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After the Storm

On February 17, 2017, my life and the life of those she loved changed forever.  My wife had been battling clinical depression and lost that ...

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Hollywood Heaven

A Hollywood Heaven

Heaven... What images come to mind? White, clouds, fog, boring? That is kind of how Pastor Rick Warren talked about heaven in an introduction to his sermon about a month ago.  It's interesting that this is how Hollywood has portrayed it in most movies and television shows, but as Rick was saying, does it even make sense that that would be true? Isn't our God the one who created color in the first place?  This concept totally blew my mind, and I started visualizing heaven as more of a scene you might see from "What Dreams May Come."

Being a makeup artist and fashionista, I just know Elaine is appreciating all of the beauty in color up there in heaven. It is definitely not "boring".
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Matthew 25:23

This was a focus verse during his sermon.  It made me think about all the ways Elaine was faithful to the Gospel in loving people, people who were in the margins, and didn't necessarily feel like they fit in.  People who needed to know someone cared about them, people who were struggling. Even the brides she worked with who were going through their own personal struggles.  I just know that this was part of the "few things" that Elaine was faithful with here on earth.  Can you imagine what she is in charge of now in Heaven? It truly brings a smile to my face when I think about this idea.  She is not just up in heaven sitting there, but participating in a great plan God has for her, and she is able to share in the master's happiness.  I don't think in this earthly lifetime I can truly understand what that exactly looks like for her, but I have a sense of peace and joy about it that surpasses all earthly understanding.

I hope this previous section of my post can make those of you who were close to Elaine smile.  Know that she truly is in a better place and is joyfully resting in our Father's arms :) !

The Waves

So my sister is in town with my three nephews, in age order oldest to youngest, Daniel, Andrew, and Joshua. We had a fun week of going to Disneyland and DCA and although pretty tiring for us adults, the boys really enjoyed it.  Today was more low key and I went with my sister, Joshua, and Daniel to the beach.

I decided to take the boogey board out and try to catch some waves with it.  Mind you, I don't think I have done that in at least 15 years!  At first the water was pretty cold, but I just kind of jumped right in and it was really nice after a while.  I kind of just sat there for a little while mediating on the waves, noticing the frequency, size, and power of each one that passed.  

It got me thinking about my situation.  The storm that started it all was a horrific hurricane that left destruction in its very wake.  Not only had I lost the relationship with my spouse, but many other facets of my life were changed very drastically and in unpredictable ways.  And after a lot of the destruction had passed, there has been sort of a calm, but there are still always going to be waves that will continue to come into my life. 

I decided to see what I recalled about my childhood and trying to catch waves and I was able to do a decent enough job at it.  I remember in particular a wave I caught, and I rode it all the way to the shore, where I was met by my youngest nephew Joshua, who was smiling and laughing with me as I passed by him as I was hitting the shore.  It made me think, the waves that come, I need to really embrace and try to ride as much as possible, even if it's terrifying and uncertain. The boogey board is the strength that I am only finding in God, strength that is not from me, but is something I must continually lean on.  And if I ride those waves to the end, there will be relationships full of joy and laughter that I will be able to experience that I would otherwise miss out on.

My oldest nephew Daniel came out to join me later that day and I offered to let him use the boogey board,  I was glad to see he had a change of heart and really wanted to participate and have some more fun (he had wanted to leave earlier).  As I passed the boogey board to him, it made me think about how we as Christians do have a role in sharing the strength that we have found in God, and not just keeping it for ourselves.  We are called to minister to people, and I believe helping people discover a strength found in God is definitely part of it.

Someone who I shared my blog with recently asked me if I had gone back to read through all of my posts at once, to really take a look at how I was grieving.  I had not done so, so one morning I decided to do that.  A common thread that really jumped out to me was how much I was leaning on the strength of God, even in the darkest moments of this year.  Although I may have not felt that I was relying on God at times, reading back, it was very evident that I was in fact leaning on His strength in what I was going through and what I was sharing about my journey.

I will continue to be hopeful about how all of this is having an impact on everyone for the better, even in ways that I may never hear about.  I would ask for continued prayers for me and my family, and for Elaine's family, and for the hope of what is to come in each of our lives.  I am excited and faithful, that God does definitely has my good in mind for my future, I need to continue to be faithful and trust in this, no matter the waves that come my way.  

