I thought I would share with you the eulogy I gave for my mom who died at 64 after a 5 year battle with lung cancer. Who I am today is largely due to who she was and how she lived her life. I want to share this also as an encouragement to those of you who have faithfully prayed for your own loved ones. I can testify to God’s unfailing love and faithfulness through this entire journey. Take heart and be encouraged, God works especially when we can not see that anything is happening.
Over the past couple of years and especially over the last few months, I was able to have a number of wonderful conversations with my mom. One day, we were talking about what she would like for her funeral service, and whether or not she wanted to have someone to share about her life. She thought about it for a bit, and said that I could share some thoughts with all of you. And then she quickly added, “but you must make sure that you and the pastor don’t talk too much because I don’t want my friends and family to sit too long and get tired from listening to too much talking. Nobody likes too much talking.” This was very typical of Mom, always thinking about other people’s comfort and well-being before her own even to the end.
There are a few things that come to my mind this week as I thought about Mom that I would like to share with you today. William Arthur Ward wrote that “A friend is one with whom you are comfortable, to whom you are loyal, through whom you are blessed, and for whom you are grateful.” That is exactly the kind of friend that she was. She was just the kind of friend that you would love to have for a lifetime. As I look around today, I see evidence of Mom’s gift of friendship. She was the type of friend who would come and help you any time no questions asked. She would always put you ahead of herself. Our family often thought that she always thought the best of people and easily forgave people when the rest of us struggled to do likewise. Her ability to make friends with just about anyone was what made her so successful when she operated Hong Kong restaurant with her older brother. She had so many friends that I literally could not go anywhere in town without somebody reporting back to Mom what I had been up to and where I had been.
Mom was a very generous person. I remember that she would always provide a meal to the homeless. No one ever went away hungry. She would lend money to anyone that was in need. She didn’t always get paid back by everyone, but she always thought that there must have a good reason why and didn’t dwell on it. My godmother once told me that when they were both young and working in San Francisco, my godmother ended up needing a place to live. Mom immediately told her that she could come to live with my mom’s family. My mom’s family of 7 lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment. My mom slept in the hallway with my grandmother in a bunk bed. Mom gave up her bed for her friend and shared a bed with my grandmother for months so that my godmother could have a place to live. She was the type of person that would give you whatever she had if she thought it could help you.
Mom was also tenacious and had incredible fortitude. She was a fighter and very feisty for such a small woman. You have to be in order to survive being born 2 months premature in rural 1947 China. Today, we have NICU units, but they didn’t even have running water. She also told me many times that she always didn’t think that she was very smart because she missed so much school growing up in China and Hong Kong and never went to college. She came to the US as a teenager and had to work hard to learn English and earn her diploma in just a few years. I always thought that she had an incredible work ethic and was the kind of person that succeeds out of sheer effort and hard work. Now that I am a mom with one son, I can’t imagine how my mom was able to work at night and take care of three kids during the day. It is hard enough work taking care of my own son. In high school, I would watch my mom study for hours on end to earn her A’s in accounting at the community college. She overcame huge obstacles that life had dealt and persevered when most others would have given up. For example, many of you know that Dad’s fourth baby after his children was his beloved Datsun 280ZX that he had left parked for years in front of the family home intending to restore it somehow. She had many times asked Dad to please do something with the Datsun when it wasn’t running and had completely flat tires. Finally, Dad granted Mom’s wish last summer and donated that and the Covair stored in the garage. That day when the haulers drove his babies away, Mom was dancing around the house doing the cabbage patch and raise the house dance moves because she was so happy. She later told us that it was the happiest day of her entire life. Dad, I don’t know if she ever told you, but later, she told Sabina and I that was when she knew you really loved her enough to grant her this decade long wish.
After my dad retired, my parents had a lot more time to enjoy life and travel with friends and family. She was notorious among her friends for her endurance at playing the slot machines for hours. She could outplay and outlast everyone in our family. None of the kids could keep up with her even though we were more than 20 years younger. During my pregnancy, Paul and I would visit Mom on the weekends, and she would always have the mah joong table set up and ready to go as soon as I walked in the door. I would arrive around 9 on Fridays and start playing until at least 1 in the morning. Then she would let us go to sleep. When all of us were finally up in the morning, we would play all day taking only short breaks to eat so that she could squeeze in as many hands as possible before we finally left to go home.
She brought that same tenacity to her fight against her disease. She survived living with cancer for over 5 years. An incredible feat when the 5 year survival rate for lung cancer is so low. During this time, she endured numerous procedures, surgeries, radiation and two years of continuous chemotherapy. Her oncologist often remarked at how hard my mom worked and how disciplined she was about her health. She was his model patient. Mom’s family was so poor that many times they only had soy sauce to eat with their rice. If they were fortunate, they would also have yams to eat. To this day, my mom could not stand eating yams. However, once my mom learned that yams were really good for cancer patients, she ate yams nearly every day. Can you imagine forcing yourself to eat something you hated every day on purpose? She also gave up a lot of things she loved to eat like kim chi, seafood especially crab and shrimp, and beef. For a few years, she even went completely vegetarian. She had amazing discipline and will. My mom would get up at the crack of dawn every day and walk for at least an hour. It was humbling that she was fighting cancer and could out walk me.
