Tomorrow would have been mom's birthday. I'd like to share with you a little extended testimony about my mom today. I've wanted to share my experiences about her last days for a long time, but I think the pain was always too great for me to really talk much about it without getting emotional.
For the past few years, when this time of year would come around, I'd look back at her and mourn her passing. I'd feel sorry for myself
My dad saw that I was depressed and gave me a book that someone had given him once.
He wrote on the front page, "Hope for tomorrow, live for today. Yesterday was a memory."
Almost four years have past. It took a while, but the time for mounring is past.
I remember Brother Watkins saw a vision of mom shortly after she passed. He said she was happy, and she was at peace. And I remember Brother Watkins saying that he began rejoicing, and Satan was mad at him for rejoicing, and Satan started pulling at his feet, trying to make him stop rejoicing.
And Brother Watkins said, "I rebuke you Satan".
And I realized that when I continued to mourn and feel sorry forrmyself, and lament the loss of my mom, I was letting Satan win. I was refusing to rejoice that my mom was happy and at peace and no longer has to suffer in this world.
So again, it took a while, but nowadays when I think of mom,
I'm going to share with you, and with anyone for the first time, what I went through in the final month of her life. At the time, it was by far the most painful time of my life. But in retrospect, it was also the most meaningful time in my life. It's when I began to grow and understand a lot of things.
One day in 1991, the phone rang. I picked it up in the kitchen and my dad picked it up upstairs. He beat me to the "Hello." I listened to the receiver silently to make sure it wasn't for me.
"Hello, Mr. Liu. This is the doctor's office. We wanted to tell you that your wife's test results were negative."
"What??" said my father, with a tinge of apprehension in his voice. There was a brief pause as he, and I, tried to remember whether "negative" meant "good" or "bad."
The doctor picked up on his silence and clarified. "The tumor is benign. Your wife doesn't have cancer."
The words "tumor" and "cancer" still ring in my head today. My parents had always protected us from their own problems. But usually those problems were about mom's asthma or a minor health problem my dad would have. But this is the first time I ever heard anything about cancer.
I listened on, covering the mouthpiece. I heard my mom in the background thanking God. I listened as the doctor continued. He mentioned something about having an operation to remove the benign growth in mom's neck. But the words "tumor" and "cancer" were in my mind, so the other words were like a blur to me. I heard my dad hang up, and then I heard laughing from upstairs.
I ran upstairs and saw mom and dad in the hall. They were smiling and hugging. I felt somewhat left out, so I finally blurted out, "What's going on?" Dad started to explain to me about the phone call, when I told him I heard the whole thing. He told me about how they'd left a lump in my mom's neck, and how everything was going to be alright. It wasn't cancer.
I was relieved. But I was very much confused.
Mom had the operation a little while later. And sure enough, the doctor was wrong. Not only was the tumor malignant, it was anaplastic thyroid cancer. Sam had his medical textbook which described it. A cure rate of 0. It was the kind of cancer which, once it is discovered, it is too late. By the time it is detected, it will have already spread throughout the body. The cancer would reach lethal proportions possibly within weeks, definitely within months.
Of course, I didn't comprehend any of this. My parents soon realized that any radiation or chemo was useless. So mom decided not to go on with treatments.
Things got worse quickly. By this time, she stayed in her room all day. My dad would take care of her constantly day and night. I wanted to help but they told me that dad could handle everything, and it was more important forr me to work on the hymnbook, which we recently started. Serena came home on weekends.
She would have trouble breathing every now and then, we weren't sure if it was because of her asthma or because the cancer had reached her lungs, or if the cancer in her throat was closing off her windpipes. So they had a tank of oxygen sitting by. When she began gasping for breath, my dad would put the oxygen mask on her until she could breathe again. There was a bell that mom would ring whenever she had problems breathing, and dad would rush in and help her with the oxygen. The bell would go off at random points of the day or night. Serena and I learned to hate the sound of that bell.
One Friday, the second week of January 1992, my friend from high school was in town. He and I went to get some pizza. When I came home, I got in and saw my dad sitting at the kitchen table alone. "Hi dad, how's mom?" I asked, as I always did.
My dad was completely silent. I looked at him. HIs eyes were red, and he looked exhausted. He picked up a note from the table which he wrote in case I came in and he wasn't there and handed it to me. I read it.
"Your mother couldn't breathe. The ambulance came when you were gone and took her to the hospital."
As I was taking this all in, I said to my dad, "I want to go see her."
