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The following eulogy was written on April 2, 2009, for my grandfather who had passed away in March.
I’d like to begin this eulogy with 4 words:
“Be Active, Not Passive.”
This is the advice that I’ll always remember from my grandfather. Throughout the past few years he has given me a lot of free advice, but whenever I think of him I always think of this piece first. I clearly recall the sound of his voice telling me, “楊天平, 我跟你說啊, 要主動, 不要被動. Be active, not passive.” I’ve never really thought about why these particular words made such an impact on me, until now.
The first reason is my Grandpa’s confidence. I’ve never met anyone as confident as my Grandpa. If you look at photographs of him from the time of his youth up to his time as an old man, you always see a man who is sure of himself, a man with strong convictions. When he told you his stories, his confidence commanded you to listen. For my grandpa, confidence was a natural quality; neither taught nor learned, just something he always had. He was the best and most qualified person to bestow the “be active, not passive” credo upon me.
The second reason “be active, not passive,” made an impact on me is my Grandpa’s life. Here was a person who had lived nine, nearly ten decades giving me free advice on how to live my life. It was like the Colonel handing down the secret recipe to his descendants. Anyone can give free advice, just as anyone can give out fried chicken recipes. But the recipe would be worthless if the chicken tasted like crap. And the same goes for life advice. My Grandpa lived a great life. He lived through the end of dynastic rule in China. He lived through two world wars. He had a family, a career, a wife who stayed at his side until the end. He had grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He lived to see the human race advance from horses and buggies and the phonograph to Mazda MPVs and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound systems. He had a great life, and I would do so well to accomplish even half of what he accomplished. I am grateful and humbled that he taught me one of the guiding principles of his life: “be active, not passive.”
The last reason is that when you really think about it, the words “be active, not passive” make a lot of sense. Generally, good things in life don’t just fall into your lap. When Grandpa was a banker, he actively sought and completed the work of his less capable and less hardworking associates, thereby earning the respect of his superiors. If he had waited for his superiors to notice the other employees’ ineptness and give him the extra work, rather than taking the initiative and taking it upon himself, he would have earned little respect, if any. In other words, Grandpa was “active, not passive” and it paid off handsomely for him.
Sometimes we listen to words that make sense to us, like in a song, a speech, or advice from a grandparent, and we don’t really know why. But if you “be active, not passive,” and really think about it, you’ll eventually figure out why. That’s what I learned from my Grandpa.