Mom also loved to eat. She loved good Chinese food especially Cantonese style cooking. Most people don’t know that even though she owned a restaurant, she actually hated to cook. Loved to eat, but hated to cook. In fact, my brother, sister, and I had to learn to cook on our own or starve in college. She could never figure out what would possess me to learn to make nian go. Over these past five years, Mom often lost a taste for food and didn’t have much of an appetite. Eating was often a chore with little pleasure. There were a few things that she would always eat even these last few months: Costco hot dogs, Jack in the Box tacos, and Rice Krispy Treats. She would have stashes of Rice Krispy Treats in all of her purses and in the house. She would always want to give the grandkids a Rice Krispy Treat. I still remember that one morning years ago after taking her walk and doing some gardening, she drove down to Jack in the Box at 8 in the morning and bought 2 dozen of them home. It was her idea of getting us a treat for us for breakfast. That’s Mom getting us tacos instead donuts for breakfast.
Mom also had a few funny hobbies. After my mom sold the restaurant, she discovered day time television and became addicted to the People’s Court and later Judge Judy. She always thought that Judge Judy was the smartest judge ever. She never missed a day of her show. It was also during this time, she discovered the Home Shopping Network and infomercials. For a quite a few years, not a week went by, that we didn’t get a delivery from UPS with the latest, greatest as seen on TV product. She also loved her Chinese soap operas. We learned never to call her when her show was airing. She also enjoyed watching Dancing with the Stars and American Idol. Simon was her absolute favorite judge. She also thought Adam Lambert was totally robbed since he was clearly the best singer she ever heard.
Mom was very grateful to her many family and friends who took time to visit, call and cooked for her. Our family would like to thank you. Your care and support meant so much to her. She especially wanted to thank her sister-in-law, Christiana Ng, for being a tremendous support especially over the past two years. Guo Jeh, my family is so grateful to you for coming every week to help take care of my mom and to support your brother. You were God’s hands and feet to Mom and our family during this journey. You practically lived with my parents these last few months and I know that your presence was a great comfort to Mom. Who knew that this friend that she made as a teenager would be the friend that helped her so much at the end of her life.
Mom was a wonderful, kind-hearted person. She taught all her children the value of hard work and discipline. When I was growing up, I often resented having to work with her and Dai Ku Fu when all I wanted to do was play and have fun like my friends. Thank you for teaching me that duty and obligation to family are not dirty words or a burden, but for Chinese like us the highest expression of love. Thank you for the many life lessons you taught me while working alongside of you all those years.
She wanted all of you here to know that she had no regrets and was ready to go. She felt incredibly blessed and fortunate in her life. When she became a Christian 3 years ago, she found much peace and comfort in her faith. This helped carry her through the most difficult times. She was very happy to have been baptized in the presence of her family last February.
Cancer is a very scary word to most people. When my mom was diagnosed with it over five years ago, the news exploded like a bomb in our family. Looking back, I can see that in many ways, it made the life of our family richer and deeper. We became more intentional about the time we spent together. We had the chance to have those important conversations with Mom about the things that really matter in life. We had these last few years to take the time to express our love for one another. In some ways, we were given a gift of being able to have time to say our goodbyes which many families never get.
My mom often told me over the past few months how sorry she was that she was so sick and how hard it was on Dad and the family. She was sorry that she was so much trouble and took up so much time. I told her that there was no other place that I wanted to be other than right there beside her and that it was not trouble but an honor to help her. She had spent my entire life sacrificing and caring for me, this was my chance to do the same for her.
Love is easy when things are rosy and pretty like when you first fall in love. Real love, true, abiding love is the kind of love that is there when the journey is hard, difficult, and ugly. That is the kind of love that I saw between my mom and dad. It is the kind that I aspire to in my own life. The kind that says no matter had hard things get and how exhausting, I will still be here with you.
Thank you, Dad, for loving Mom and serving her these last few years. No one will ever know how lonely and hard these last few years have been. Mom was grateful for your tender care and loving sacrifice throughout your life together. It was so clear to her that you were the best partner, friend and love she could have ever asked for. Sabina, Mom wanted you to know that she was so grateful for the many trips you made to bring the children from Singapore to live for months at a time. She was grateful for the opportunity you gave her to get to know them. She knew how much you loved her. Lawrence, Mom wanted you to know that she is proud of the man you are becoming. She knew that you didn’t always know what to say to her, but she knew you loved her very much. To Tony, Terry, and Tommy, Mom wanted you to remember that your brothers are the only people that will ever have known you your entire lives. God gave you wives, children, and friends, but no one else will know you this way. Be good to each other, try to understand and appreciate one another, and make time to be in each other’s lives the way that Por Por, Da Yee, Da Kuo Fu and she would have wanted.
Mom, it is a privilege to be your daughter. Thank you for allowing me, my sister and brother to come along side of you and walk this journey we call life with you. I am grateful to have been able to love you and care for you the way you did for me when I was little. I will always love you and miss you. There will always be a hole in my heart that will never be filled.
Two days before my mom passed away, I happened to read in a book that some people say that when you give birth to a daughter, you’ve just met the person whose hand you’ll be holding the day you die. I will always be so grateful to God for allowing me to hold your hand as you stepped from this life to the next. I am grateful to call you more than Mom and that you are my sister in Christ. I say goodbye to you for now and am comforted to know that you are waiting for me on the other side in Heaven with God.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you. The Lord lift up His countenance to you and give you peace.