Thursday, April 19, 2007

Chapter Nine - Last Respect

Chapter Nine


“Sorry,” I said. “I cannot partake of your rituals. I love my father and he knows that I love him. That’s more important! Not what I show to people.”

THE FUNERAL went on the traditional Taoist way. Pastor Law who was convinced that Father had truly accepted Christ had offered to standby should we choose to carry out the funeral in the church. However, he assured me that what was left behind was only an empty shell – basically a lifeless corpse.

“Let your family follow their own customs since they insist on it,” Pastor Law had supported my decision. “The most important thing is that on the basis of his confession of faith in Christ, your father is now saved and in Heaven with the Lord.”

Peaceful Composure

When Pastor Law Chee Wah and Mrs Law paid their last respect the following day, Pastor Law remarked: "He went away peacefully." The same was echoed by Koo-poh, an old lady who had earlier witnessed to him in the hospital. Mother's own observation: "He appeared like he has just gone to sleep." His left eye was opened slightly, as if he was looking a distance into the future. Part of his lower lip was dry. His lips were partially separated, showing slightly the lower part of his front teeth. That gave him the look of a smiling gentleman. Father had the look of a perfect gentleman from China with his traditional Chinese funeral clothes.

Father was to be cremated on Monday morning of October 12. On Sunday night, the monks came and started the all-night chanting. My sisters followed through the rites. My cousin brother, Vincent, represented me in the ceremony, while I was sitting around with my relatives and friends.

There were some backmouthing around, as friends and relatives judged my actions as being disrespectful of the dead. I had earlier said that there were things that I would follow, and there were things that knowingly, I would refuse to follow. I had put on my white T-shirt and a pair of black trousers. I was wearing a little sackcloth on my left arm. Those were clearly my sincere sign of mourning and deep respect for my father’s demise.

In my heart, I felt the peace of God knowing that Father was now in Heaven. He did not have to be prayed to. We did not have to burn all those paper houses and cars and servants. In Heaven, he now has everything that he needs.

“There is nothing lacking in Heaven,” I reassured my relatives.

Some relatives were trying to advise me to follow through the religious rites. I firmly refused on the basis that the rituals were not honouring to God.

“Sorry,” I said. “I cannot partake of your rituals. I love my father and he knows that I love him. That’s more important! Not what I show to people.”

Thankfully, there were no quarrels that resulted from all these pressures as I had firmly told my family members that I would not bow to pressures. Mother was right when she later said: "When the person is still alive, love and respect is meaningful. Once he is gone, whatever you want to do is meaningless. It's all done for others to see." She was right!

After the funeral was over, she was left with a hefty bill of some RM15,000! The bills were all taken care of by the gifts of condolence from friends and relatives and I believe some part of it was also borne by my sister, who had paid for the medical bill.

The Testimony

Relatives and friends came over to pay their last respect. I had a copy of the "Path to Victory" New Testament, which I gave to Father, while he was still in the hospital. On it, I wrote, from the bottom of my heart:

You would have read this New Testament yourself had you become better. Nevertheless, it was not God's will, as I explained to you that He has a different plan for different people.
Some He heals; others, He gives a completely new body. You yourself know this when you said in your pain, "How long do I have to wait?"

When the doctor first told me that you have only a short time to go, I asked God, "WHY?" Why should this happen to you? His reply was very clear: "For His sake and for my sake."

For His sake - to show the greatness of His power. For my sake - so that I may get closer to you, to touch you, to show you once again my love for you that has always been in my heart.

Now, that you have gone to be with the Lord in paradise on this chosen day of October 10, 1998, I thank you for leaving behind your last words which I still find hard to believe my ears:

The New Testament was placed on the coffin. It was only removed on the morning of the funeral before the coffin was placed into the hearse. I did not want to burn the New Testament away with the coffin, but kept it aside as a memorial of my father. Godwilling, it will be kept away nicely for a long time.

The coffin was opened for the last time in order that his immediate family members could pay their last respect. I stood there, weeping aloud. I had been crying every now and then, whenever the thought of missing my father crossed my mind. It was hard to contain the tears. For a long time, I had never cried as loud as that. It was painful to lose my father here on earth, although I knew that he was already in paradise with his God. While the rest of the family members felt it was a taboo, I took the opportunity to touch his cheek for the last time. He looked so peaceful.

Rest In Peace

Before the coffin was placed into the hearse, my family members had to follow through the rites again. I stood by the side to have my last look at the coffin. I volunteered to carry the coffin. When the hearse moved forward, we followed closely. It may be another taboo again, but my right hand was on the coffin all the time as the hearse moved forward. I could not control myself emotionally. I cried very loud, calling him: "Father!" Deep down in my heart, I knew I would miss him very much. He would not be there anymore. He was gone – forever, -- until the day we meet face-to-face in Heaven.

I placed my niece, Li Lian's hand on the coffin as well, alongside with mine. She was also crying. My sister, Su Lin was also crying very loudly. All of us, including the other two sisters, Susie and Su Li were unable to control our tears. Susie’s fiance, Rainer Putz, joined in the procession.

The moment the hearse reached the main entrance of Taman Kepong, we were all asked to turn on our back to let the hearse move forward. I chose not to turn mine, but with tears in my eyes, I waved goodbye to my father. I knew I had loved him while taking care of him.

It was a quiet, beautiful Monday morning, when the funeral took place. It had poured heavily on Saturday past midnight, but the weather was good throughout Sunday and Monday. The moment the hearse arrived at the City Hall crematorium at Jalan Kuari in Cheras, we lifted down the coffin and placed it at the centre stage. The rites went on as usual, while I was seated down with my relatives, after feeling exhausted from crying. The coffin was mechanically lowered down, where it was to be placed into the furnace.

We went downstairs to see the coffin moving towards the furnace. The gate of the furnace was opened and the coffin was pushed in. Just at that moment, I read from 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18:

"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words."

Auntie Martina and Auntie Susan stood by me, while the rest of the family members and relatives had moved on to the hall. After I had completed reading that passage, Auntie Martina immediately prayed:

"Dear Lord, I commit my brother into your bosom. Thank you for saving him during his last moments. We thank you for welcoming him into the kingdom of Heaven. Amen."

She later shared that she had some doubts about my father's destiny. That Monday night, after attending the funeral and going back to school to teach, she still made it to her church despite feeling exhausted. The speaker for the night spoke about the destiny of souls who died. When she approached the speaker after the message to ask about her brother, the pastor replied: "As long as the person has prayed the sinner's prayer, he will not be lost in hell. God will keep his soul in His bosom." Father had knowingly prayed the sinner’s prayer on September 27 and later, in one of his night visions, invited Jesus into his heart. There were several other people who talked to him, and they confirmed my conclusion: Father knew what he had done when he prayed to accept Jesus as his personal Saviour.

ON TUESDAY morning, we went back to the crematorium to collect the ashes to be placed in an urn. A slightly shiny jaded urn was picked to contain the ashes.

By 9.30am, we were already on our way to Semenyih, where Father's ashes were to be placed there. My youngest sister, Su Li had the chance to carry the urn all the way on an hour’s trip there.

By 10.40am, the urn was placed into a little pigeon-hole, built after the concept of a condominium or an apartment for the dead. It was bought for RM7,000. Mother had only bought the pigeon hole two days earlier to keep the urn. She had bought another one for herself just beside his. When the rest of the family members had paid their last respect with joss sticks and offerings, I paid my last respect to Father with a moment of silence as his ashes were laid to rest in peace.

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