scott Harman says:

    This is a beautiful blog post. It is a fitting eulogy to Doug. It is also beautiful to hear you talk about what his passing is teaching you.

  8. Valerie says:

    Rich you have captured so many amazing moments. As I read your first blog I can’t help but be overcome by emotion. I know that Dad knew you found your life’s passion and would be so very proud of the work displayed on the site. It’s amazing. You really figured out how to move your feet, perhaps even learned how to sprint. I remember Dad sharing with me his excitement for your newest addition to the family, his Grandchild. I believe you will follow in Dads footsteps and your greatest accomplishment will also be being a Dad.

  9. Cathy S says:

    Truly beautiful work and an even more beautiful tribute to your dad. You are blessed to have such wonderful memories. Congrats to you and Leah on your new baby and congrats on the launch of your new website. Nicely done, Wong! :)

  10. Val says:

    Fantastic! Beautiful work and words to match!

  11. Patrick says:

    Wonderful photos of your father and your story couldn’t be any more inspiring. He seemed like a wonderful person and he’s always going to be with you.

    Your website is incredible and your hard work is all starting to pay off. Your portfolio came together beautifully and you are clearly pushing yourself to “move your feet”! I say don’t look back and go as fast and as far as your feet will carry you and it will make all the difference. Thanks Rich for posting… and its been a pleasure knowing you my friend! -PK

  12. So Sad to hear about your Dad. and So happy to hear about your Baby. We have always loved the photos you have taken of our dogs. and cherish them, And that you have given a great forever home for our and your boy Hunter. I bet he will just love the new family member.

    Thank you, Robin and Craig

  13. Connie Anderson says:

    Thank you so very much for sharing your memories, insights, photos and thoughtful reflections about you, your dad and your family. The blessings of God’s love and peace for you as you remember the past with fondness and for you and Leah as you look to your future with “baby Wong”.

  14. John Foley says:

    I think your dad is moving his feet now Rich! He’s dancing and talking up a storm about how proud he is to be a grandpa and how proud he is of his son. You do great work, you make your dad and all of us proud! Thanks for sharing your passion and your heart

  15. Deb Mitchell says:

    I am so far behind in the life of Richard/Leah. Here I sit in a hotel getting caught up on emails on Palm Sunday…How appropriate I check out your website and land on your blog. My feet stopped when I read your blog. I am sorry to hear of the loss such a great man as your father. I also rejoice in the news of you and Leah becoming parents.
    I just can’t help but think about how happy Greg Carroll would be for you. I also know how he would have wanted to walk along side of you through the process of losing your father. Greg was so very close to his dad and he missed him terribly. Rich/Leah, know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I guess whatever life gives us, we all need to keep “moving our feet”.

  16. Barbara H says:

    a beautiful tribute!
    Congratulations on the little one.
    My own son’s grandfather departed this world just as he was being conceived…be the carrier of all that love and wisdom.

  17. David Bornowski says:

    Outstanding!!! I think you look like your dad. What a great legacy. Great news regarding new life for you and Leah! Having three of my own the adventure never ends.
    Hang on…. you have no idea how much more children enrich/challenge and bring new joy to you. My best to you and Leah!!

  18. Dave J says:

    First of all, a big congrats to you and Leah! You two will make wonderful parents. And from the sounds of it, you’ve obtained a lot of great skills from your father that you’ll be able to pass down to your child as well. Awesome!

    Continued success with both your family and work. You deserve it my friend.

  19. Raia says:

    Congratulations to you and Leah! Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos and such moving and true words about your Dad.

  20. Karlene (Forsberg) Markham says:

    Richard, what stirring words you chose to honour your esteemed Father’s memory and life. As a child, and throughout my growing up years, I always thought of your Dad as a wonderful man of both integrity and dignity. Having the privilege of knowing your family as friends (and even neighbours for awhile), is something I will always consider to be something that has enriched my life. Your Dad is truly someone who has left an impact on this planet. He’s truly made a difference in the lives of so many.

    Thank-you for posting, Richard. (And huge Congratulations on the birth of your new baby!)

  21. Ann Lowry says:

    The posting is such a wonderful tribute to your father and your relationship with him. I loved seeing the pictures of him as a child. I know how proud Doug was of you, before and after you found your passion. I can only imagine how much you learned from him and how much you miss him. I think of him and all of you often.

    I also looked at the pictures of Westley-they are wonderful. You are very blessed. I would love to meet him some day.
    My love to you, Leah and Westley.

  22. Richie grant says:

    Your father saved my life…twice.

    First in Steinbach when my appendix burst and he left a birthday party of his child.. I told him it would wait..okay so maybe not, but I hated that he had to leave his family. He had such an incredible bedside manner. We had no family in that tiny town….it was good to know we were in capable hands.

    Then in 1990 we went back for graduate studies and your family was in Minnesota. Our dear friend Glen Forsberg contacted your dad to help us out. We were in Hattiesburg Mississippi and I had gone into toxic mega colon twice..I was bleeding to death and the doctor was just taking X-rays..probably near 100 of them…my blood albumum was down to one.. We were praying…glen contacted you dad and he made all the arrangements to get me life flighted to two of his star students in Metarie LA. ( Griffith and MaCarthy)…

    Well I had the surgery that he pioneered…and I got to see my babies grow into young women. One is a missionary in Thailand and the other is becoming a foster mom to drug addicted babies….

    We are thankful for the gifts that your father shared and are using that gift of life to reach out to others around the world.

    I know that he worked incredibly long hours..and I want to say thank you for sharing him!

    • Richard says:

      Thank you for reaching out and sharing your touching story!

      I have loved hearing stories about my dad from people I’ve never met. He truly was a special man – one who taught so many people so many great things. What a blessing it is to hear of your family’s successes, and the impact my Dad had on you and yours.

      As a father, I’m looking forward to watching my own son grow up and do great things just like his Grandpa. He is still with me, and I know he is proud of his Grandson, Westley Douglas Wong.

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