懷念父親

Dad2

父親近年身體不好,曾經一度免疫系統失調,全身生出大瘡,要靠類固醇藥物控制,加上一向有糖尿病,身體抵抗力變得頗弱。但零七年感恩節在我家團聚時,父親的精神還是不錯,怎料七天後他便感染肺炎,早上在老人中心發病,馬上送入醫院深切治療部,三個禮拜後便與世長辭。由於事情發生得相當突然,我們心理上完全沒有準備。

            我在十七歲便離家來美留學,此後再沒有與父親共同生活,只有在過去十年父母移民美國後才多點時間相處,故此,我對父親的記憶分成兩個不同的時期。從前我小時,父親是我心中的英雄,他的人際關係網很廣,也不怕要求朋友幫忙,凡事他都有辦法應付,是個十分精明的人。他對四個兒子十分細心愛護,連我們幾兄弟的皮鞋也是由他晚上親自刷拭好。父親在銀行上班,有時在周末或假日需要輪流「值班」,跟著他帶著我到銀行,讓我在銀行內自由走動,可能就是如此令我對銀行業產生興趣,長大後亦步父親後塵。在我將要申請到美國留學時,父親為了籌集我的旅費,將位於「富貴大廈」的一間小商業單位賣掉。此外,為了不影響我申請美國簽證,父親與母親毅然辭去服務多年的「中資」銀行工作,父親中年以後事業並不順利,可能與他中年轉換工作有關。

            過去十年父親踏入暮年,當然與我以前在家時有很大分別。他對移民生活不大適應,性格變得更內向,不願意與他人接觸,在異國生活圈子變得極其狹窄,連參加教會也不投入,似乎有點無可奈何的孤寂感覺。此外,可能父親在美生活太枯燥,便產生了一些老人家特有的壞習慣,包括喜歡在外檢拾人家丟棄的物品,不論是舊傢具雜物或玩具,他都樂於大量地檢回家中,或堆在車房。另一項壞習慣,是對騙徒用假支票行騙的手法深信不疑,被騙去金錢都不知道,常以為快要中得巨獎,故家中經常收到推銷電話,令母親煩擾不堪,只有限制他手上的金錢,以免被騙。

            父親在醫院三個星期,大部份時間都在昏睡中,要靠機器呼吸。其中有一段短時間,病情似乎有好轉,可以自己呼吸和進食,甚至離開病床坐在椅子上差不多一小時,我們心中十分高興,心想父親應該在聖誕節前可以出院回家。可惜這段時間相當短暫,隨之病情再度惡化,之後再沒有甦醒過來。最後幾天,父親完全靠機器維持呼吸,身上插滿管子,我們只有求主施行神跡。到後來醫生告訴我們,父親的肺部已經完全喪失功能,病情絕對不可能好轉,我們才開始接受父親將要離開的事實。十二月二十二日下午,父親返回天家,見到他安詳的面孔,身上再沒有管子,再沒有機器呼吸的聲音,也再沒有病痛,我們心中雖然傷心難過,卻慶幸父親不必再受痛苦,而是與愛他的主耶穌同在。

            一月四日在大風雨中為父親舉行追思禮拜,當日靈堂停電,在黑暗中我們與父親道別。到了瞻仰遺容的時刻,第一位來賓上前來,就在這一刻燈光重亮,大家拍手歡呼,倒是從未在追思禮拜中見過這般情景。之後將父親靈柩送到墓地,風雨完全停止,陽光亦重現,為我們稍為帶走心中愁緒。

            一切禮儀過後,我們回到日常生活,可是,喪父之痛卻是無法抹去。想到父親青年時為家人犧牲自己,卻在晚年被迫要過不快樂的生活,心中免不了內疚,自問是否對父親未盡孝道,令他遭受移民之苦。親人在追思中亦屢屢提到父親的前半生與後半生的重大差別,似乎父親的晚年是充滿遺憾的。感謝神,祂藉著兩件事為我們治療傷痛。

            父親在醫院中最清醒的一段時間,我與母親和妻子在他身邊,他要我們逐一為他禱告,然後他自己作了一個簡短的祈禱;父親用微弱的聲音對神說﹕「你的恩典超過我所求所想」,然後他說了兩次「哈利路亞!哈利路亞!」。父親在病危中對神依然充滿感恩,沒有埋怨,故我們不必妄下「父親生活很不快樂」的結論。

