Have you lost someone close to you before? Perhaps to illness? Or a change in circumstances in life? How do you get over that hurt? Our editor, Daniela, shares with us how God heals her pain from losing someone close to her heart and how she found her way back to Him.
Healing comes in different forms, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or relational. We all need healing at some point in our life. I would say that as per my previous post on healing, what I had needed was probably all of the above but more so the emotional and spiritual. Life had to move on after my maternal grandmother passed away but that didn’t mean that I stopped missing her because I still miss her very much. But the legacy she left behind, the life that she lived in Christ encourages and motivates me to press on in this race, this track that God has placed me on.
The thing that has always haunted me though is fear – fear of just about anything and everything. Fear was always what drove me and also hindered me from moving forward in my walk with Christ. I’ve been asked before if I fear death, and my response was ‘yes’ but not fear of my own death but of loved ones.
There have been many times when phone calls came in and I would get scared that it was about bad news in regards to someone close passing away. I also get scared of loved ones passing away in their sleep. My paternal grandmother passed away in her sleep in 2008, very unexpectedly. And as strange as this may sound but it seems to be whenever I am transitioning into a different stage in life, someone leaves my life. The summer I graduated from high school, my maternal grandmother passed away. And as I was finishing off university, my paternal grandmother passed away. Most recently, my Uncle Danny passed away in July 2011, two months before I was about to start seminary. (He is my mother’s second eldest brother and after my maternal grandmother passed away, he was the gel in gathering us together regularly for our family gatherings.)
I remember as kids, my sister and I had told my mother that we wished Uncle Danny was our father (mind you we were kids). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we hated our father but there were good qualities and characteristics that made Uncle Danny a good father figure. He took care of us even up to the point before entering into the hospital and passed away. Aside from trying to take care of our needs and buying us gifts like game systems (which my mother would always get him to refund because she didn’t want us to be distracted), he would take care of some of the car stuff or the electric stuff in our house because my father was not gifted in these things. There were also times like one of the previous TTC (Toronto’s public transportation system) strikes and I had no way of getting to class but Uncle Danny with no hesitation drove my brother to work and me to school. He was just there and available for us whenever, no matter the circumstance.
I remember one night during fellowship, I kept thinking about what the Chinese Medicine doctor had told Uncle Danny (though we weren’t sure if he had heard this), but he was told that he wasn’t going to live very long, either a year or two left. What the doctor had said was on the back of my mind while we were worshipping in song. The song ‘You Alone Can Rescue’ was being played and the lyrics, “You alone can rescue, you alone can save, you alone can lift us from the grave…” brought me to tears. I was scared about Uncle Danny dying, but I also recognized that God was the one under control – only he can rescue, only he can save, and only he can lift us from the grave. And the grave referred here is not the kind of grave in the graveyard but raising us in becoming spiritually alive eternally in heaven.
Uncle Danny needed to go to the hospital in the end. His daughter, my younger cousin (the one that got baptized in my previous post) had texted me while I was work on a Monday. That’s when fear kicked in. “What next? What should I do? What can I do?” These questions raced through my mind. I called my mother as I was driving to see if she had gone to the hospital yet. My only thought was I needed to be there. I don’t want to have any missed opportunities in being there with him if anything happen. Afterwards I called my God brother, I didn’t know what to do but all I knew was I felt scared and the tears started to come while driving and talking to him. I felt the fear and the pain. Everything else seemed like a blur. The only thing I knew to do was to ask him to pray and all I remember was him telling me to calm down.
The next two days were very nerve-wracking, Uncle Danny had to do tests but he was also told that he may need a dialysis but there were risks involved. More and more fear came. I don’t think I ever prayed as hard as I did during his stay in the hospital. His life was on the edge and we were told he wasn’t going to make it. I remember my youngest Uncle putting me on the spot, asking me to pray in the hospital in front of our family, who were mostly non-Christians. I felt nervous because I didn’t want to make it seem as if I was imposing prayer on them. But it didn’t matter at that point because my mind was just fixed on prayer as being prayer – it’s the meaning and purpose that mattered most right then and there – it was for Uncle Danny and he was ready to receive it as he closed his eyes to be prayed over by his niece. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity so I prayed. It was not out of my own courage and boldness because I was fearful of what others thought. However, it was a demonstration of God empowering and speaking through me. I couldn’t have done it myself.
We left the hospital that Tuesday night not knowing what would happen and as silly or even ridiculous to some people this may sound but I prayed that God would turn the bloody urine into normal urine. I mean if God can turn water into wine, it’s within His ability and power if He wanted to, to turn the bloody urine back to normal. So I continue to pray throughout that night in my pitch dark room alone. I had made arrangements to have the senior pastor at my church visit my uncle and my god brother wanted to make a visit too. We went to the hospital together that morning and waited for our pastor to arrive. We spent some time praying and I explained about the situation Uncle Danny was in and also gave a synopsis of who he is so that our pastor would know how to have an entry point in conversation with him.
