I have been a control freak most of my life.
My core belief was in the importance of control. If I lost control, I’d lose everything I’d ever worked for and wanted. I believed I deserved everything I had because I’d earned them with my very own hands. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God then, and it was a false sense of security.
That life fell apart the day my Dad had a heart attack and passed on.
Even during the funeral, I was still trying to control every aspect of it. I had to. Who could blame me? My Mum was so depressed she couldn’t do anything, my two younger siblings barely knew what was going on and my relatives were either overseas or busy with work.
In reality, I was reluctant to do anything because all I really wanted to do was to sit at home and cry.
I especially hated having to arrange the funeral because I found Dad’s sudden death unbelievably ridiculous. He was just cycling two days ago, and he had never complained of any heart issues. I was so angry at God. How could He punish me like that? Why?
I tried my best. I wrote the eulogy while settling endless administrative matters. I hosted guests whom I appreciated but could not welcome heartily because I had just lost my parent and felt utterly deprived of space to weep. I was exhausted sharing anecdotes of my Dad to people who might not have met him in person. I even tried to ensure that the eulogy was delivered calmly, yet mildly humorous so as not to bore my audience.
Control, control, control. I didn’t sleep a wink.
But even in that dreadful week, God showed His faithfulness to me. Every day, I received encouraging and comforting text messages. Friends and church mates whom I thought I never had a connection with came regardless and grieved with my family and me.
The second night, I dreamt of my Dad queuing at Heaven’s gates. And when choosing the Bible verse for my Dad’s plaque in the niche, my sister and I searched randomly on the Internet until we chose Daniel 12:3 for its beauty. A week later, I found out that chapter features the archangel Michael, which is my Dad’s name.
“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)
If you’ve ever had to purchase a niche position, you’d know that the eye level ones are the hardest to get. All the eye level niches were crossed out from the availability chart by the time we received it.
Nevertheless, the day we went down to the columbarium we learnt that the number “0414” was the only eye level niche not taken up. April 14 was Good Friday, the same week my Dad passed away in. I think he would have liked it. It was a divine gift.
I knew all these things happened because God wanted to reassure us that even the suffering of life is part of His divine plan, and He is with us every step of the way. He would never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
But this truth felt far away on the darker days.
I came to harbour a quiet bitterness towards people who did not understand my pain. I mean, how many people in their mid-twenties have had experienced their parent dying overnight of a heart attack with no warning signs at all?
How many people could truly comprehend, empathise with and relate to the deep regrets and self-hatred I had in my heart? How many friends could I cry with? How many people saw how it fractured my life?
Even my Mum and siblings had different ways of dealing with grief, oscillating between denial and distraction.
My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.
I did not trust that anyone would understand my experience, and most people understandably did not have the courage to probe. My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.
But just when I thought the darkness would never end, God mercifully brought two sisters-in-Christ who had similar experiences to journey with me. They graciously saved me from falling into the Devil’s crafty lie that no one cared – not even God himself.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Over the months that have passed, God has met me personally in my grief and hopelessness. He’s been there in my loneliness, purposelessness and anger. I can say this with all my conviction: It has been an arduous process, but He has not let me go. Though my whole world might fall apart – I know I will never fall out of His love.
As a former control freak, I’ve now accepted that I cannot control everything that happens to me. But I do know that all that has happened is of His divine will, and I’m letting that be enough.