"Are you sure?" he asked.
So we both drove to the hospital. We went into intensive care. I saw my mom lying still on a stretcher, alone. I walked up to her. I used to always make her smile by raising my eyebrows and saying "hi, mummie". I said it to her, but she didn't hear me. I guess she was in shock. Her eyes were open, but they were frightened and looking around the ceiling. She had a blank expression on her face. She had a large tube sticking out of her mouth, and lots of little tubes all around her. Dad leaned over and told her she was in the hospital. She nodded. He told her that he'd be back tomorrow. She nodded again. We left. It was the first time in my life I'd seen my mom looking so helpless, so alone, and so afraid. It almost seemed like she didn't recognize me. I felt a sick feeling. There was nothing I could do as I walked away.
On the way home, my dad told me what had happened. Mom had trouble breathing again, but the oxygen wasn't working. Dad called the ambulance to take her to the hospital. The paramedics came by and started working on my mom. They were incompetant. My dad pleaded with them, trying to tell them my mom had asthma, and cancer. They wouldn't listen. I think they even tried to give her CPR. They caused her a lot of pain before finally getting her into the ambulance.
The next day, we went back to see her. She looked much better and smiled as she saw us. She had a machine hooked up to her which helped her breathe, but she couldn't talk, because the tubes went in her mouth and her breathing passages. So she had to write messages to us on little notebooks.
Anyone who knew my mom knows that she loved to talk. It was her gift from God too, and to be deprived of that was definitely troubling to her. But the fear was that, if her breathing problems were indeed because the cancer had grown to the point that her air passages were blocked by the cancer, removing the tube would mean that the cancer growth would close in. She would die an unspeakably horrible death, literally choking to death. There was a chance that her breathing problems were only due to her asthma, though. Or maybe the cancer had grown and subsided. There was no way to know for sure without removing the tube.
Sam had flown back from Tennessee w/Linda. Serena was in Philly and had taken time off. I, of course, was home. We spent a lot of time around mom's bed, with her scrawling notes on her notebook and showing us. We still have the notebooks somewhere. But not being able to talk was no way to live. Mom made the decision to remove the tube.
On the day that the tubes were to be removed, we all did a lot of holding of hands. As a family, we never really expressed our feelings to each other a lot, because we always felt that our feelings went without saying. But that day, we got to say a lot of things. Anyone who knows mom knows that she was a nut about taking pictures. We have thousands of family photos at home, on vacation, around the house, amid the flowers outside, at school, anywhere. So she wrote "Where's the camera?" Dad told her it was at home. "Go home and get one!" she wrote. So we went home and got the camera and took a picture by her bedside in intensive care.
Finally, the time came to remove the tube. We told mom we loved her. Sam and Linda said something to her and held her hand. Dad said something to her and held her hand. Serena and I were left. We held her hand. We didn't say anything. We just stood there and tried not to cry. As we began to walk away, she gripped our hands tighter. She had tears in her eyes. I think she knew that of the four of us, Serena and I still felt we needed her the most. I promised mom that we'd see her again, no matter what. Serena said the same thing.
The doctor would remove the tubes as we sat out in the lounge. We were all quiet and sat motionless. We all prayed in silence. I put my head on the desk. The hospital hustled and bustled around us, but we just sat there in complete silence. It seemed like an eternity. But then, the doctor came through the door." Dad stood up.
"She's fine. You can come on in."
We each let out a collective breath and rushed in. There, sitting up, was mom, with her trademark toothy grin on her face. Her voice was gritty, but she could talk again. And her breathing was fine.
Mom would stay in the onconlogy unit of the hospital for the next few weeks. My dad ordered her a private room on the top floor of the hospital. The room was a fairly large one, overlooking a beautiful view of Princeton.
Oncology did not have time restrictions for visitation from families, so I spent a lot of time with mom for the next few weeks. Dad would stay with her during the day, and I'd come in the afternoons and at night. Whenever Serena could make it back into town, she'd be there too.
One day when I was walking in, I heard a man across the hall. He was groaning continuously. He was yelling about pains and demanding the nurses to do something. The nurses had evidently already done what they could and at this point were ignoring the man. But he wouldn't stop groaning and yelling and complaining. It gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I walked into my mom's room. It was quiet. She had tears in her eyes. I was concerned. Was she in pain? Was she suffering? Was she sad about something? I asked her, "What's wrong."
She looked around and said, "I can't believe that God loves me so much." I looked confused, and she said, "I'm so sick, but even now God loves me. This room is so beautiful, and there are so many people to take care of me."