And also, I want to go to the beach more often ;-)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

O Come to the Altar

So dating-I've decided to take a break at least for a little while.  I had felt that I was in a good mental and emotional state to get back out there.  And I still believe I am.  I don't regret any of the dating I've done so far. I have learned so much about people and what I like and don't like, and have learned how to articulate that when I am getting to know someone.  I've also regained confidence in my worth to a potential future partner. I have a lot to offer in a relationship. However, I realize that I am not yet in a healthy place spiritually.  I don't want to bring in the spiritual junk that I am dealing with to a relationship.  I want to create a good foundation. And to do that, I need to focus on taking action leading me back to God and back to community.  Community and fellowship have always been so important to me and I am missing that part of my life.  I don't know when I will be ready again to date.  It could be a month, several months, a year or longer.  What I do know is I want to take steps to re-engage with God, and that should be my focus right now.

So I tried church again for the first time in months. Went to a Saturday service and also a Sunday service, both at churches I am not a member of.  On Saturday, at the beginning, the worship team came out and were all filled with such joy and happiness. At first it was odd to me for some reason, like maybe they were faking it? (I'm sure they weren't). I didn't really sing, but did clap my hands.  I didn't sing not because I didn't want to mainly, but because I had never heard the songs before, they were all new to me.

Saturday's service was about why we don't need to fear our future.  I have been feeling a lot of this lately, especially knowing that I am starting from scratch in a lot of areas in my life.  The pastor brought up this verse:
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. - Psalms 23:6 (KJV)
He identified goodness as the things God gives us that we don't deserve. Mercy is God preventing us from getting what we deserve. It was a powerful idea to me, and something I hadn't really thought of before when I've heard "Goodness and Mercy" spoken about before. He also talked about how God's glory is waiting for us in heaven.

It really got me thinking past my circumstance that I am in. I asked myself, "what are some of the good things I have in my life?" I have a great family that loves and supports me and has shown that to me in spades in these past few months. I have a great job with a great school district that has been like a family to me through all of this.  I have great friends that have come along side me just wanting to be with me, hang out with me, and be a support to me in which ever way they can. My church community at the time truly acted out the church. They ministered to my needs and came around me with prayer, their time, and love. I have my health, both physically and mentally.  The mental portion could have easily been destroyed through all of this.  I am in the best physical shape I have ever been in since my early 20s. I have regular gym habits. I'm eating better, choosing better foods, and eating in moderation.

When I take a step back and really look at my life, I do have a lot of good things going for me.

I also was thinking about what God has done throughout my whole life.  He provided me with opportunities in college to connect with some really cool people and together we were able to learn about God in deep and meaningful ways. I have experienced intense Mark bible studies at Catalina with Intervarsity CSUF. I've had the opportunity to co-lead a men's bible study.  And also be a part of the leadership of a small group (F3 at Newsong). I was part of a Jr. High/High School ministry team that ignited a passion for youth for me.  Been a part of a summer arts camp where I connected with the kids, which started my journey to becoming a teacher. I've been on the worship team leading people in praise and met some awesome people who were passionate about what they did and had such talent, and was using that talent to honor God.  God has used me in the past in many different ways. And I am hopeful that I will have future similar experiences that I will be able to share with others.

They say hindsight is 20/20. God has been working in my life when I take a step back and look at it. It is hard right now getting that perspective.  It's getting better, but the pain of what happened hits me every day.  For a while now, Elaine's favorite verse which I had put on her gravestone had been so confusing to me.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11
I had mulled over this verse so many times these past few months. How could what happened to Elaine been anything but harmful, hopeless, and full of despair for the future? I began to realize over the past few weeks that maybe this verse was not only for Elaine, but also for me. Does the Lord want to protect me from harm (with His mercy)? Does He want to prosper me (with His goodness)? And give me a future (with His glory)? I know that it will take a lot more faith on my part to get to the point where I can truly believe this.

