Have you ever wondered if there would be people at your funeral, apart from your immediate family? I have. I’m happiest when allowed to be like the worm curled up under a stone, so I don’t expect many to pay me much heed. Hence my musings about my passing.
Last Sunday morning, a dear friend’s mum, Aunty Margaret Lim, made her final journey to join her husband and firstborn son in God’s house. It was bittersweet for those of us left behind. God had been merciful in relieving Mama (as her grandchildren and children fondly called her) of her struggles with acute atrial fibrillation and heart disease. We had almost lost her two months earlier when the condition filled her lungs with fluid and she needed hospitalisation. Mechanical intervention was needed to get her oxygen saturation up, and to say that she was very uncomfortable would be a gross understatement. But Mama was not a whinger; she had survived the death of her eldest son from a brain tumour, coped with her husband’s years with Alzheimer’s, and lived with rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, diabetes and spinal compression.
This time round, realising that her days were definitely numbered, she set about being the Bandaid that would help wounds to heal. She was still weak from the trauma her physical body was going through, but her spirit shone so brightly. Hardly any of her visitors were spared a word of loving counsel from her. Often, she encouraged the settling of old hurts and schisms, but she also had special words of thanks and love for those dear to her, especially her helper Nette, her daughter Shirley Sarah and her younger son Victor.
From Mama, I have seen firsthand the truism that God sees the heart. Mama was not learned in the conventional sense of the word. She couldn’t read the English Bible, so, much of her spiritual feeding came from sermons and vernacular audio Bibles. Yet, together with her husband William, they faithfully ran the church book table for more than 30 years. She was his helpmeet in every sense of the word, and it was rare to see one without the other. As the years passed and Uncle William could no longer drive, they remained undaunted in their ministry of providing church members with a good diet of Christian reading material. They would take a taxi to Cru Media to personally select the books, take them home (again by taxi), and then bring the lot to church the following Sunday (no guesses for their mode of transport). Mama’s was the smiling face that greeted anyone who came close to the book table. Oh, and did I mention that they never took a cent from the book sales?
As Shirley Sarah mentioned in her eulogy, Mama was a good cook, organiser and seamstress:
She painstakingly embroidered and appliqued some of my dresses with animals and ballerinas.…how mom did her labour of love every year in the couple of months before the Chinese New Year will remain with me always.
When I think of mom, it will be happy memories of her at her sewing machine, in the kitchen cooking her specials like Oxtail Stew & Kiam Chye [salted vegetable] Duck Soup, and making Ngoh Hiang [spiced pork rolls], Bak Chang [rice dumplings] & Keropok [fish crackers].
In my beloved husband’s sermon during the wake service, he quoted from 2 Corinthians 5:1–5 to illustrate how Mama had “traded in” her old body for her eternal one. He also recalled several people mentioning Mama’s quiet faithfulness. She was like many other “people who love the Lord, who quietly do the right thing, day in and day out. And that is what Aunty Margaret modelled for us—a quiet faithfulness.”
He likened her to a mustard seed.
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31–32, NIV)
Although she often felt small and unable to do big things in the kingdom, she would quietly obey God and do the right thing, day in and day out. Her faithfulness allowed her children to flourish in their careers and lives, her grandchildren to grow up secure in her care, and her friends to be blessed by her thoughtful words and deeds.
A member of her extended family sent the following poem by David Harkins as a reflection on Mama’s life:
We can shed tears that she is gone,
Or we can smile
Because she lived.
We can close our eyes and pray that she will come back,
Or we can open our eyes
And see all that she has left.
Our hearts can be empty because we cannot see her,
Or we can be full of the love
That we shared.
We can turn our backs on tomorrow and live for yesterday,
Or we can choose to make a difference
And carry on her way.
We can remember her only as being gone,
Or we can cherish her memory
And let it live on.
We can cry and close our eyes, be empty and turn our backs,
Or we can do what she would want
Smile, make a difference, love and go on.
On the night of Mama’s wake service, the room was filled. We were all beneficiaries of her quiet faithfulness.