Well, now that mom had her voice back, she started talking again. Our family, because mom was weak and to ensure that she could rest, put a strict "no outside visitors" rule at the front desk. But still, church brothers and sisters ignored the rule and snuck in. We were initially very annoyed. We'd made announcements in church for people not to visit, and we felt these people were thinking of themselves and not of mom.
But I noticed something. Only certain people were coming. A lot of old friends that mom had were not visiting, as we requested. but the people that were getting in were people who had come to mom beforre for pastoring. I had no idea of their problems or what they needed counseling for, but I noticed that each time, mom, as she always did, would talk to them. She wouldn't really give much advice. She'd really just give them a bunch of Bible verses, and pray with them. I notice that when these people came in, mom's strength would return to her. She'd talk for minutes, even up to a half hour or more continuously, without tiring. I guess these people had come to mom for advice in the past and now were coming for their last time.
There was one point where mom had gone particularly long in talking to one couple. I can't remember who it was, but Serena and I were inthe room when they came in
I wrote "uh oh, evidently when they came in"
Mom started talking, and just wouldn't stop. We started to get concerned that she'd wear herself out, but she just seemed to have so much strength and the couple was listenening intently. I saved the piece of paper where Serena and I were wondering how to cut in. We were scrawling messages to each other all over the page.
After probably about thirty minutes of talking we started writing on the paper again.
Serena had evidently tapped me, so I wrote on the paper, "What?"
We waited for mom to pause so we could jump in and politely ask the couple to leave. She didn't pause. We waited another fifteen or so minutes. Serena wrote
"This is farce-like"
I began to reaalize that this strength was not mom' own. it was from God. Mom ha the gift of fpastoring, aand even now God was using her.
I think there are a couple reasons mom could pastor. One is she kept every secret tightly to the end. She never spoke much on her own, to tell you the truth. Her pastoring consisted mostly of BIble passages. But I think the key was her love. she prayed every day for those who came to her for help.
I asked her about pastoring. She explaned to me her attitude in pastoring to people and I wrote it down. "Don't spew out advice, especailly when there are family problems. The best thing to do is pray. Only God melts people hearts. Man can do nothing."
I was in complete denial of mom's condition. There was just no possibility that she'd die within the year, or even the next few years. But I guess deep down I knew that the possibility was there, so in the time I had with her, I talked with he a lot about her life.
. She had told us the stories of her childhood and her growing up and her being healed of a deadly sickness in her childhood and her emigration to Taiwan and to the United States many times. But I'd never bothered to write any of it down, so I'd forget a lot of the stories she told. Now, I took some pirces of paper and wrote as she spoke to me. I asked her to tell me about her life.
"You're not going to sell this, are you?" Mom asked
I hadn't looked at these papers for four years, since I wrote
My grandpa and Sun-Yet Sen did Nationalist work together. I'm
in 1918, grandpa was in Tokyo, and was active in the Youth xian Academy,
So they prayed together. After a while they got up. The Reverend asked
Grandpa loved to laugh, like mom. He laughed and said no. But actually,
when he kneeled
So as you know, the True Jesus Church was established in 1917. The Holy
Ten years later, the Chinese revolution was really successful. Grandpa
Grandpa went to see the church. It happened to be the Sabbath. Grandpa
After the prayer, the bell rang and everyone stopped praying. There was
But Elder Tsao was nice and full of love. Mom wrote what exactly what
Another Elder was there, Elder Chang, who was the chairman of the G.A.
of China. Our
So that was how grandpa first came to the church.
i thought about this. if a young stranger today in his thirties came to our church today, and saw us pray, and began to laugh, what would we do? at the least probably ignore him. Or more likely, we may become angry at him and ask him to leave. But the early church in China was filled with love. they had no idea who my grandpa was or that he was a simple man who just loved to laugh. yet they treated him so nicely. If they hadn't, I wouldn't be standing here today. i woouldn't be anywhere.
Now a lot of people from taiwan have come up to me over the years
After mom was born, my grandmother had a late-term miscarriage of a baby. her health deterioated. There was no western medicine, and she became vey sick. mom never got the chance to finish the story, but the bottom line is that my grndma was healed by God and returned to full health, and had three more children. She was very thanful to God.
Mom told me about the last time she saw grandma. It was in 1949.
