Throughout his time on Earth, man matures and seeks answers in life. But if he should be riddled with sickness and suffering in his waning years, what remains in the face of the gloom of death?
“Dad (God) has everything planned out. He shall have me when he wishes,” said Fai. “There’s no need to look back or question him. Be grateful and go with his plan.”
Seven years ago, Fai first came to church through “An Afternoon with my Dad,” a church-organized gathering where disciples brought along their fathers. Drawn to the sincere intimacy shared by disciples, he started studying the Bible four years ago, envisioning to be baptized into Christ before his second grandson, Hin, was born. Before he could be baptized, however, Fai was diagnosed with colon cancer.
A cancer diagnosis and a baptism: two meteoric forces that brought about a significant change in Fai’s life. A sailor in his youth, Fai frequented the seas and spent little time with his family. His fiery temper often sparked conflicts between him and his son, whom Fai demanded follow his lead and superior life experiences. At work, Fai was the mentor and supervisor of fresh trainees in his team – a team that, in his vision, had to be second to none. Not uncommonly, he clashed with his coworkers and subordinates who diverted from his vision. To Fai, failure was not an option in life.
“I wasn’t peaceful at the time,” Fai recalled. “While I was managing everything, I also feared making any missteps.”
“What I am most grateful to God for are experiences that I otherwise would never have,” Fai said. “I kicked my swearing habits, apologized to my wife and former coworkers, and started helping out at home and learning the gentleness of Jesus Christ. I learnt to have compassion and acceptance for those around me.”
Before one of his operations, I (Yeung, Fai’s son) prayed alongside Fai at the hospital. I saw him shed tears for other patients who were suffering from their illnesses. An aged man with a soft heart, he referred to God as “Dad.” After his baptism, Fai volunteered actively at the hospital, offering his support and comfort to patients every day. He spent time visiting the families of brothers and sisters who also suffered from dire illness, and he even shared his experiences in patient recovery and emotional needs to over 200 medical professionals. Encouraging the younger numbers in the hospital, he said, “You are angels sent to the sufferers.”
“I don’t worry much about my health; Dad (God) has everything in control… I hope the whole hospital knows that I’m a Christian because of how I could dedicate myself to serving without asking for anything in return… I couldn’t believe how much change I had from the blunt brute I was!”
Soon after, Fai had to go under surgery for his liver and subsequently contracted bacteremia. Doctors informed his family that Fai would never be leaving the hospital again. Fai said to me, “I’ll be fine! I’ll be by Dad’s side in Heaven. There’ll be no sickness and tears, but joy evermore.”
“When I was ill, what I was most grateful for were the everyday moments when my family was asleep, when I could open the window, lean onto its sill and talk to God, praying to him. Sometimes I prayed for more time that I could spend with my grandkids. I was utterly grateful for the time when I saw the sunlight shining upon the gardens in the hospital; I prayed for the staff and the patients there.”
Fai’s condition was dire, but whenever he had visitors – friends or brothers and sisters from the church – he talked to them with a smile. The day before Fai passed on was a Sunday, and he could no longer leave his bed. I went to the hospital to have the last service with him, one between father and son. We sang “God is my Shepherd,” read scriptures (Revelation 21:1-4, Fai’s personal favorite), took communion, and prayed together. I remember getting close to his side, listening to his frail voice which still prayed for patients in the hospital till that moment. I was struck by how he remained compassionate to the very end of his life. The next day, I took his hand, playing “Amazing Grace” at his side. I knew it was time for God to take Fai from my hand and lead him home to heaven.
I was packing Fai’s belongings in the hospital when I came across a journal that he completed while reading “Why are Sheep Always Going Astray?” in tandem with brothers at church. At his house, I was astounded to stumble upon letters after letters in drawers, at his bedside, and in his notebooks, all directed to God, detailing how thankful he was to meet God, how eagerly he yearned for God’s forgiveness, and how grateful he was for God’s gifts! My father was a disciple for a little over three years, but his faith inspired us profoundly. Faith in God, as demonstrated through this one man, was the factor of neither knowledge nor time.
“I wish everyone would be glad that I am returning to Dad!” Fai said. “My family is kind to fulfill my wish – to donate my body to the faculty of medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. This isn’t a grand will, but having enjoyed what the public hospitals have offered, I wish to contribute my part.”
I said to my three-year-old son, Hin, “Grandpa is fine now. He’s up there watching us with God and Jesus.”
One day, my son asked me to look to the skies out of the window. He yelled, “Good morning, Grandpa!” as he raised his children’s ministry arts-and-crafts masterpiece to the window. “Look at it, Grandpa!” Here in our family, we believe that Fai has truly returned home. He was at the end of life and faced death without fear. For this, we honor him!
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'”
Revelation 21:1-4 (NIV)
Shared from the Hong Kong Church of Christ