Why am I feeling so emotional? I am watching a video of Iam Tongi’s duet with James Blunt from American Idol, singing Blunt’s song “Monsters.” Watching it live brought me to tears along with everyone else . . . and it is bringing me to tears again.

Three months ago, I never knew of English singer/songwriter James Blunt nor his song “Monsters.” He composed this song as a farewell message to his father, who was staring death in the face with stage four chronic kidney disease. I heard this song for the first time when 18-year-old Iam Tongi sang it for his American Idol audition and dedicated it to his father, who passed away from kidney failure a few months earlier. Tongi could have written the song, as the sentiment of Blunt’s lyrics paralleled Tongi’s bond with his father. American Idol judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie broke the myth that real men don’t cry, as Tongi’s rendition brought them to tears.

The title comes from a line in the song. Blunt assures his dad that, being a grown man now, he will protect the family after his father is gone. The chorus says,

I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine
And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So, Daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away.

Returning to my opening question, “Why am I feeling so emotional?” Why have people across the country and around the world been so moved by these performances of “Monsters”? Initially, Tongi’s voice and the pain of losing his father struck an emotional chord. Still, it reaches a deeper part of the soul. “Monsters” is composed in a minor key but strikes a major chord within—Fatherhood.

God established fatherhood as a universally significant calling for men to lead and guide the growth of their children from infancy to adulthood. The nurturing role of a mother is widely recognized and appreciated, as evidenced by Mother’s Day being the most lucrative day of the year for florists. However, God places the ultimate leadership responsibility in the home on fathers. A father’s role is crucial for developing his son’s inner strength and confidence and his daughter’s sense of security and self-worth.

“Monsters” triggers thoughts and emotions about relationships with fathers. For some, the lyrics strike an endearing emotional chord because of their loving bond with their fathers. For others, it strikes a dissonant emotional chord when fathers were either absent or “monsters.” For most, thoughts and emotional reactions lie somewhere in between.

I get emotional feeling the pain of Tongi’s loss, but also a personal sense of loss. I didn’t have the kind of bond with my father that Tongi and Blunt had with their fathers, and that was on me. My father was not perfect; he had his positive traits, and he had his negative ones. My childhood memories include playing catch, fishing, and listening to him play the harmonica. Those are happy daddy memories. However, from my teen years onward, my prideful heart viewed him through the lens of his faults. I didn’t have the respect a son should have for his father, especially for one who worked a second job nearly every weekend so his family would not lack anything. Plastering swimming pools or building stone walls was backbreaking work, but he never complained. He did it out of love for his family.

On my dad’s 80th birthday, we surprised him with a huge celebration. In his honor, friends and family members shared stories about his impact on their lives. Upon hearing of the imprint he left on the hearts of so many people, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my failure as a son. Listening to their heartfelt testimonies made me realize I missed it; for forty years, I missed it! I failed to appreciate his unselfish, generous, and sweet spirit, for which others showered praises.

I confessed my failure to God that day, and He changed my heart toward my father. In the following six years, God graciously allowed me to show my dad the respect and appreciation he deserved. The last time I visited him, he was confined to a hospital bed in his living room. Despite his dementia, he was lucid that day, and I was able to tell him, “I love you,” words that I had not said to him in fifty years. A month later, God called him home.

I am grateful for God’s grace and mercy to make up for what I had lost. At my dad’s memorial, He gave me the honor to pay tribute to my dad with thoughts to consider:

Consider the man who rarely asked for anything, but who always gave of himself to anyone in need. His Hawaiian name would have been “Kokua” (Help).

Consider the man who couldn’t speak proper English, but who always spoke the truth.

Consider the man who wasn’t comfortable saying, “I love you,” but whose life demonstrated his love for God, family, and friends.

Consider the man who was unpolished in his ways, but only knew how to be real and authentic. What you see is what you get with him.

Consider the man who never complained about not having enough, but took every opportunity to work so his family would not lack anything.

Consider the man who, at times, was the object of ridicule and put down humor, but never returned it by disrespecting or putting down others.

Consider the man who was known as a “junk collector,” but every Christmas, he made gifts and prizes such as wooden stools, jewelry boxes, and whatever else he could dream up out of the “junk” that he collected.

Consider the man who was not a teacher, but everyone who worked with him learned what it took to get a job done well and done right.

Consider the man who never pumped iron, but lifted thousands of pounds of brick and stones and mortar so that a relative could have a wall, a friend could have a driveway, a church could have a place of worship, or a pastor could have a home.

Consider the man who would never win a singing contest, but led the singing in his church for decades because he was unashamed to sing hymns to God. He did his best “singing” through his harmonica.

Consider the man whose inner being emerged in the last days of his life. His sweet spirit, his humor, and his grace touched the hearts of everyone with whom he came in contact—doctors, health care workers, attorneys, friends, and family.

Consider the man, this man. To family, he’s Papa or Uncle Kenneth; to his old church, he’s Brother Kenneth; and to his friends, he’s simply Ken.

To me, this man is Dad, a real dad, and I am honored to bear his name.

The number of years a man has lived is not nearly as important,
As the many who have been exceedingly glad that he has,
And the legacy of Christ that continues through him.

Stop and Consider.

 Iam Tongi won American Idol 2023, and I am especially proud of him as he is from my birthplace, Hawaii. James Blunt’s father received a kidney transplant and is doing well. If you have not seen Tongi’s audition or his duet with Blunt, click the links below.

Iam Tongi, Audition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_MAesZsnMk

Iam Tongi and James Blunt Duet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9hdHDXyo-8

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