Saturday, June 28, 2008

The First Anniversary is the Toughest

Tan Soo-Inn is one of the 'angels' that God had brought alongside me this February. Soo-Inn understands grief and loss as he himself had experience the loss of his first wife many years back. Apart from being a warm, sincere and 'real' pastor, Soo-Inn shares 'real' Biblical practical insights. He minces not his words. He tells it like it is and I like that.

Thank you for sharing your life.
Thank you for your valuable friendship.

Importantly too, he's an Arsenal fan! :)

[June 27th, 2008 Edition]

The First Anniversary is the Toughest

I was senior pastor of a growing church. I had just lost my wife to cancer. He was one of my church elders. And he told me "you need to get back on the horse as soon as possible." I believe he had my interests at heart. He was definitely concerned for the welfare of the church. But it was the last thing I needed to hear. His intentions may have been good. But what I heard was "don't grief. Return to normalcy as soon as possible." As H. Norman Wright says: "... people lack an understanding of the process of grief unless they have been through it."[Recovering from the Losses of Life (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1991), p.59.]

Bernice and I have walked the journey of major loss. We both lost our first spouses to cancer. Which is why we made sure we were with a friend when he commemorated the first anniversary of his wife's death. We were late for the commemorative dinner. We knew we would be. We were relocating to a new home that very day. All our earthly belongings were in boxes. We were desperately trying to bring order out of chaos. But we knew we had to be with him. The first anniversary can be a killer. Again Wright is helpful. Here he describes the usual journey of grief:

[The pain and grief actually intensify at three months and then gradually subside, but not in a steady fashion. They go up and down. Most people don't need a reminder of the first-year anniversary of the loss of a loved one. The intensity of grief comes rushing in with pain that rivals the initial feeling of loss. If anyone attempts to tell you that you should be "over it by now" or "feeling better" at any of these times, you may become quite upset with them. (Recovering from the Losses of Life , 59)]

We understand that everyone's journey is unique. Not everyone follows the "usual" pattern. But clearly my friend was going through a hard time. From his blog:

[It's been a really tough week for me. Emotionally the roller coaster ride has begun again. Dates and memories are intriguing. The brain is fascinating. How the linkage is made between a date and the trigger of memories is mind boggling. That's exactly what I've been going through...It's come to a point where I wished I didn't have to feel anymore. Wished that I could press the 'fast forward' button or the 'erase' button perhaps.]

What do we do with someone going through such anguish? I get asked this very often. What do we do? What do we say? My usual answer is that there is nothing we can do or say. What we need to do is to give people permission to grief. Some things are beyond words. Sometimes all that we can do is to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15b). Grief is a valley that has to be traversed. There are no short cuts. You cannot wish it away. But you can walk through it to the other side.

Mourning with those who mourn is hard work. Mourning is not a feel good experience. Mourning reminds us of our own losses. And our mortality. And our helplessness. Which is why the uninitiated want the grieving person to get over it as soon as possible. It is as much an expression of their own sense of discomfort as it is an expression of concern for the person who is grieving. It also explains why some stay away completely.

"Mourning with those who mourn" ought to be a compulsory subject in Life 101. There are few things in life more basic. In the end we all go through major losses. Perhaps the world shies away from the subject because it has no answer to the question of death. It has no hope. But as Paul reminds us, as followers of Jesus Christ, we do grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Jesus Himself shows us how to mourn with those who mourn.

[When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. (John 11: 33-35 TNIV)]

Jesus mourned with those who mourned. But Jesus goes on to do something we can't do. He goes on to die on the Cross so that death would no longer be the last word. He then makes us this offer: "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; ... (John 11:25 TNIV)." We know it is not an empty offer because Jesus rose again from the dead. We commemorate this every Easter. We commemorate this every Sunday.

In many ways, it was appropriate that my friend commemorated the first anniversary of his wife's death with a dinner. It brought back memories of the meals they used to share. (The menu consisted of some of her favourite dishes.) It reminded me also of the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples after He rose from the dead (John 21:1-14). And the dinner looked forward to that eschatological banquet in the new heavens and the new earth, where we will once again be reunited with Jesus, and with all who belong to Him.

And so I mourn with my friend, but I mourn with hope. I know, and he knows, that his wife is with Jesus. I also know that things should get better now that he has survived one year and reached the first anniversary. Somehow, after going through one cycle of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, we come to a point where Spring can be experienced again with new hope. So hang on my friend. No, the road will not be easy, but it should begin to get better from here on in.

By Tan Soo Inn

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Thank you my friends and silent supporters for your sojurn and support for me in so many ways.

I'm sorry that the blog is so much about my lament these days, it's a wonder it still gets any hits.

Its been a really tough week for me. Emotionally the roller coaster ride has begun again. Dates and memories are intriguing. The brain is fascinating. How the linkage is made between a date and the trigger of memories is mind boggling. That's exactly what I've been going through.

Today was tough in service.
Listened to a testimony of a sister who's husband passed away of cancer recently. Was truly poignant. And my life flashed before me once again. At the end of the service, Pastor Wendy asked to pray for me and a few other brothers joined in too. Thanks CS and David.

Preparing for the 'Memorial Dinner' was also difficult.
Having to face the photos and managing the stuff for it.

But I know it's something I had to do (the dinner), if not for me - only because Jo had wanted to do this a few years back. We never go to do this somehow because she was concerned about the finances even though it was fine.

It's come to a point where I wished I didn't have to feel anymore.
Wished that I could press the 'fast forward' button or the 'erase' button perhaps.

And so I continue to journey this path...
The path less travelled, yet knowing that I never travel alone.

Again, thank you for listening and reading my ramblings wherever you may be.

Do know this.

There is always Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ and we certainly can do all things through Him who gives us strength (Phil 4:13)...even in such a circumstance as this.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tears In Heaven (Our Daily Bread)

July 31, 2006
Tears In Heaven
READ: Revelation 21:1-8

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. —Revelation 21:4

In 1991, famed British guitarist Eric Clapton was stricken with grief when his 4-year-old son Conor died as a result of a fall from an apartment window. Looking for an outlet for his grief, Clapton penned perhaps his most poignant ballad: “Tears In Heaven.” It seems that every note weighs heavy with the sense of pain and loss that can be understood only by a parent who has lost a child.

Surprisingly, however, Clapton said in a television interview years later, “In a sense, it wasn’t even a sad song. It was a song of belief. When it [says that] there will be no more tears in heaven, I think it’s a song of optimism—of reunion.”

The thought of a heavenly reunion is powerful indeed. For everyone who has trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, there is the hope that we will be reunited forever in a place where “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Revelation 21:4). And, most of all, it is a place where we will “see His face” and forever be with Christ Himself (22:4).

In our times of loss and grief, of tears and sorrow, isn’t it comforting to know that Christ has purchased for us a heavenly home where there will be no more tears! — Bill Crowder

What wonders await us in yonder fair land?
The face of our Savior, the touch of His hand,
No tears and no crying, no sighs or despair,
For Jesus is waiting to welcome us there. —Kerr

When God wipes our tears, sorrow will give way to eternal song.