The time was nearly 4 am, November 21, a little more than three weeks ago. I was awakened by an incoming call. The number on the screen indicated it was from Singapore. My heart skipped a beat. Dad (who lives in Singapore) had been warded in the hospital a few days before for liver problems. At the end of the line was my brother’s panicky voice…
“Dad had been warded to ICU! The docs had begun a biopsy and Dad went into cardiac arrest!”
Though groggy still, I knew this wasn’t a dream. My heart started racing and my lips began praying.
The doctors managed to resuscitate my dad for two hours before his heart stopped beating the second time. This time round, the doctors injected drugs twenty times the normal dosage and tried to revive him for fifty minutes, alas, to no avail.
Dad was gone.
As my brother broke the news to me, we both broke down sobbing. Separated thirty thousand miles over a phone line, our hearts grieved and strangely, gelled together as we mourned the death of our only parent. It was too sudden. Unexpected. I was stupefied, speechless, and breathless, like I had just woken from a really bad dream.
My mum had passed away in 2008, at a young age of 54. My dad was 66.
“Look, Cornelius, you are an orphan now,” an unwelcomed voice whispered to me.
Memories from the time of my mum’s death instantly flashed before me and I find myself again reliving the pain like it had just happened yesterday. The sadness, the grief, the emotional chaos, the spiritual confusion, the physical fatigue, I felt it so real all over again.
Both my parents are gone. I’m an orphan. It’s just me and my brother and his family now. My parents will never get to see my children. My children will never get to be doted on by their grandparents. Who is my family? Where is my family? Where is my home? What is home? Reality struck and bit me hard early hours into dawn.
Then…the word of the Lord came to me.
Hope Does Not Disappoint
“We don’t grieve like those who have no hope,” these words resonated in my spirit.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thes. 4:13-14)
Dad had been struggling with cancer and the aftermath of chemotherapy for two years. At the same time, Dad became a Christian and gave his life to Jesus (another miracle testimony). My hope and comfort rest in the fact that Dad is completely free from cancer and liver complications. He is perfectly healed and whole and one day I will see him again! You don’t know how comforting that feels until you have somebody you love suddenly taken away from you.
Our Christian hope is anchored in the sure steadfastness, unchanging, immutable character of God. We are fickle and we change; but God never changes. Our hope is in Him. Hope is a powerful force; it makes you look at a bleak circumstance with supernatural confidence. Hope gives you that surge of strength and motivation when you feel like you can't go on anymore. Hope stares at impossibility in the face and declares life and miracles. Hope expects good. Hope is the compelling force that declares, "Everything works together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose." We are a people with hope!
Spirit of Adoption
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory, which shall be revealed in us. (Rom. 8: 15-18)
Jesus said that He did not come to leave us as orphans. The Father will send the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who is our Comforter.
We have received the spirit of adoption when we received the Holy Spirit but the bible also says we groan and wait for our full adoption. We groan because even though our souls are saved, our bodies are still subject to pain and sin. However we look forward with hope to our resurrected bodies, which will be free from physical frailties, sickness and diseases, and besetting sin.
The reality of our faith journey is many times caught in the tension and dilemma of the already and not yet. We are saved but we are continually being saved, it's called sanctification. We are healed by way of the cross but we are continually being healed. Some healing is immediate and instantaneous, some healing is gradual and takes a process, and some healing is ultimate and complete when our spirits graduate to heaven. For dad, he graduated into the bliss of heaven with a glorified and imperishable body.
Vision of Dad In Heaven
After an exhausting night of mourning and trying to book an immediate flight to Singapore, I finally laid my head on my pillow some twenty-one hours after receiving news of my dad’s passing.
As I shut my blood-shot and weary eyes and began to pray, I immediately saw a vision of my dad in heaven, wearing a white robe all the way down to his ankles, smiling and glowing.
He said to me, "Son, thank you for pointing me to Jesus. I am so proud of you."
Immediately, peace flooded my heart and comfort overwhelmed my grief and fatigue.
I believe that when my dad’s heart stopped beating the first time, he instantly graduated into the glory of heaven and when they tried to bring him back to life the second time, he would have said, “Don’t bring me back! This is too good!”
Dad’s Memorial Service
Twenty-five hours of traveling later, I’m in Singapore and I went straight to the funeral wake. Looking at my dad in the casket, I allowed myself to cry. Mourning quickly turned into joy and peace as I pondered and celebrated the life of my father, and my heart drew strength from the reality of the resurrection life and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dad was a hardworking man.
Dad was a strong provider. There was always food on the table and nice clothes.
Despite a strong front, there’s a tender side to my dad. I remember vividly the first time he told me he loved me.
I always remember dad bringing me to school on his motorbike early in the morning without fail. He never overslept. He was a faithful dad.
I also remember the dad who always protected.
I rejoice that the dad who was once opposed to Christianity and told me not to become a Jesus fanatic would one day give his life to Jesus and out of his lips would tell me..."the Christians are still the kindest and most compassionate people."
I celebrate that my dad who's struggled with fear all his life would confidently say to me, "Son, I am no longer afraid of death. I am not afraid of anything. My life is in God's hands. If it is time for me to go, I'll go."
Dad wasn't a perfect dad for no one is perfect. But he is the best dad I've ever had. He is the only dad I've ever had.
I Call Him Abba
Here in the casket lies a man I called dad, but from the depths of my heart, my spirit cried out for my “Abba Father,” the Dad of my dad, the One who conceived me in his loving heart before my parents ever came together, the One who is worthy to receive my affections above all earthly attachments.
Speaking at dad’s memorial service, I pointed to the casket and said, “I call him father, and then pointing to heaven, “I call Him Abba.” In a matter of divine perspective, I directed every heart and all the grief in that room to the loving bosom of our Heavenly Father.
The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. (Ps. 103:13)
You may call your earthly father "Dad" or "Daddy" or "Papa" from a place of respect and honor. It may not necessarily be a term of endearment or intimacy. For the young Hebrew child however, the Aramaic term “Abba” was used as an intimate and affectionate term for his father, not just honor and respect.
I love my earthly dad, even more so now that he is gone. In a time of loss, I found the Heavenly Father showering his love, comfort, care, and affections on me that drew an intimate response from me back to him. "Abba, Pappa, my Daddy, you are now my one and only Parent."
David the psalmist says it this way,
Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. (Ps. 27:10)
My parents never abandoned me. While I may have been orphaned biologically; but I am NEVER orphaned in my spirit. I belong to the Heavenly Father. There is only One who is perfect, the One whom we lovingly cry out and throw our hands up in childlike abandonment, “Abba!”
Thanks to all who have prayed and supported me through this difficult time. I have felt lifted by your prayers and kind words.
Rest in peace Dad. I love you. Party hard up there. I'll see you & mum soon.
Your son always,