Anyway, grandma was very thankful to God for healing her. She had been
So the last time mom saw grandma, grandma was sending her to the train
The communists closed off the borders a short time after that, and grandma
I recently heard a testimony by SP Li and Preacher Liang about their trip to mainland china. they reported that there are a handful our church members in Nanking, but all of them are recent converts. There is no trace of any of our old members. I think that our church in Nanking faced severe persecution. during this time.
we talked about a lot of different things in the hospital. but then, it was time for mom to come home.
at home, mom's hhealth deteriorated fast. one day a few weeks after mom caame back, she was having trouble beathing again. my dad ran into my room. "The oxygen'ss not woring" he said
It was another Friday, the second we in Febuay,. I thin exactly a month from the last time it happened in January.
I heard mom breathing deeply in her room. He asked mom if she wanted him to call the ambulance. She said no, emphatically. He asked her a few times, and each time, she said, "no". I was still groggy, but I knelt down on the floor. "God, please let her breathe....please" After a while of the oxygen not working, she told my dad to stop trying to use the oxygen.
A little more than an hour later, I had fallen asleep again, and this time my dad knocked at the door. "Your mom is having her last breath" I went into shock. I just couldn't believe it. I rushed outside of mom's door but I didn't go in. I just got on my knees and put my face to the ground. "Lord, please, not like this, please Lord." I cried. "Please not yet." I went back into my room and tried to pray. It was inconceivable that she was breathing her last."
A few minuts later my dad came out of mom's room. it was surreal. "five oh five ??pm. mom took her last breath. He choked up. I was still on my knees. I got up. We talked to mom's room. Her body was in the chair, her head slumped down and to the side. I noticed the expression on her face. It was peaceful.
My dad said, "let's kneel down and pray for God to receive her soul." He kneeled down and immediately started crying. I knelt down and asked God to bring her back, but if he didn't want to bring her back then to take her soul peacefully., but to please bring her back,
My dad explained how it had happened. Her breathing was lighter and lighter. Then, she stopped breathing. She had said a few things as her breathing was fading. A chinese phrase which at the same time I guess means "Fight Satan" and "victory over Satan". Then my dad said, "I think she mentioned you."
I turned and looked at him. As soon as I looked at him, he said, "no, no...maybe I heard wrong."
I knew even now he was trying to protect me, so I asked him again what she had said. She said, it turns out, "Steven, fight Satan" in Chinese. I had no clue what this meant.
We sat in stunned silence for minutes. My dad said something I remember clearly. "Things are going to be a lot different around here from now on."
I had no idea what he meant. I think he had no idea what he meant either. But he was abolutely right. Thiing were different.
the funerral came and went. sam and linda went back to Tennesee, Serena went back to Philly and eventually moved to California. Dad stayedd at home forr a while and after a few months went to China to find himself. Me? I did the hymn book and went to business school. For about a year, I was at home by myself. And I won't lie to you. It wasn't easy. I dreaded coming home late at nights and coming into a large, empty house which once was full of life. In business school, there was aclass called Organization Behavior which had a little "life-stress event" evaluation. A score of 300 meant an 80% probabilie of stress-related illness. I scored a 350. There was a commercial on TV which identified 10 signs of clincial depresssion. I had eight of them.
There were times when I felt that I had hit the absolute breaking point. I thought that God had aalways said that I wouldn't be tested beyond my means to endurre, but I'd swear that I'd reached that point where i jut couldn't enure anymore.
but a funny thing happened. I survived. And looking back just three years ago, I can see the distance I've come. I caan see that if mom had emained alive, I wouldn't have grown as much as I did. I'd still be living under the false asumptioon tht life was easy, that things would always happen the way I waanted them to.
mom had allways said she wished she could see two things. one was tht erena find a husband tht couldapprcite her. the ssecond was tht i grow up. I used to take a little umbrage at this. I'mgrown up aren't I? I can o my own cooing and my own laundy aand drive a car and holda job. I asedmom wwhatshe meant. she said just tht a lot of my way of thinking was sstill too simple. I stilld didn'tt getit.
A few months later I was tling to siste kaau. I asked her what she thought mom meant. I asked her "how does someone grow up?" without pausiing sister kau said one word. "suffering" the only wy to grow is by suffering
There was a program on Family radio which spoke about Job. The person on the radio said, God never asked Job to conquer his problems or anything like that. God only asked Job to endure.
