Ruminations about Dad and That Which Lasts: Thoughts on One Day


We used to sing hymns as a family growing up. My dad and mom would sing from a Chinese hymnal, while my brother, sister, and I would sing from an English hymnal.

Every time we sang this hymn “One Day”, my dad would put down his Chinese hymnal and pick up an English one.

He explained one day. He loved this hymn, because when he was a young student at Baylor University, they would sing this hymn. Baylor is where Dad first heard about Christ.

This devotional isn’t so much about this hymn, but about my Dad. And how his passing helped me to understand 1 Corinthians 13 a little better.

My mom went back to be with the Lord back in 1992. In her final weeks, I spent a lot of time with her. I asked her about her life. You can read about it here.

Mom did manage to tell me those things that were most important in her life. How her father came to Christ. How she said good-bye to her mother in 1949, when communist China closed the borders and separated them for the rest of their lives. How Jesus healed her from a terminal illness as a teenager, after an elder in her church lay hands on her head and prayed over her. How the three of us, three healthy children, were born after she had suffered a string of many miscarriages (fittingly, my big brother’s name is “Samuel”).

But she never got to tell me much else about her life. And so, not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I went to my dad a few years later, and asked him to tell me his life story. Dad ended up taping almost 8 hours on cassette, going through his life. I heard them for the first time after he passed away, and it was an amazing experience.

I had promised him I’d write a book about it. I still plan to. But for now, I’ll just give you the 50,000 foot version.

Dad grew up in the northernmost part of China, near Manchuria. Living conditions were primitive. There was no running water, no electricity, no cars. Rice was a luxury that was enjoyed only once a year—for the other 364 days in the year, they ate a grain called gao-liang. As a baby, his mother would chew gao-liang, and feed it to him. He grew up malnourished and sickly. At one point, he said he had a recurring dream of him hungry and crying, and his grand-uncle threatening to bury him alive, saying that such a child couldn’t survive anyway, and should be put out of his misery. He said he was pretty sure this really happened.

When Dad was a young adult, the Japanese took over northern China. Dad decided with his college friend to make a run to southern China, which at the time was still under Chinese control. He tells a harrowing account of the long trip by train, boat, foot, and bus. At any time in the journey, all he had to do was open his mouth—the Japanese would hear his accent and send him back to the north, where he might be imprisoned or even executed.

Dad made it to southern China. From there, he made it to Taiwan, and then to the United States.

The boy who had once failed entrance exam after entrance exam for high school in China, due to the poor education provided in his hometown, then graduated from Baylor University with a PhD in chemistry. He went on to work at Pfizer, and then at Squibb (now Bristol Myers-Squibb). Over his 30-year career, he collected 17 U.S. Patents.

Dad and mom had the happiest marriage I have seen. They supported each other. Where one was weak, the other was strong. They knew what it mean to submit to each other, and to respect each other. And it spilled over to us kids. Growing up, our lives were filled with love, and joy, and happiness. The magical combination of a praying mother and a father whose sole aim in life was to fulfil his duty as a father to his family.

I remember when mom was sick, dad watched over her literally day and night. When mom was terminally ill with cancer, her face and body were puffy because of the medicine, she coughed a horrible sounding cough due to her asthma, and her room smelled horrible because of her incontinence, again due to the medicine. But dad stayed right there in that room with her. He had an oxygen tank ready to administer to her any second of the day or night her breathing became difficult.

And when she breathed her last breath, I remember that well. My dad, normally not a spiritual nor an emotional person, asked me to kneel down and pray with him, to ask God to take mom’s soul. And as we knelt down, I remember him wailing the cry of someone who had lost a soulmate and a best friend.

Dad got remarried later, but to be honest, it wasn’t the same. My dad and my stepmother took care of each other, but there wasn’t that connection of two people truly submitting to each other.

A few years ago, Dad suffered a massive stroke. It left him unable to talk and move his entire right side. He became, quite literally, like an infant. He had his stroke exactly the same week that his first grandchild was born. I remember hwen Sam and Linda came back from Baltimore, seeing how similar Katie was to dad.

