First come, first served… First in first out. These are some of the familiar phrases we lived by. FIFO refers to the accounting principle of taking inventory: where the goods first purchased are consumed first. By the worldly standard, it is just right that those who come in first, be served first as in a restaurant or wherever queuing is the norm.
These two phrases however do not apply all the time in God’s time table. This thought came to me especially when my mom and dad passed away within 4 months and 9 days of each other. Papa was 13 years older than mama. I used to hear him tell mom, that he would go first.
On May 31, 2016, mom passed away at 78. Dad followed her on Oct 9. Sandwiched between these two dates is July 13. On this day, I had a bad fall resulting in a fractured ankle and leg. When mom died, I was like the walking dead. I was sad that she’s gone. Yet I didn’t even have time to mourn her fully because I was anxious about dad. In the days and weeks that I visited him, I found myself going through the torture chamber each time I see him silently grieving, weak and frail, blind and sad. I was near breaking point from sleepless nights and fretful days that I went to see a psychiatrist for sleeping aids. And it took a fall to wake me up from this lifeless state of going from day to day not knowing what to do, or what to do best, and how to do it.
After my fall and surgery, God placed me in a place of physical inactivity to teach me many lessons. The first is that He makes everything beautiful in His time. No one can beat God at timeliness – He is never too early nor is he ever too late. For so many months, I was worried about domestic helpers – for my mom’s and for my own household. The night before my surgery, a helper arrived. This helper was God-sent. She was more than what I could have asked of God. On the day, I had my surgery, a caregiver reported for duty even before I came out of the recovery room. God sent more than 1 caregiver to care for me. Even as they come and go, God taught me that He provides as the need comes. When our cook got sick and had to go home, God let me discover a better cook in the new helper. After lessons learned again and again of God’s timely provisions, I let go of this anxiety. The sick helper asked for her job back and returned to work.
The day after I returned home from surgery, my father had a peg installed in his stomach to help his feeding. A month after mama passed away, papa started to spit out everything we feed him. Even milk. After much persuasion, he finally agreed to have the peg installed. This was the start of the long journey into long dark tunnel of sickness through the valley of the shadow of death. Father contacted pneumonia after his over-night stay in the hospital to have the peg procedure. Pneumonia led to sepsis (blood poisoning). Bed sores became a problem as well. Then he started pooping through his mouth, his nose and his peg – everywhere except where it’s supposed to be. Why? Colon obstruction caused by a tumour in his large intestines. He went through a stent procedure to clear the obstruction. Strong meds and antibiotics were given to treat his failing body. Finally, chronic kidney disease came knocking… what to do? Dialysis.. He spent an entire 32 days in 2 hospitals.
God taught me lessons on prayer. Lesson on prayers My sister and I prayed for God to have mercy and take papa home to be reunited with mama. But God allowed us to take papa back home. I learned to pray both “Lord, have mercy.” and “Thy will be done.” Father had 18 dialysis, and an episode of acute diarrhoea. I wondered if I would have to go to his wake or funeral in the wheelchair. It is God’s grace that enabled me to accompany him to his dialysis. Imagine a convoy of two wheelchairs – one of the father going to his dialysis and his crippled daughter behind him to arrange for all that’s needed.
God granted moments of grace – for me to see his toothless smile, his brow acknowledgement of my presence, a nod of his head or blink of his eyes.. and even stories of him asking for food, asking for my daughter or for me. These are precious memories to sustain me through the journey.
A day after he had his catheter replaced with a more permanent one to facilitate dialysis, I heard him called my name for the first time in a very long time – after my fall and after he got sick. Little did I know that it was going to be the last time. It was also the last time that I heard him say to me: “Mama…” I didn’t know what about mama he wanted to tell me. He was struggling with breathe, low oxygen in his lungs due to fluids retention. Was he asking for mama? Did he see mama? I do not know. I went to sit in my mom’s favourite chair and cried … “Mama…mama…” Tears kept falling down.. “Papa… papa…” It was cathartic to let it all out. Then I went back to sit by his bedside. I patted his hands and his arms. I saw him opened and closed his mouth – intervals of struggled breathing and peaceful sleep. And that was the last time I was with him in life.
I stood by his body before he was placed in the coffin. I cried “Papa… papa…” I touched his cold hand. I saw him being carried into the coffin. I remember being asked what kind of blanket to place over him. A blanket with the cross. Over the next 4 nights, our family reminisced the legacies of papa, the good times we had with him, of him with friends and family. We stood in front of his body sharing stories, singing and praying, smiling, laughing and crying. Friends and family visited to see him for the last time. We offered flowers to surround him in beauty and fragrance as he was finally laid to rest – his physical body – turned to ashes. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. And there was a time to live and a time to die.
A sad time but a joyous time as well. Papa is now with his Maker. He is now with mama. He is no longer blind. His knees no longer hurt. He is no longer sad. No more tears, no more pain and no more night!
For Christians, life does not end with physical death on earth. Because Jesus died and lives again forever, Christians have hope in the life beyond this world. God, the creator of time, transcends time and space to make everything beautiful in His time.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. (Ecclesiastes 3:11-14)
Time is precious. 一寸光阴一寸金，寸金难买寸光阴. An inch of time equals an inch of gold; an inch of gold cannot buy an inch of time. Eternal life in heaven is paid at the great price of the blood of God’s only Son. Life is priceless because man’s first breath started with the breath of God, man was created in God’s image and his redemption realized through the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ on the cross. Each inch of time is equal to each breath of God. Each inch of time is equal to each drop of Jesus’ blood. If one can measure eternity then one knows how great the blood of Jesus! What is life in time compared to eternity!