Someone who had experienced similar loss shared this verse with me recently.
"I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born," says the Lord.           -Isaiah 66:9
As I read some of the verses following that one in context, it gave me the image of God holding me on his knees wanting to hold me and comfort me through all of this. It also gave me a hope that my story is not yet finished.  Just as He used me in the past, He has plans for me for my future. He wants to use what has happened to birth something that will minister to people. I just need to have faith as small as a mustard seed in a God that is much greater than my circumstance.

At Sunday service, the first song during worship was "Come to the Altar" by Elevation Worship. Elaine's recent favorite worship song and group. My friend told me that they never have done that song before-God and his timing. God wants me to come back to the altar.  His arms are wide open ready to embrace me again.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Last Piece...but not really

It's been a while since my last post. Today the tow truck came to pick up Elaine's car to bring to her dad, so that he can sell it. It was not in my name, it was in Elaine and her dad's, so it created all sorts of stress and paperwork for power of attorney/DMV/registration while I was trying to take care of the sale on my end.  I thought it best to just have Elaine's dad take over since its in his name anyways, and he won't run into the same problems I have been.  Here is the picture I saw of it leaving-the last time I will see it, the last physical reminder of someone-their car.  The car that she had and loved driving. The car that she used driving to and from La Crescenta and Irvine when we first started dating up until we got married.  The car that she used to go to and from her weddings and gigs for E2 Beauty.  Her car, a car she spent a lot of time in.  And living in SoCal, we know that is essential if you have a busy schedule.  The last piece...but not really.

I realize there are many pieces of the puzzle that I still don't understand, and I don't think I ever will.  The puzzle that is the last 7-8 years of my life.  How I sometimes feel regret for even pursuing a relationship with her - that those last 7-8 years are years that I will never get back.  Years that I invested my time in and sacrificed for someone. Those are years that maybe I could have met someone else, started a family with, even had kids with who were going to be entering kindergarten soon.  Kids that would be playing with my nephews when my sister visits this year.  Kid's that I will have celebrated their birthdays and experienced the joy that comes with all of that. But I am left with the aftermath of it all.  No wife, no kids, and a future that was expected, is no more. A future that is very uncertain at this point as far as a family is concerned.  I wish I had something positive to say in this paragraph, or some glint of wisdom I've gotten, but I don't right now-this is where I sit.

I still believe in God, but am still angry with Him.  Still haven't gone back to church and not sure how that will look when I do decide to go back.  I think about how awkward it will be when people stand up for worship, and I'll feel obligated to stand, but will probably just put my hands in my pockets and pretend to sing, if I open my mouth at all.  A good friend of mine once shared with me how his dad said you shouldn't sing the words if you don't actually believe in what they say. I think about how I will be analyzing everything the pastor says and cross referencing it with my tragedy to see if things line up and make sense.  I want to believe that God still loves me, but right now, this is hard to believe or fathom-when I look at what has happened. Sure, people have been inspired and moved by Elaine's life, but at the cost of my own happiness, the cost of my future as I hoped it would be. This is something I will be struggling with for quite a while.

Oh, and I've also decided to try dating again.  To see what is out there.  To see what I like, and don't like.  What are things that are turn offs? To just have a fun time and flirt with someone who is interested and flirts back.  And importantly, to see if there is something more.  I also realize I have a right to be picky.  To be selective about who I date, what they look like, what they like to do.  I've met some really cool women that I click with and have met some others that I just wasn't quite interested in.  Oh, and let me tell you, technology and dating is so interesting these days.  There are so many different ways to meet people now than ever before.  All sorts of social norms have been created as a result and I am figuring them out as I go. I am learning about what I like and what I don't like, and try to take each experience for what it is-an experience that teaches me about myself and what my needs are. All this to say, it took me to a point through a lot of therapy and self-reflection to realize that I need to practice self-care.  I need to "do you" and do things that make me happy, and also I have a right to be happy and enjoy everything that comes with dating and eventually marriage again.  This is my timing and mine alone and part of me moving forward. I wonder what I will learn next about myself.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Two Months

Today is two months exactly from when I came home from work during that stormy night and found my wife.  Two months have passed, and quite a lot has happened since then. 

