First Date


Dear Ezra and Lian,

I first visited India in June 1999. I went to visit my good friend; your “Uncle” Steve. Steve for years would spend half the year working in Canada in his roofing business and the other half volunteering at orphanages. Someone who also occasionally volunteered there was Mommy. One evening, Steve took me out to dinner with Mommy and Grandma.

I get sick a lot while traveling. It’s my own fault. I take a lot of risks while eating. I will eat almost anything. I’m not careful: especially with regards to washing my hands constantly. I don’t know if it was the food I ate at that meal with Mommy. I don’t know if it was the ice cream the next day. I just know, I got very sick.

I got gastroenteritis within my first few days in India. I ended up in the hospital overnight. Surprisingly to me, Mommy brought me coconut water and electrolytes to help me recover. I had just met her a day or two before. Yet here she was keeping me company in the hospital. Why didn’t she go home? She stayed by side for hours and hours.

Here’s the thing; gastroenteritis turns your belly into a balloon that feels like it is going to explode. I was so full of gas, I was in agony. There was your Mom. She stayed so long and she wouldn’t leave me alone, but she got tired. So as she sat in the chair, she rested her head on the bed and fell asleep. Meanwhile, I was writhing in agony. I couldn’t relieve the pressure because Mommy’s nose was inches away.

This kids, is the first date your Mommy and Daddy went on. This was our first time alone together. This is when we first really started to learn about each other. I was sick in the hospital and she was taking care of me. I was bemused by how hard she tried to stay there. It was charming the care she gave me. However, the honest truth is, that for most of those hours I really wished she would just leave me alone in my distress.

My bittersweet love for both Mommy, Mizoram and India began in that hospital room. It meant I would return again to India to see them all.



I Love your Mother, I Love Both of You

  1. tim96 (1)
  2. Originally written Sept. 21, 2014. Still true.Dear Ezra and Lian;

    I love your mother. I love both of you.

    Ezra, you already know this. You are old enough to know this is true. I have told you many times. Lian, today you are too young to understand what is happening. Most of all this letter is for you to read when you are older. Ezra, when Lian is older please make sure your little sister believes this.

    My legal paperwork got filed in court over a week ago. This means that your Mommy and Daddy permanently won’t be living together any more. We haven’t lived together for 16 months, but this makes it official. This doesn’t change anything really for you, but soon your parents will be divorced.

    You and others will ask yourselves, like you have asked me in the past; why? Eventually you will meet someone who will tell you something like this; “Sometimes mommies and daddies stop loving one another. That’s why they get divorced.” Don’t ever believe or listen to that. That idea has nothing to do with me and your mother. It’s not true about us. I love your mom with all my heart, but it takes more than love to make a marriage last.

    I have tried so hard to make sure that we could all stay together. Now I have to stop holding on to your Mom. It’s really, really difficult, but it’s what your Mom wants. I just have to love her from a distance. The best way I can do that, is to love you as best as I can. You are the apple of my eye. My favour will rest on you as long as I shall live. Just because my marriage is ending does not lessen my love for you. You bear no responsibility for this divorce; not even a little bit. I will provide, protect, lead and embrace you all the more. I’m sure it might get to be too much sometimes. I might hug a little too tightly and forget to let go. When I over-love you, I’m sorry. Please forgive me in advance.

    Any time I compare you to your mother, it will be to highlight one of your positive attributes. When I see you, I will always see a little bit of her. That’s a good thing. Your eyes, your nose, your dimples, your easy laugh and smile. They all remind me about the best of your Mom.

    My biggest regret about this is that you don’t have more brothers and sisters. If there were twin or triplet versions of you that would make my joy even greater. I love all your mother’s children so much. I will pour my affection on the two of you.

    Sometime in the future, you might be feeling bad about yourself. Wherever you are, no matter how old you are, read this letter. Remember that your father loves you and always will.

    Much love,


The Jeep Ride That Changed Your Lives Before You Were Even Born


Dear Ezra and Lian,

Ezra, at the beginning of May, you went to the school program, “Racing Against Drugs.” Sadly, I realized then that you are now old enough to read this story, but your sister sure isn’t. Please keep this from her for at least a few more years. When she is old enough, she needs to read it. This is “The Jeep Ride That Changed Your Lives Before You Were Even Born.” Another title might be “Back in Champhai.” Either way, this story will explain why a lot things have happened in your life and will happen in the near future.

Until November, 2013, I had buried this story in my mind. I had no recollection of it at all. For almost twelve years, I never thought about it. Things happened in 2013 that dredged this back up to the surface. While having a massage for my aching neck and back and talking about Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto, I found myself telling this story.

I had a real good friend in Mizoram. I lived in his house for a couple of months. We ate his wife’s amazing cooking. I played with his young son. We talked for hours. I learned fascinating stories about Mizoram and his life. He was incredibly honest with me. I became like his priest to whom he confessed everything. He was smart. He knew a little bit of everything. His father had me edit his memoirs, which were very interesting since he drafted the Mizoram Peace Accord. I ended up “working” for them. They were a very powerful family in Mizoram, but they were my friends too. I loved them. His name was Fela. His father was the former Congress politician and Chief Secretary Pu Lalkhama.

Later that year, Fela and one of his Mizo friends were taking your mommy, Auntie Beth, our friend Sarah, and me from Champhai to the Burma border. We were driving in his big jeep called a Sumo. It was a beautiful day. We were travelling over rolling hills in the countryside. There were hardly any vehicles on the road.

Two things quickly changed this ride from a relaxing trip to one of stress and fear. First, Fela was drinking hard liquor and getting drunk fast. About halfway into the trip, I saw that he was also taking drugs. His mind was getting messed up. Second, he brought a loaded handgun.

When we stopped for a brief rest, Fela took some shots at the trees for target practice. Even as we were driving, he was shooting out the window. My friend had become a mad man with a gun. Since we were getting close to the border, this was very dangerous behaviour. We could get shot by the border guards. I knew I had to get the gun from my friend.

I asked to see the revolver. I was admiring it when I distracted my drunk and spaced-out friend. I hid the gun in my stuff so that neither of the Mizo guys would know where it was. Then my friend started talking about how we would be crossing the border illegally (for the non-Mizos). This situation was getting worse.

At this point, I will simply say this: as we were pulling into the border area, I whispered to your mom that it was extremely important to do as I said. (I was trying to keep the gun out of my friend’s hands.) Also, I needed to make sure we pacified my drunken, obstinate friend. We needed to walk to the river on the border and get out of this place As Soon As Possible. We parked the vehicle and got out. Your mom wouldn’t listen and started talking loudly about the gun. This made my friend realize that I now had the gun. To keep my friend and his friend quiet and avoid a scene near the border crossing, I had to quietly give the gun back. An Indian or Burmese soldier could have seen or heard this at any moment.

If it is possible to yell at someone while whispering, that is what I was doing to your mother. We were less than 100 yards from the Burma border and, potentially, soldiers of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. There was an active insurgency against the Myanmar dictatorship (junta) by the Chin (mega-tribe including Mizos). Those soldiers would be happy to blow the head off any Mizo walking around with a revolver in his hand regardless of which side of the border he stood. Just because their dads were important in India meant nothing to soldiers who routinely raped, killed, extorted, used slave labour, and beat up Chin people. Even now, a Chin is automatically accepted as a genuine refugee in Canada or the United States because of this persecution. Thankfully, the Burma (Myanmar) government has improved immensely since 2012. I was so fed up with the Mizos in that jeep being complete idiots. I was finished trying to keep them from getting killed.

Fortunately, at that time there was no bridge, just a crude, rowboat-sized ferry. Consequently, it was not an official border crossing or customs point. Unbelievably, there wasn’t a single soldier in sight on either side. Eventually, my friend’s friend gave me the gun when he realized what I was trying to do. We saw Burma from across the river. I got all of us out of there as soon as I could.

By the time we got to our hotel, my friend Fela was nearly a zombie. I practically dragged him to the toilet in his room. As he threw up, I had to hold his head so he didn’t drown in his own vomit. Then he had to take a pee. I had to pull his pants and underwear down. My left hand had his one arm wrapped around my shoulders. My right hand held his bare hip. I tried to steer the firehose of urine into the Indian-styled toilet. Half of it was on the floor or on my shoes. When he finished, I hauled his body to the bed. He was like a sack of potatoes. He was soaked with the hard liquor sweats, urine, and vomit. I pulled off his shoes, slung his arms and legs around, and wiped vomit from his face and clothes because he was completely passed out. I looked down on my mess of a friend and sat down on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands. I wanted to cry.

It became crystal clear to me at that moment; Fela was going to throw it all away. He could have become anything but he was going to destroy all that potential. Here was a man who could become a government minister in the state of Mizoram or a successful businessman or the leader of a charity or school, but he was in the process of losing it all. Eventually, he would lose his wife and son. He got out of business and stayed out of politics. I don’t know what he is doing now but I’m sure he is nowhere near where he could have been. Within a few months of this event, his father Pu Lalkhama was threatening to sue me for unjust reasons. My friend Fela never defended me. He was paralyzed or in a drunken stupor. Mommy and I left Mizoram to prevent a big quarrel between families.

Linus, a character from the Peanuts Gang, said, “There’s no heavier burden than a great potential.” It weighed heavily on my friend. He had the intelligence, skills, money, and connections to do remarkable things. He wasted his life due to untreated depression, drunkenness, and drugs. He could hardly see the point of even being alive, which is why he did such dangerous things.

The pathway is there for all three of us to walk down. You probably won’t even have to choose it; forces and people are bringing it our way. It is so easy. I am doing my best to stop that from happening. All I can do is delay it. The final decision is up to you. You will have to choose to forgive. If not, this is your future, kids. Trust me, it IS true.

You are going to have to forgive the same things my friend didn’t forgive. Soon I will tell you what those things are, but first, you need to put on an attitude of forgiveness. You are going to have to trust God, something my friend never did. God can easily overcome this through you. Yet, if you decide to hold onto the bitterness and disappointment coming your way, you will end up in a pool of sweat, vomit, and urine. Only with the supernatural power of God’s Holy Spirit working in you can you hope to conquer this.

There are phenomenal things you can do with this one life God has given, or you could throw it all away like my good friend did. If you go to rock bottom, I will follow you down and clean you up. I’m not scared of messes. I am scared that you might try to fight this battle by yourselves. You need Jesus; lean on Him.

When I realized that the scene of my passed-out friend on the bed could be your future, my perspective changed. Everything that led this man to that spot is prepared for you. People, places, and events are all set up and waiting for you. The trail is blazed. Don’t worry, though; we’re not going there anymore. We got out of the jeep driven by a maniac. I’m sorry we didn’t get out sooner. The road is just as dangerous, but the driver is totally different. God opened the doors on His bus. Hold my hands. Hop on board. Enjoy the ride.



P.S. You are probably wondering, How did this change our lives? I will tell you soon.