It was December 15, 2008. I’m leaving Monterrey Mexico and all I can think about was how much I missed my wife, Telicia, and how much I wanted to give her a big hug and a kiss. Before boarding the plane I received a forwarded email from Michael Mo. I read it from my cell phone, the message read “Mutual friend and your employee has passed. Looking for Dennis Wong”. Both Michael and I were not sure how legit this was, and I thought nothing of it.
At approximately 3 pm I landed at LAX. As soon as I turned my on my phone I received a text message from Hoai mi stating that Sarah Hong is looking for me because David has passed. Still on the plane, I called Sarah. Completely in disbelief, I listened to Sarah crying, trying to explain to me what had happened. With all the commotion on the plane, I could barely hear her, so I decided to call her later; it was not the best time to talk.
As I came down the escalator I saw Telicia with a big smile at the baggage claim, but I couldn’t smile back. I was in disbelief, completely discombobulated. She had no idea how I was feeling and as I gave her a hug I told her the bad news; I told her Dave passed. At that moment I broke down and I’m sure I wasn’t making any sense. As both Telicia and I were very close to David (we were like his family), Telicia’s smile then turned into a blank daze like mine.
As soon as I got home I called Sarah back and had her explain it to me one more time. She said, “Usually every Saturday David spends time with me, but this Saturday he asked if he could hang out with some friends because he hasn’t seen them in a while.” She then told me that he climbed up a flight of stairs at a nightclub and somehow fell through the ceiling. His friends thought he just had a concussion. Eventually the ambulance came to pick him up. His friends thought that everything was ok because David wasn’t bleeding, and though he was unconscious, he still had a heartbeat. By the time David arrived at the hospital, the doctors found that he suffered a serious trauma to his head and there was no longer any activity in his brain. After doing further procedures, the doctors found that his kidney was split in half and they pronounced him dead at approximately 4 am on Sunday, December 14.
I asked Sarah if there was anything I can do, she thanked me, and we hung up.
When I woke up following morning I replied to the email I received from Michael Mo. I got a reply and it said, “It’s Matt, can not talk over email, please call me.”
It was 8 am, I called Matt and he was already crying. He told me the same story as Sarah, but he added that Dave and his friends wanted to go to the VIP room to talk to the DJ on the second floor. There were some rails, and Dave, being so excited, decided to take a shortcut. He leapt over the rails, landed on the other side of the flooring, but it was a false ceiling; he fell 25 feet.
Matt told me that Dave always spoke highly of me. He said that I always try to bring out the best of people and how much I meant to him.
I responded, “Dave and I were very close. Since he was 18 we talked almost 3-4 hours daily…we were very close.”
Matt told me that when we went back to Dave’s apartment, Dave still had his camera transferring videos to dvd for us. I thanked Matt for the information and he asked me to go to Dave’s place help him move and pack Dave’s stuff for his mom. I said yes.
After the call, my mind was just going through all the memories and thoughts about how much we’ve done together. I couldn’t help but to break down; I was overwhelmed with emotions. I wasn’t so sure if I could start up our normal Tuesday morning Founder’s Council meeting, but I had decided that the Founder’s Council has to know about this. I needed to share with them how I felt.
In the midst of it, I called Sarah to find out if there was any schedule for a funeral. She told me the services will be:
Thursday, December 18
Viewing: 2 – 4pm Ceremony: 4 – 5pm Dinner to follow the Ceremony
California Mortuary 9830 Lakewood Blvd. Downey, CA 90240 562.622.9393
So 10:00 am came along, I got on the call and I was speechless. I asked everybody if they heard the news and they all said yes. I couldn’t even explain it to them because as I was talking about my memories with David, I started to break down again. My words became unclear and after 30 minutes of mumbling, I asked if they understood anything I said. Everybody acknowledged that they did.
As I sit here now, I have decided to put this up on our website in memory of our dear friend, David Hong.
Approximately April 2002, at midnight, my doorbell rang. I seldom have visitors, especially not that late at night. As I answered the door I asked who it was. A voice said, “It’s David and Sarah.”
I opened the door and it was this kid and this girl with 2 Marie Calendar’s pies. He was about 5’6” tall; a skinny little kid with this hunger in his eyes. He said, “Mr. Wong, we are David and Sarah. We’re brother and sister. We came to see you and want to learn from you. Will you help us?” And that started our relationship. David always had the courage to go for what he wants and also had the charm to disarm anyone that got upset with him.