When he tried to speak, it came out as incoherent babbling. He had to be fed pureed food, a spoon at a time. He even had to wear a diaper, because he couldn’t physically go to the bathroom.

The difference was…she would grow out of it. He would not.

Dad was always a serious person, but in his last few years, when I would visit him, he and I would have a little inside joke between us. I’d raise my eyebrows and make a funny face, and he’d do the same thing, and then we’d both just laugh. Or, if someone in the room said something odd, we’d both shrug our shoulders and hold up our hands in an “I don’t know what’s going on” pose. Then, we’d both chuckle about it.

Dad passed away about two years ago, around this time of the year.

When I think back at Dad, what do I remember?

Do I remember a young man from northern China who grew up in poverty and found the American dream, through hard work, perseverance, and grit?

Not really.

Do I remember the PhD who had seventeen US Patents to his name? The brilliant scientist who worked for 20 years for one of the world’s pre-eminent pharmaceutical firms? The scientist who once got a letter from a United States senator in the late 1960’s, requesting the state department to allow his wife to remain in the country, because her husband’s research was critical to the United States?

No.

Do I remember an 80 year old man, wearing diapers, who couldn’t talk, and who ate mashed up food?

No.

Did I receive a huge sum of money, or a business to run, or a prestigious name as an inheritance?

No.

What do I remember?

One of my earliest memories being held in strong yet gentle arms as a child, feeling the stubble of face as it pressed against mine in a hug.

I remember every Thanksgiving and New Year, him roasting a duck and carving it for the family. I remember him making, from scratch, Chinese pancakes to wrap the roast duck in. I remember the joy of sitting around that white kitchen table filled with delicious food, surrounded by the smiles of a family whom I loved and who loved me.

I remember when I was sick in the hospital myself with cancer, him sitting by my bed day and night. To the point where I almost got tired of him being there, and wanted to be alone. But looking back, I treasure every second he stayed by me.

In other words, the greatest inheritance that dad left me wasn’t wealth, or a prestigious name, or property. It wasn’t fame or fortune.

The greatest inheritance he left me was love. All those other things were there, and now they’re gone. But the love abides. Even after I’m gone, his love remains.

And that’s what it means in 1 Corinthians 13.

There are three things that last.

Money doesn’t last, fame doesn’t last, prestige doesn’t last.

What lasts?

Three things last, past life, past death, past eternity.

Faith
Hope
And love

And by being a servant to his family, by showing his love, dad guaranteed himself immortality. In every sense of the word. He lives on in the people he touched on earth. He lives on in eternity.

I only hope that I can do the same so that one day, we will meet again.
1.
One day when heaven was filled with his praises,
One day when sin was as black as could be,
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin—
Dwelt amongst men, my example is he!

Chorus
Living, he loved me; dying, he saved me;
Buried, he carried my sins far away;
Rising, he justified freely, for ever:
One day he’s coming—O, glorious day!

2.
One day they led him up Calvary’s mountain,
One day they nailed him to die on the tree;
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected:
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is he!

3.
One day they left him alone in the garden,
One day he rested, from suffering free;
Angels came down o’er his tomb to keep vigil;
Hope of the hopeless, my Saviour is he!

4.
One day the grave could conceal him no longer,
One day the stone rolled away from the door;
Then he arose, over death he had conquered;
Now is ascended, my Lord evermore!

5.
One day the trumpet will sound for his coming,
One day the skies with his glories will shine;
Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing;
Glorious Saviour, this Jesus is mine!

Comments (2)

  1. Marilyn Smith wrote::

    I enjoyed reading your commentary very much. Is there any way I could find the sheet music to the Hymn that is quoted at the end. Thank you so much. I am also looking for the hymn, I am a child of the King. chorus yes oh yes I am a child of the King,His royal blood now flows throu my veins. Marilyn Smith

    Monday, November 4, 2013 at 2:55 am #
  2. 2pg wrote::

    Very good. Thanks for share.

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 3:43 am #