I started 2019 with a funeral

Sean Goh // January 11, 2019, 11:21 am


On the list of ways I thought I would be starting 2019, attending my friend’s funeral was not one of them.

I expected New Year parties, barbecues, even clearing assignments for school – yet here I am. She was a dear friend in Christ, and she went home at just the tender age of 20.

We knew she had been suffering for quite some time, but I was utterly shocked when I heard the news. I kept asking God why, though I never seemed to get a response. But after all the tears had been cried, eulogies spoken and flowers laid, my friends and I were faced with the truth of our mortality.

Beginning the year with mourning reminded me we are not promised another year.

My friend passed away on 31 December. At the time, I remember I was looking through my schedule and to-do lists for the few following days, when an Instagram notification rang. Just like that she was gone.

We often make meticulous efforts to plan our days and years. What university we’ll go to after we graduate. What job offer to go after. What to I look for in a future life-partner. Even now, as I prepare to graduate from Polytechnic, I’m already studying various schools and programmes for further studies.

After the funeral, I realised that, in a sense, all our plans are ultimately futile. Think of the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:16-21, we have no idea when our time will come. While planning is great, we need to come to the knowledge that, just like that friend, we are not promised the next moment or the next day, month or year.

All we can do is live well now for the One who matters most!

On death and dying: A post-mortem of life’s great equaliser

I thank God that though her years was short, my friend still lived an incredible life for the gospel!

When she wasn’t in the hospital, she was serving in church, encouraging her friends and even getting herself on the Director’s List in school! She lived every moment with such zeal for life and an even greater zeal for God!

Her steadfast joy in spite of her situation brought joy, inspired and touched many around her. Most importantly, her life declared the majesty and glory of the God she loved and served with everything she had! She epitomised the verse in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – to live every moment for the glory of the Lord!

In the face of mortality and eternity, we need to realise that all we can do here on earth while in transit to our final destination, is to remain faithful and live each moment for the cause of Jesus Christ.

We only have one chance at doing so.

In the face of suffering, pain and death, I saw that all we can really do is to look up.

I will always fondly remember how our group of friends would belt out Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane. We did it jokingly whenever someone shared about a bad (not too bad) situation. Singing that song then would never fail to bring a solid 30 seconds of laughter to our group.

But as we sat, sombrely reflecting on her life, I was brought back again to the song. This time I didn’t sing it as a joke, but as genuine and broken worship.

The lyrics to the chorus goes something like this: “Though You slay me, yet I will praise You. Though You take from me, I will bless Your Name. Though You ruin me, still I will worship. Sing a song to the One who’s all I need.”

The song really exemplified my friend’s outlook on life. Even though she was in so much pain, though her health continued to fail, she grew to love and live for God all the more.

She never once cursed God for her pain – to be clear, God does not make us suffer – instead she looked to Him and wanted to grow deeper in intimacy with Him! When things went south she chose to cling to the One who had always led her – to the One who finally brought her safely home into His arms.

While I miss my friend, I am grateful for all her life and testimony has taught me. I consider this start to 2019 a stark reminder to live and give my best for Jesus each moment.

I will always look to Him especially when everything’s falling apart.

The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.