I AM IN MOURNING

Posted on September 30, 2010

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Over the weekend I was in Penang to be with the family members of a
nephew of mine. He was two years my senior. We grew up together
practically in the same compound in Taiping. My memory of him from
that time has been that of a person who was caring, thoughtful and
amongst us other children a dignified responsible person. Alas our
childhood quickly passed and our two families moved to separate
locations. He had gone on to qualify as a medical specialist, got
married and started working in Penang. Thirty-three years ago, Ronnie
was diagnosed with multiple brain tumour. Over the years he had had to
endure ten surgeries on his brain and spine. These last eight years
were especially bad. Through all this personal anguish, physical and
emotional trials of the severest kind, Ronnie Teoh continued to fulfil
his family, church and professional medical responsibilities.

At his wake on Sunday, I listened to one after another his friends,
patients, colleagues, church leaders and family members speak of the
extraordinary contribution he had made over all these years. I was
rediscovering a man I had lost touch with. I sat incredulous
listening to his eldest daughter recounting among so many other
things how her father had directed a major renovation of their
family home so that there was seating for 250 persons to learn
and listen to God’s Word. Far from wallowing in self-pity and
using his physical condition as an excuse to stop serving others,
Ronnie had by the grace of God touched so many lives. A
mutual friend spoke to me of how his family had come to
Ronnie’s church because of his unique manner in sharing God’s
Word. Former patients spoke of how despite his own afflictions,
he was administrating medical help to them. On one occasion a
grateful man recounted, when he was still able to Ronnie had actually
driven the ambulance to fetch his father to hospital for emergency
treatment. A teary staff member of his medical team spoke of
Ronnie’s personal giving of himself to his staff, patients and their
relatives.

In listening to all these grateful people, especially his daughter, I
was nursing a personal worry. The message of final release and
resurrection would not be lost on Ronnie’s loved ones- his dear wife
and three grown children, his two siblings and his aging parents. In
that sense the most important issue is settled. But my concern was how
his long years of horrendous affliction and suffering would continue
to gnaw at their heart and mind and linger in their memories with the
question, “Why?” In response, in His kind and considerate way, the
Lord spoke to me and the next morning before the funeral, I was able
to sit down with his father (my cousin who served as church elder in
Penang and who late in life served a stint a pastor in Langkawi) and
mother and sister. The Lord showed me and them the centrality of
Christ’s incarnation and how the incarnation principle and model is
such a part and parcel of Christian life and faith. God became man and
gave Himself in Christ for the salvation of sinners. Ronnie the doctor
was made a patient almost his entire time in the medical profession.
This was why patient after patient (or their family members) and his
colleagues spoke of how he could understand them and treat them with
such seriousness and empathy which inspired them with hope and a sense
of being heard and understood. I witnessed to his parents (now in
their eighties) and sister that Ronnie’s severe testing and suffering
was never unnecessary nor wasted. In this fashion, Ronnie had walked
in the footsteps of his incarnated Lord. As the Apostle Paul had said:
“that I may … share his sufferings, becoming like him in his
death…” (Philippians 3.10). Now, as God’s Word assures us, he is
receiving his measureless reward in the direct Presence of His God and
Master.

There is no easy way to deal with bereavement. Questions will remain
for an indefinite period of time. The sense of our loss, especially in
the immediate family, will be almost inconsolable. I too am in mourning.
But bearing in mind and understanding God’s words and their underlying
theological foundation is indispensable to keep us going in the
direction of the hope, grace and peace of Christ which passes all
understanding.

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Posted in: Eulogy