During that time we just started our national expansion. David would call me in different cities as we grew our business there. He would instantly develop at least a dozen new reps. One day he called me to let me know that he had let one of his new reps drive his Porsche and crashed it. I then asked him, “Why would you let somebody drive your car?”
He told me that the guy was his downline and wanted to give him his best chance to make it. That was typical of David’s heart; just whatever it takes to win - always bigger than life.
I asked him how he felt about car. He said, “No biggie. I’ll just go get another one.”
I fell in love with him right away because his heart was so big. I couldn’t help but to help him.
One day he called me and he told me that he couldn’t be a Rep anymore because he didn’t understand why people cannot become entrepreneurs as he did, knowing that they would fail because they didn’t have the drive to be successful. Therefore, he decided to go back to school. I thanked him for telling me and he asked if I would still be his friend. I said “Of course.”
I didn’t hear from him for 6 months. He then called me back and asked if I had a job for him. I said, “David, you are worth more than a job, I’m not going to hire you.”
He then said, “I’ll work for free, I just want to document you.”
I asked him, “Are you sure?”
And he said, “Yes. If you don’t mind buying the camera and laptop, I’ll do it for free.”
So we went together and bought all the equipment he would need. He knew nothing about film and editing, but for some reason I trusted him. My first shoot was very intimidating because I just don’t like the camera. As I was stuttering and could not make myself coherent, he told me not to worry about it. He told me he can edit it to make me look perfect. He had so much belief in me, and admiration, that I was able to relax when he filmed his first Connect. It was beautiful; he captured my spirit, Michael Mo’s spirit, and the spirit of the Company at that time. It was a smashing success and everyone bought it.
I later found out how difficult it was to go through the process that he did. I asked him who taught him and he told me that he taught himself. It was amazing how smart the kid was. He had talents that I do not have, so I was always amused by his genuine ability to figure things out. But of course, I could not take advantage of him, so I paid him for his time.
He kept on going at it, continuing to make his “Connect” dvds, and I realized how much work it was for him to do this. He was just one person shooting the video, editing, and producing it. Even today I don’t understand everything that is involved. I do know one thing; he shot me so many times and edited every piece.
Between each Connect and all my trainings, he has listened to me speak a few thousand times. He was able to remind me of my training, which I had already forgotten, by reiterating my training pieces verbatim. I would say, "Where did you get this stuff?"
He would say, "You."
We then both would laugh. Dave never complained about t he work, he was just so thrilled to offer his service. He told me what he saw that was lacking in the company and that it was what I was training. That’s what motivated him, his care for everybody else; Dave was very selfless.
We talked on a daily basis, literally 3-4 hours a day, 7 days a week. Always talking about life and what I saw. For some reason, he and I got along so well.
I couldn’t write or spell; English is my worst subject. I can’t even find words in the dictionary so I would call Dave; he was my go to guy. Eventually I gave him a salary for working with me. We would always call each other at anytime of day and talk about anything referring to life progression; these conversations would last for hours. He always told his friends I was his boss and I always reminded him that I am NOT his boss, I am his friend. Eventually we went from doing Connect to doing YOR In events and I told him that the material we had was way outdated and asked him to help me rewrite it.
During the time of the Connect periods as we were talking about life, I told Dave that it would be better if he read Sri Maharaj’s book titled “I Am That”. Maybe then he would have a better idea of where I get my information. It’s a very comprehensive book, not an easy read at all.
Within a week, he told me that he finished the book and also referred it to some of his friends. It took me a year to finish that book and he did it in a week. Even though he didn’t get all the concepts, at least we could now dialogue more extensively. I was able to talk to him about spirituality like I couldn’t’ with anybody else. We then moved into the birthday books and all these different theories behind astrology. We developed a dialog and language that we could understand the way that no one else could with me. You could say it was a very in depth and profound friendship.
As I love to ride motorcycles, I wanted to go this one track in Northern California, but nobody could go so I asked David Hong. All day long I was having a great run and at around 3 pm, on my last run I mis-shifted. As I put the bike back in gear, my wheel locked up. Before I knew it, my bike tumbled and so did I. That accident broke my left femur and my right clavicle. The ambulance took me to the nearest emergency room where Dave met me. When he came into the room, he was very calm like nothing happened. He was able to do everything I needed him to do; that felt very comforting.
The doctors wanted to operate on me, but Telicia decided that she wanted me to come back to L.A. to see a specialist, not someone from a hospital in middle of nowhere. Dave drove me back with a broken femur and we talked all the way from Northern California to L.A. Time flew by and I did not even remember I was in pain. I told him, “If there was anybody that I want to be with at this moment in time, it would be you,” because he understood me so well. He gave me strength to go through that process. I will never forget that.