To my surprise, that day was the most I’ve EVER heard Uncle Danny speak. He was always a man of few words but he spoke so much. He shared his life story with us. He was baptized when he was in his teens but he eventually stopped going to church after my maternal grandmother passed away. I spent that Wednesday and Thursday trying to be there as much as I can. When I had to work on Friday and Saturday, I just kept praying and thinking about him. Sunday came around and I went to church thinking that I would visit after service. I fell asleep after eating lunch at home to only be woken up by a phone call from my aunt. I had thought she was just updating us on his status, so I quickly gave the phone to my mom and I saw her reaction changed. She was in utter shock and cluelessness of how to react and what to do next, Uncle Danny passed away.
Recounting what has happened still brings me to tears, it still hurts, and I still miss him very much. But what I have realized is that in order for me to heal, I need to recount, I need to remember him for who he is and what he means to me. I realize pain and suffering is real and inevitable but it doesn’t mean that there is no purpose to it. It is just that we focus too much on the speck of a picture but we fail to see the beautiful picture beneath it. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different?”
What is the bigger picture in this? God blessed me with him and my maternal grandmother alike in my life. I have been blessed to share life with them. I was blessed to witness how God has worked in their lives and in my own as well while journeying with them. Every person and thing that has been and is a part of my life has resulted in shaping and forming me to who I am today. I may not be perfect but God transformed me for His purpose and people.
How has God been healing me? He has been reminding me that it is ok to grieve and that grieving takes time and sometimes that means I just need to cry, sometimes I just need to remember Uncle Danny, my maternal grandmother, and others that have left in my life. Ultimately, I’m not the healer but God has given me the Holy Spirit to comfort me, to heal me, and to guide me in this process.
The night before Uncle Danny’s funeral, I was convicted to write something to share the next day with everyone. Again, I’m fearful to share in front of people and especially in front of strangers but I felt very compelled to do so. I sat in front of the computer and just typed away. I kept thinking that I could find a way out of standing up in front of everyone. The Pastor that conducted the funeral really encouraged me that it would mean so much more if I spoke what I wanted to share directly (although the Pastor was there to translate what I was saying into Cantonese for my Aunts/Uncles). So I share this with you, WitnessTO readers, too. It’s been over a year since I have read this and I’m certain that re-reading this will be healing for me and hopefully an encouragement for you, if you are hurting from losing someone important in your life:
Uncle Danny has always been a man of few words. He would generally always be telling us to “take a seat” or to “eat”. There would be an occasional conversation here and there to ask us what we were up to and he would try to encourage us to keep trying/pursuing whatever we are doing, be it finding a job or going to school.
Although he is a man of few words, I know that within those words he always said them out of love and care. Perhaps it is because of a generation gap and language barriers that caused communication to be challenging at times. But I have come to understand over the years that the previous generation’s adults tend to express themselves through “observation”. What I mean by that is, they tend to observe us and see what it is we like/enjoy and purchase that item until we get tired of it. And even then they may continue to purchase it because it has been set in their memories that the item observed is what pleases us and they want us simply to be happy. Call it a permanent socialization if you want, but it seems that its hard to learn another way to expressing love for them. I know with our generation we have our ‘ideals’ of many things including how our parents show their care and love but if we step back and think about it, they work hard to try to express their love for us still even if that means in ways opposite to what we hope for. They still make their efforts to serve us in whatever way they can to pave and prepare us for our future paths and this something to be grateful for.
Uncle Danny was like another ‘father’ to me. In Chinese, I call him ‘yee kow fu’ (second uncle) and ‘kow fu’ has the word ‘father’ in it. He always checked up on our family to see if we needed help and back then he’d try to spoil us with game systems only to then be rejected by my mom because she didn’t want us to be caught up in video games. He tried to do all that he could to care and love with his utmost effort and I thank him for that.
He really valued family and so family gatherings were important and dear to his heart. Whenever there were occasions that he could get family together to celebrate and eat dinner together, he would be eager and on his toes to set up a date. He always wanted us to just be able to be together. It says in Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” I’m sure that Uncle Danny would like to see that for our family.
Last Wednesday, I saw a different Uncle Danny. I found out a lot more about him than I ever did. He wasn’t that man of few words that I was always familiar with. But instead, he spoke a lot about his life journey to the Pastor at my church. I was blessed by this conversation indeed. Although, he has now left us and have gone to the Lord in heaven but it has definitely been a blessing to share life with him. Surely, it is a time of mourning for each of us but it is also a celebration that we were able to share life with him. I know that he would like each of us to continue to press on in life to do our best so may we remember and pursue in this together.
Image Credit: Bernt Rostad/Flickr