I have had to deal with insurance companies, leasing offices, credit card companies, FAFSA, Verizon, to name a few.  Still taking steps to be able to sell off Elaine's car and get it out of my parent's driveway.  My home was upended-I am no longer the head of household, but living in the same living situation when I was a teenager and in my early 20s.  I have gone through all of the difficulty and emotion of selecting a plot, ordering a grave marker, and all of the decisions that come along with that.  I have had my community come around me and support me financially and with their time and gifts. I have been through intensive group therapy, learned much about cognitive behavioral therapy (I encourage you to look this up as I feel EVERYONE can benefit from this), and a bit about dealing with stress at work.  I have met with a lot of people, some new relationships, and some old relationships.  I've developed some new healthy habits and on a lot of the days, struggled to make sure I am making the best use of my time.  Every day is a bit different and I still feel like I am navigating through uncharted waters.  I had mentioned Chris before who I met at the support group, the other widower.  He is my similar age who lost his wife six months ago.  Tonight, he and I met for drinks and appetizers.

It was a very refreshing experience to meet with someone who is going through the same exact feelings as I am-well about as close as you can get to the same exact feelings.  We met at the suicide survivor support group a few weeks ago and we were talking about how even with the people there, it is somewhat difficult to relate.  I think tonight was a breath of fresh air for both of us.  We talked a lot about guilt and the what-ifs and we both realize that hindsight is 20/20.  My therapist told me to tell myself every day these words - "I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time."  And I try to tell myself that constantly, especially when feelings of guilt come up.  

Chris and I talked about moving forward, and how we both feel an empty void that our wives used to fill How a lot of my insecurities were overcome in large part to my wife.  How each of us feel bleh in terms of questioning all of our big decisions we have made.  

We also talked about dating.  We talked about how does that look for us.  Will we compare our late wives to the current person we are pursuing? What is our timeline for getting married again?  How will women view us as widowers?  Will they judge us for the fact that our wives died by suicide? Will we be less desirable?  I had a conversation with my dad a few weeks back.  Chris and I are both in our mid 30s and my dad talked about the three situations a "single" guy might be in at this age.  If they are divorced, it begs the question "why?"  If they are single and never married it begs a similar question, "why not yet?" But for the widower, its more of "he had no choice in his singleness."  I think for me at least, this brings me some relief and even more so, Chris added that women could potentially view this as a benefit since they know we can be in a successful long-term committed relationship, and we both were, up until "death do us part." We both agree that it will take time and a very special person to come our way that can not necessarily empathize with us, but be understanding and embrace what each of us have gone through.

We also talked about how difficult of a time we are having in our faith right now.  We both struggle when we go to church and try to listen to a sermon.  Personally, I am looking for some connection to what happened to Elaine, but there never seems to be one.  It is a feeling of doubt that is difficult to explain.  I feel that both Chris and I are in similar places, trying to understand the overall "why?" in both of our wives' passing.

We also shared about how setback in our life stages we feel.  One day, we were the men of the household with our own family, and in a moment, everything changed. 

We talked about the difficulties of our current and future relationships and how we don't really know how we will react when things are brought up intentionally or unintentionally.  We both agree that it will take time to figure all of these things out for ourselves, but I am glad to meet someone who is on a similar journey as me.  I look forward to this new friendship, and I appreciate Chris' willingness to let me include him in my sharing on this post.

I do want to talk about something important, addressing the stigma of depression:

"I am so sorry your wife passed of cancer.  Why did she have cancer?  What do you think caused the cancer? Were there any signs while she had cancer that could have prevented her death?"

Not that anyone has said these words, but this is oftentimes how these types of questions are perceived by someone who has lost someone to depression.  I know no one is malicious in asking these questions, but what we need to realize is that depression is a mental illness that affects the brain, much like cancer, heart, or lung disease is an illness that affects our physical being.  Cancer's terminal moment happens when someone's body just cannot function due to the irreparable damage to the cells that is caused.  Heart disease's terminal moment is when the heart gives out and no longer can pump blood to the vital organs.  Lung disease's terminal moment is when the person can no longer utilize what the lungs in our body were designed for-to breath oxygen in.  Depression's terminal moment is when as a result of their brain chemistry, someone makes an irrational decision to take their own life.

