In December 2005, I wrote about my friend Ju Liang who was diagnosed with leukemia.
This past Wednesday 11.18am, he succumbed to a relapse after battling the disease for almost 3 years.
So much has been thought, said and written. But I'm just going to post a speech I shared during Ju Liang's funeral service. Originally an email I sent out to a few close friends on the day of the death, this was something written completely from the heart and without planning.
I remember praying for Ju Liang 2 1/2 years ago when we first found out that he had leukemia. At that time leukemia sounded like something that happened only to people in movies. Not to someone like Ju Liang - the middle child of the Wong family I loved so much. The one who so wonderfully complemented his elder brother Ju Yuan's charisma and younger brother Ju Ping's athletic ability, with his intelligence, musical talent and creativity.
After a couple of years of chemo, he seemed back to normal. We even served together during last year's VBS (Vacation Bible School) in the music team and helping the Intermediate class with their presentation. It was one of the happiest times in my life, as we practiced together with Clement and Clifford at night in this very living room.
We started praying for wisdom on Ju Liang's part, as he decided what he wanted to further his studies in - Acturial Science or Business. Then when he had a relapse, we prayed for a donor. And God graciously granted him the donor from Taiwan.
One day after YTU (Youth Training Union), I called him and assured him that we would serve together during VBS this year. I even shared with him some crazy ideas I had for the Intermediate Class presentation. He told me it wasn't likely that he would be back in time, but I made him say that he would. And Ju Liang being Ju Liang, he joked about how lousy the hospital steroids were, making him weaker instead of becoming a buffed bodybuilder. He even asked me whether I had anything he could pray for.
After I put down the phone, it crossed my mind "What if this is the last time i speak to him?". But of course, I quickly brushed the thought aside. Ju Liang WILL get better, I believed. In time for VBS.
It really was the last time I spoke to him.
Up till Tuesday night, when I heard that his heartbeat was getting stronger and cancer cells reducing, I believed with all my heart that Ju Liang would have a second chance at life. I imagined him giving talks and publishing books "How God Healed My Leukemia". The doctor even said it was a minor miracle. And that was what we had been praying for.
And yesterday afternoon, as we drove home from Port Dickson after the No Apologies camp, someone broke the news to me. Ju Liang was gone.
I guess I felt cheated.
When I reached church, Pastor Siew Teng asked me to take care of Ju Ping. He still appeared fine, on the verge of crying. We prayed together with a few others, in the midst of the luggage bags. And he started crying again.
I didn't know what to do.
It still hasn't fully sunk it yet. It still feels like a weird dream, something I'm going to wake up from. I still expect to suddenly see him come online or show up in church with his glasses and white suit and black hat.
Pastor Siew Teng told me that Ju Liang wanted to share his testimony to others, if God willed him to live. So I pray that all of us here carry this task on and use his life story as a blessing to others. In his 21 years of life, Ju Liang experienced God in more ways than many people do in an entire lifetime. Surely that is a story worth sharing.
And I pray too, that his family - Uncle Ronald, Auntie Annie, Ju Yuan and Ju Ping - continues to live with the joy and hope of someday reuniting with him. For surely, Ju Liang is finally free from suffering, sorrow and tears. He is in eternal fellowship with God, rejoicing with the angels of heaven.
I don't know what to say anymore. I've never experienced the death of such a close friend before.
I just imagine that he's waiting for us now. It'll just be some years, as we pass through our temporary home on earth. And after that, we'll be spending an eternity with him in the future. There'll be so many stories to share then, of the passion and purpose we lived our lives with.
Till that day comes, I'll always remember this dear brother God has blessed me with and whom I had the privilege of knowing. I'll always remember Ju Liang.
It seemed such terrible timing at first. There we were, all fresh from the high that was No Apologies camp, and Ju Liang's death brought us crashing back to grievance.
But guess what? One of Ju Liang's last words before he entered coma was "God never makes mistakes, Ma."
And looking back, Ju Liang's death was no mistake or coincidence. In fact, there could have been no better time. It has provided a powerful impetus for a generation of youths in my church to be passionate about their lives and change the world for God, myself included. As I saw them comforting and praying for one another, I knew God had His plans and something special was about to happen.
These are exciting times, indeed. And do watch well, Ju Liang - we'll catch up again someday. =)