Lyrics of a song by John Michael Talbot in his album, Wisdom:
THE CROSS is foolishness to those who perish,
But for us, it has become the wisdom of God.
The Cross is foolishness to those who perish,
But for us, it is salvation and power from God.
Some look for miracles,
Some look for wisdom,
But we preach only Jesus crucified.
It seems absurdity,
It seems so foolish,
But to us, it is the wisdom of God.
Eye has never seen,
Ear has never heard,
Nor has it dawned on the limits of the mind.
But God has surely prepared
For those who love Him.
He reveals this wisdom through the spirit of God.
MY FATHER passed away peacefully around 3pm last Sunday at age 76, after almost a year's battle with myeloma -- a type of blood plasma cancer that apparently afflicts mainly old men in their seventies or more.
Over the past few weeks or so, although his condition had been worsening quite quickly, he told mother that he did not want to be taken to the hospital anymore. Early in the morning, before 4am, his maid S. had called my home to tell us that he was having fever. By 9am, S. called my brothers and sisters too to inform them that he was having difficulty with his breathing. Within a few hours, almost all of us (his children and grandchildren) had gone to his home in the north-eastern part of Singapore. Some stayed, and some left shortly after.
Third sis and i took turns to hold his hands -- hoping to reassure and comfort him in his last moments as he passed into the "other world". How this "other world" is like, we really don't know. But we are both strong in our faiths -- she in Buddha and i in Jesus. My father, he had recently gone through the simple rites of becoming a Buddhist. So, Buddhist chants were played continuously on his bed during his last days.
Around 3pm, while i was still holding his hand, my father's breath went slower and slower. Suddenly his body shook, as through electrocuted, for a few seconds. He finally stopped breathing altogether. i was filled with wonder. Not sure exactly why. Stroked his chest and murmured in Hokkien, "May God bless you." It was around then that i heard bells ringing, as in a religious rite. Who? What? There was no time to check this out. i called mother. She came and looked. Then she called third sis who also came and looked. The ringing went on. i asked, "What's that?" But no one answered me.
Soon everything began to move quickly. We started calling the other siblings who had come and gone away. Some paramedics came, checked his pulse and then told us to get a doctor to certify the cause of his death. Called a funeral caretaker, who in turn called a doctor to do the necessary... The wake was held the next day. Friends, relatives, neighbours, colleagues and strangers came. Then there were nuns, monks and almost endless chanting. We took part in the funeral procession at 2pm the following day amidst a drizzle. Then got into respective cars and followed the hearse to the Mandai crematorium. In a viewing gallery, we watched the movement of his coffin across a hall way towards a furnace. The final goodbye. Several of my siblings wept. The next morning, we assembled at Mandai again, this time to collect his ashes and watch his urn being put into a niche in block E (for Eugenia) in the columbarium. The same block apparently holds the ashes of late president Wee too. By the fourth day, i was back at work. Then weekend came, and today is the seventh day after his death.
Where is father now? God knows. i only know that i had prayed repeatedly to God for His mercy on him. When mother told me a week or so ago that that a nun said he might be turned into thousands of ants after his death, i saw the greatness and beauty of the Christian perspective: How our Lord loves and values each man (or woman), however sinful he (or she) may have been! Surely, it's unthinkable that God would turn a man's soul into numerous ants? While Buddhists believe that sufferings are invariably karma (retributions for past sins), we Christians (in particular, Catholics) believe in the redemptive value of suffering, and that the one who suffers tremendously need not have deserved the pain at all.
If only my father had accepted Christ! Still, i believe in the mercy of our Lord and the "anonymous Christian" (Romans 2). Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
On the night after the funeral, eldest sis called to say that she won $500 after spending $2 on a 4D ticket based on the last four digits of father's death certificate number. Did anyone else win, she asked?
Second sis did. She had paid $250 to a doctor to get the death certificate earlier. And she won $250 after spending $1 on 4D.
We did too, all six of us. i checked the tickets that youngest brother had bought on our behalf that morning. His wife had just passed all the accounts and papers to me in the afternoon. We won $2,500 on the same number -- just enough to pay the remainder of the funeral costs, after deducting expenses from contributions.
Is this father's way of settling his own bills? Is this father's way of sending messages to his family to tell us that he's still alive, in another world?