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:
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.
I wrote the following in April 2020 in my email correspondence with Uncle Ernest:
A scene that etched in my mind suddenly came back. It was that night at the hospital. Dad had passed on. You and Auntie Millie came, and we spent time in the hospital room saying good-bye to Dad. Then we all left. In the parking lot I remembered I had left something in the room so I went back up to retrieve it. When I went into the room I noticed that everything had been removed – Dad’s body, all the medical equipment, etc. It as just minutes since we left the room. I stood there and suddenly the frailty and ephemeral of life hit me. We are all but here for a short time, and then we disappear. The meaning of life is not just the here and now which will one day disappear. God’s gift to us is eternity, which He only gives to angels and mankind. That is grace, and love.