            之後,在收拾父親的遺物時,弟弟們找到一份我們從未見過的文件,是父親在兩年前八十歲壽辰前後自己寫的,文中父親將他一生大事記錄下來,其中包括他移民後的日子。父親寫道﹕「幾年來在美享受悠閑生活,雖已屆八十高齡,身體尚稱康健….每年有幾次家庭團聚,彼此聚首暢談,以免互相掛念,甚有樂趣。我們雖歷盡艱辛,但終能順利渡過難關,這並非由於我們有超人的能力,乃是完全依靠全能的上帝引領眷佑,得以全家蒙福,感謝上帝深恩大愛。」

            感謝神,讓我們聽到父親臨終的禱告,和讀到他寫下的生平,知道他心中對神的感恩,並非如我們想像中那般心中困苦。這兩件事稍解心中對父親的歉意,再想到如今父親已經放下世上的勞苦,在慈愛救主懷中等待我們眾親友重聚彼岸,讓我們都除去心中的苦痛,努力去奔跑前面的道路。

I also wrote the following to my family members to commemorate Dad:

          We are all going through the grieving process right now. For me, the grief of losing Dad began to hit home after last Friday. Suddenly I realized that we will never again see Dad during our life time. When I was small Dad had a habit of saying good bye to me before he went to work in the morning. One time he forgot to do it, and I cried all day until he returned from work. This time Dad will not return no matter how much tears we shed. It is a hard reality even for Christians.

          It seems the grieving process would also involve the feeling of regret. We lament Dad’s deteriorating physical and mental state during his last years. Uncle Ernest described Dad’s latter years as gradually fading out with anguish and despair. I cannot help but think what we, as his children, could have done to make life more enjoyable and meaningful for him in these darker and weaker years? After all, he was the one who sacrificed to bring a better life to us all. Sure we provided for him materially. But could we have provided more encouragement and comfort? Could we have shown more love and respect towards him? Could we have spent more time with him? These questions have no answers, and the regret would perhaps never completely go away.

          I have been to many funerals, but this is the first time that I am among the immediate grieving family.  And this was a terrible December when we experienced the departure of two members of the family. This morning I was going through the pictures on the Yau site and I saw this one, taken at Dad’s birthday party two years ago:

Dad

          Even though both the prayer and the prayee are now together with the Lord, I am sure their hearts and prayers are still with us. Randy Alcorn, a pastor and author, has devoted a lot of time studying scriptural teachings about Heaven. In his book “Heaven” he wrote:

“In Heaven we’ll exercise not only intellect but also emotions… We know that people in Heaven have lots of feelings – all good ones…. Our minds will be clearer in Heaven, not foggier. Memory is basic to personality. The law of continuity requires that there we will remember our past lives. Heaven cleans our slate of sin and error, but it doesn’t erase our memory of it…It seems likely that recalling the reality of our past troubles, sorrows, and sins would set a sharp contrast to the glories of Heaven, as darkness does to light, as Hell to Heaven. We would love this contrast if we forgot what sorrow was. ”

          In discussing whether family relationships will continue in Heaven, Pastor Alcorn wrote:

            “The notions that relationships with family and friends will be lost in Heaven, though common, is unbiblical…There is every reason to believe we’ll pick right up in Heaven with relationships from Earth. We’ll gain many new ones but will continue to deepen the old ones.“

          As to father’s state of mind (was he happy and fulfilled?) in his later years, I had also thought previously that he was very unhappy and disappointed with this period of his life. At one point I even asked Mom whether it would be better for Dad to return and live in Hong Kong. However, after reading what Dad wrote about his life, I think Dad was not as unhappy living in the U.S. as we had thought. Even though his world had shrunk considerably, he took comfort in being with his immediate family members. He was proud about what each of us has done. The sense of gladness and thanksgiving to God lasted to the very end of his life, as he praised God for his surpassing grace in his final prayer on his death bed. The other thought I have in reading his handwritten list is that Dad still had clear and logical thinking even in his final years. Sure he was less expressive than before. But Dad was always a bit quiet and an introvert. In his quiet and simple way perhaps he was enjoying life and family much more than we had thought. We tend to remember his “bad habits” in the past few years, including his wanting to deposit fake checks, buying unnecessary junks in the hope of winning the lottery and picking up and storing things retrieved from garbage cans. But perhaps this is how he enjoyed life in his waning years. Above all, in his own world he still clearly knew and loved every family member. I think he also knew that we loved him, even though it was not a habit in our family that we would hug, kiss and tell each other “I love you”.

          For me, I will always remember and be thankful for his love, devotion, sacrifice, faithfulness, and resourcefulness during his earlier years. I will also remember his frailty, simplicity, weakness, contentment and perseverance in his later years. It makes Dad a complete and real person. With God’s grace, we will emerge as better and stronger children to both our Mom and God.