Over the weekend, I had an encounter with four funeral wakes. It started on Saturday morning with a drive to Ang Mo Kio town where I was looking for block 213, the wake’s exact location. It is common and convenient in Singapore for wakes to be organized at the ground level (known as void decks) of the nation’s most “iconic” architecture – the government flats built by the Housing Development Board. Also, it is not difficult to spot a funeral wake as it comes with distinctive decorations that tell the nature of the ceremony.
However, when I turned into the avenue of the given address, I excitedly assumed that the first funeral wake I caught sight of was that of my friends’ deceased grandmother. I was wrong, not once but twice. Coincidentally, the blocks of 214 and 215 were also hosting these mourning processions. Finally, having visited the right wake and as I returned to my car, it came to my realization that I was surrounded by deaths. The New Year has only just begun and the Chinese New Year is less than three weeks away but death arrives with no respect for the seasons of our calendars.
On Sunday night, our local church conducted a memorial service for a congregant who although had suffered from ill health in the recent years, his death was still sudden. I have learned from others that no matter how prepared we are for a loved one’s departure; the lostness that comes with a loss would still eventuate. Richard Woo passed away at the age of 36. In my short conversation with his dad, I could see that his father was a broken man. I am not close to the Woo family but one could emphatize with them by putting oneself in their shoes. I could picture myself in a state of devastation if I were to lose Joseph or Jada.
As it is customary to accompany our condolences with donations for the bereaved family, I was able to pen these words on the donation’s envelope:
“No words are enough to comfort all of you. But you have more than just hope, that is, 100% certainty of seeing and reuniting with Richard, and this time forever.”
When one hopes, there remains always a percentage of uncertainty. For the pessimists, they would look for every nook and corner to stack up uncertainty. Their opposites with the most far-stretched optimism would still have to settle for the slightest possibility of non-fulfillment. Hope is never certain else it is not hope.
Remarkably, it is not unusual to find the apostle Paul advocating in his letters the only hope that comes with zero percent uncertainty. With a hope that is 100% certain, Paul offered his readers and listeners more than just hope. One example is found in 1 Thessalonians and in every other place in his letters where Paul pivots this more than just hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.”
I remember reading this somewhere (and I’m sure you do realize and recognize) that the process of dying begins at birth. We live to die. But we have this more than just hope for in and through Christ, we can share the same experience with him of dying to live again. I know that resurrectional living can be holistically experienced by us who are presently in our first life but Paul is clearly writing about a post-death bodily resurrection, which means we can all look forward to that big bodily reunion. Wow!
[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog]