14014082_sWe were doing some long overdue clearing of our house in PJ when I came across a birthday card I received from my dad and mum in 2002. Mum wrote a blessing in Chinese. Dad wrote the following:

Happy Birthday to our only son, Tan Soo Inn.
May God bless you and shower His grace and mercies on you.
Many, many more b’days to come.
Lots of love,
Your Papa,

I don’t know if they sent a card in 2003. Papa would spend much of 2003 in hospital. He would go home to the Lord on October 15 the same year (https://tinyurl.com/7tvgngw). I miss him still.

As I grow older my short-term memory suffers but I can remember my dad putting me to sleep when I was a child. We were living in College Drive. I shared the room at the back with a Teochew nanny from China. There was a dark blue night light that was on the whole night. Dad would carry me and sing his favourite lullaby — 500 Miles (Away From Home).

I remember him carrying me and singing:

Lord I’m one, Lord I’m two, Lord I’m three, Lord I’m four,
Lord I’m 500 miles away from home…

Maybe that is why I have always liked sad songs.

You do not, you cannot, know the cost of parenting until you become one yourself. Even now I have only the faintest idea of the price dad and mum paid to raise me. And even if I knew, there is no way one can really repay one’s parents. One can only try to pay it forward — to one’s own children, to others.

It is hard to believe that dad has passed on for close to a decade now. Mum is 85 and living in Penang. One day I will have to say good-bye to her too, though her doctor says she is good for another 10 years.

I am not a natural nurturer. My children and my parents can testify to that. This is one of the many ways that Bernice has helped make me a better person. With her help, hard work and encouragement, we are taking mum to Hong Kong. We rejoice that she is willing to go. Mum loves to travel and she will be pleased to tell you that she has made a number of trips around the world. But in the last few years she has not been that strong physically and emotionally. She said that she is now too old to travel. Her physician said there was no reason why mum couldn’t travel but mum refused.

In recent times she talked about visiting her sister who is in Hong Kong, one last time. Mum came from Hong Kong and used to be very proud of that fact. Going back to Hong Kong “one last time” also means that she can visit her hometown once more. Pray for us. Pray that it will be a safe and joyful trip, especially for mum. Of course mum may go on to make many more trips to Hong Kong! Nobody knows when it is time to go. Only the Lord knows and He normally does not share that information. But I am glad that we are making this trip.

Dad did not like to travel. He was happiest in his “village”, Pulau Tikus. He had many friends there. But mum likes to travel. And she likes Hong Kong. I am glad we are making this trip.

Truth is, we all journey through life and one by one we come to journey’s end. I am glad that dad and mum are followers of Jesus. And now Bernice’s dad and mum as well. Bernice’s mum died earlier this year. She died in Christ. Although we may not know how our earthly journeys may unfold, we know we will all reach the same eternal home. We are not 500 miles away from home. In many ways, in Christ we are home already. In this home the songs are joyful ones.