And I'm thankful to those brothers an sisters who reached out to me during this time and especially those who prayed for me. it's not easy to reach out to someone who has undergone tragedy. its vey awkward. the person who's hurting often doesn't show it, he or she buries their hurt until it eats away at their insides. it can get awkward, becauee there's not you can say in terms of advice. But if you know someone's who's hurting, you need to reach out to them. you need to give them an outlet to release some of their pain. and most of all, you need to pray for them. again, advice is cheap, man can do nothing, but God can melt the human heart.
Like I said in the beginning, I'm past the time of moounring or self-pity or depession. And so I've been able to start thinking rationlly about that month four years ago.
i always used to question God. Why? one question I had...Why didn't she just die in January, what was the purpose of keeping her alive until februyary?
I can see it a bit clearly now.
that extra month was a gift from God.
a gift to our family. you often hear of families regreting the things they never got to say. but we said everything we needed to at the bedside in ICU.
a gift to those whom mom got to use her gift of pastoring. A chance to tie up loose ends.
a gift to me. a chance to really ask everything I should have asked before.
a chance to hear about her life.
you know, every noww and again i'm tempted to look at all I have and
I stop and think
mom lways quoted the verse all things work for the bst
i come from a long line of people who loved God
my grandpa had love for God
now hen you thin aboutt what makes a good xian, you thin about people like myy grandpa or grandma or mom. But you on't relly thin boutt ppeoplee like my dad. he'll be the first to tell you tht he doen''t pray a lot or read the bible religiously. and in this church, it seems that if one doesn't show how up forr church for a few weeks, one is automatically placed on the "lost sheep" list.
but momm talked alot about dad
dad loved children
when mom was working in schering, she had a colleague who had a very cute little daughter. mom said that dad played with the little girl, but she ignored him. mom saw that this was painful for him.
mom had 5 miscarriages.
mom said that dad was so pleased when we were born.
now, when the church in New Jersey began and began to grow, there
And mom felt she owed God a lot. She felt an obligation towards God. She said that she couldn't do much for GOd. She couldn't preach. But she did what she could, which was to support and serve wherever she could. So she went to all the family services every day.
mom said to me that she was so thankful for dad. when she went out to services, he would stay home and take care of us. mom mentioned that a sister in church had told her that some people just go out and do God's work and ignore their family. mom was afrid this would haopen with us. but dad was a family man, and he relly loves us. mom said that he helped her a lot.
i think another husband would have insisted that he his wife stay home and help take carre of the kids. but dad never complained. the only reasons he ever objected to mom doing church work was when he felt that she was overexerting herself and ruining her health. but he neverr complained about all the extra work he hadto do a home as a result of her doing work for God.
I think that's something we need to grasp in church.
Jesus gave TWO commandments, love the Lord your God
the teacher asked Jesus, who is nmy neighbor?
not the levite, who prayed all the time.
the samaritan showed xian love, and the others were the hypocrites.
again, if our church doesn't have this kind of love, all the truth in the world doesn't matter. our chuch is nothing.
Mom said to me that she thanks her
I have to agree. some say that they wish that they could go out an "have some fun" and a seecond before they die be baptized and get the hs and go to heaven. That's just silly. there's no greater blessing than to be born and grow up in God, to always have God to lead us and watch over us. It' so easy to take it for granted.
I used to spend a lot of time asking God why?
But I read over something mom said to me in the hospital.
As a family, we've had lots of happiness and joy.
and I think to myself, especially with all the broken families in the world today, that aa lot of people would give anything to spend just one day with a family like the one I got to spend 23 years with.
mom always said, if you have work left for God on earth, then stay.
Whenever mom talked about about her mother, my grandma, she'd get especially emotional. Serena always said that she felt that the one thing mom looked forward to most in heaven was being able to see her mother again.
After mom told me the story about the last time she saw her mother in the train station, she Mom said something which I wrote down. In heaven, we're all together, forever. I underlined together once. I underlined forever four times.
When mom was sick, I thought for sure she'd be healed. what a great testimony it'd make, I thought. my mom was healed of terminal cancer.
but when I look back, I see that the greatest testimonies aren't those of healing of sickness, or casting out demons, or great visions, or raising of the dead. The greatest testmonies are the lives of people who lived their lives in Christ. of those whose every step, though seemingly random, was ultimately perfectly arranged by God. of those who trusted in God and gave thanks to God. of those who put God first in their lives, of those who loved God with all their hearts, and gave up their lives for their friends. of those who died with the assurance that they would see their loved ones in glory.
sing hymn 134
mom wouldalways says something to me
May all glory, praise, and thanks be to our God.
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