During my healing period we went through a rewriting of the YOR In booklet. I knew that this was a monumental task, but if anybody could do it, I knew it was him; I was so confident in his ability to do it. I asked him how long it would take him to do it. He said 2 months, but in the back of my mind I knew it would take about 6 months. In 2 months we reviewed it. It was horrendous; it was nothing close to what I thought it would be. I told him to scrap it and start all over again and he did without hesitation.
There was this trust in between us. There was no moment that there was any anger or frustration. If there were any disagreements they would be resolved in a matter of hours, therefore, I don’t consider it as any indifference. There were many moments like that, but that’s what it takes to work together as a team, and that’s what we did.
There were funny moments that we had, many funny moments. Dave liked to work so fast that I don’t think he had a sense of time. He always talked about “when I was young”. He would always reflect back to “a long time ago, when I was young”. I would say to him, “Dave, your 19, 20, 21…how long ago could this have been?”
The typical pattern when he did something I didn’t agree with was, we’d go through it, “troubleshoot”, and we’d come to a conclusion. The following day, I would always remind him not to make the same mistake again. His comment would be “Dennis, why are you bringing it back up? It was so long ago.”
I would laugh and say, “Dave, it was less than 24 hours ago”. To him, that was truly an eternity.
He always operated at a very, very fast pace. I definitely respected his brain. It did take 6 months to complete the YOR In booklet. I was amazed. I could not do it. It was easy to critique, but not easy to produce. I told him since he wrote it he should be the one to present it. Dave never really wanted the front seat, but I always wanted him to have it because that was his piece. He debated with me and I finally convinced him that he couldn’t hide behind his work anymore.
He read the material to me, but it was so mechanical. I explained to him that it wouldn’t work. It was very hard for him to be in touch with his emotions because he was so brainy. It was his hardest challenge, but I needed him to break through it. We spent many hours and many weeks refining his presentation. Finally at one YOR In event he tried it. After his first day I told him that he was horrible. He took it in and the following day he did better. By the 4th day he was totally different, he had a standing ovation. His heart opened up, it was no longer coming from his brain. From that point on he was the master of ceremonies for the YOR In events and everyone loved him.
The tasks I gave this young guy these few short years were highly challenging. The work was daunting and almost impossible, yet Dave fought through every moment and always came out making us all proud of him and his work. When we launched YOR Health I realized this was a great opportunity for him, I suggested that become an Independent Representative so he would not just be making a salary. He thanked me, but said it was a conflict of interest. I told him, “No, I trust you more than that.”
He went back to Korea shortly after we launched and when he got back we had a talk. He told me that his mother wanted him to go back to school. He wanted to please his mother and asked if there was a way that he could go to school and at the same time do part time work with me. I said to him, “Whatever you would like to do,” because I didn’t want to hold him back and I never really wanted to give him a “job” anyway.
Since we launched YOR Health we haven’t had much time to talk. The last time we connected was on November 16th, my birthday. He texted me, “Happy Birthday” and I replied “we miss you”. He was busy preparing for school and I was working hard to develop a new product line. My thoughts were of the possibility of him finishing up his education and by that time we would be a well-established nutritional company. He would always have a place to work if he decided he wanted to come back.
I always thought that we would grow old together, as with my Founder’s Council. Since I didn’t have any kids, I hoped that when I do grow old, Dave would be one of the guys that would be there to take care of me. In fact, when I did my will, I had him in it.
I always thought that he would be burying me after taking care of “old” Dennis. Now it’s the other way around.
At the universal level, I know nothing has been lost because we all come back together. But at the human level, I will miss my dear friend Dave Hong dearly. Not only do I speak for myself, but also I speak for all the Independent Representatives in our Company because Dave had a very warm way of sharing himself completely.
Dave came to learn from me and always expressed his adoration for me. He told me many times how his father died on the same day as my birthday, so God blessed him with a new father, but really it was the other way around.
Through out the years of working together, I admired his champion-like courage to go for what he wanted and never back down, his incredible academic skills that came so easy for him, and how he was able to learn so quickly and change. On top of all that, he really had his own cool sense of style that I loved. I always told him he was a genius and will do great thing in his life. I was simply lucky enough to witness this genius kid of 18 develop to a grown, mature man by the age of 24. Although he only had a short 24 year life, I personally know he experienced more than most do in a lifetime.