The stigma of depression not as severe as any one of these other horrible destructive illnesses needs to be addressed somehow.  And to assume that it is caused by any current situation or stress alone is just a matter of ignorance.  I don't mean that to insult anyone, but in the way that our society does not place a greater emphasis on mental health awareness, and as a result, how people don't want to get the help they need for fear of judgement.  Where does this fear come from?  Is it the way we portray success?  Is it how we bring up our children?  Is it the way movies and TV define popular culture?  I don't really know good answers to these questions but I feel like we need to do everything in our circles to make sure people are aware.  If you see a friend hesitant to seek help, even for something as seemingly minor as stress, please encourage them the best way you know how to seek help and treatment.  It would be an amazing society we would live in if we would treat mental illness the way we treat physical illness.

I wanted to leave you with a memory I have of Elaine.  Whenever Billy Joel's "My Life" (actual song starts at around 1:00) came on the radio in the car, Elaine always mentioned her favorite part of the song was when the high key on the piano played several times (at around 2:00 and 3:30 in the video).  In addition to being a great song, we always had fun pantomiming we were playing the note on the piano.  Chris has been six months in and he shared with me that he is starting to really appreciate these types of memories as positive things and things he can look back on fondly.  I know I will start to as well.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Today was Elaine's Birthday.  When I woke up, the thought that she wouldn't be able to celebrate it today with me was overwhelming and brought me to tears.  She would have been 34.  I had just recently started to be more adventurous with sushi (Elaine had always loved it), so tonight I was looking forward to taking her to Sugarfish-a nice sushi restaurant in L.A. she wanted to go to--It never got to happen.

But what did happen was that some of her closest friends were able to join me in visiting her grave today and then we also went to a sushi restaurant nearby.  It wasn't Sugarfish, but it was still pretty good.  It was nice to see everyone come together to celebrate but very difficult at the same time.  It was difficult for me to be with them since most of them had a significant other in their lives.  I felt a loneliness that I have been feeling a lot of recently.  No one to ride back with me to talk about a funny joke that was said at the table, or to share our thoughts on topics that were brought up.  In the special ways that only you and your partner share.  No hand to hold as we are walking to our car, no one to open the car door for (she always appreciated this).  It's these little things that are small reminders of what I don't have with Elaine anymore.  This loneliness can be overwhelming at times, and I don't know what to do except share about it with people I'm close to. I'm hoping people can relate, whether its a relationship that broke up, or a relationship that ended abruptly by a sudden loss like I have had.  I am hoping people can relate to the emptiness you feel when half of you is completely physically removed from this world, and how you cope with it all and to be able to relate to all the emotion that goes with it.

I appreciate everyone's sympathy of course, so please don't get me wrong.  But I have been longing to meet people that are going through this specific grieving as a result of suicide. The suicide survivor group has been helpful for developing relationships with people in similar situations, but even within that group there hadn't been another guy in his 30s, who recently lost his wife to suicide.  That was until last night.  I met a guy who lost his wife 6 months ago, around my same age. Just talking with him, I can sense we have had similar emotions and thoughts about what we have been going through.  We exchanged phone numbers, so I hope to develop a friendship sharing a common bond in what we have and have yet to experience.  I hope we can help each other navigate through this very difficult type of grieving.

 I am not trying to minimize other types of death and the pain it brings to those left behind, but death by suicide leaves a crater that is unlike most other deaths.  Most other deaths don't leave behind the raging thoughts of guilt and bitterness like suicide does.  Most other deaths allow people to be completely at peace because they know there was nothing that anyone could have done.  Most other deaths don't leave the longing question of "why?" which will be with me the rest of my life.  I also carry with me the moment when I felt for Elaine's pulse and it wasn't there.  This is a memory that will most likely never go away, but I will learn to manage it over time.  

One of the leaders at the suicide support group talked about his loss using the example of a hand grenade.  The person they lost was doing everything in their power to keep the pin in.  They did not want to see their family and friends shattered by them dying.  They did not want their loved ones to go through what they had to go through as a result of their death.  But at a certain point, it just became too painful to hold that pin in.  Elaine didn't want all this destruction to occur, but the only way out of her pain, according to her broken brain, was to let go of that pin.

I want to thank those of you who sent me private messages on Facebook shortly after Elaine passed.  Even though I didn't respond to everyone, I did read those messages.  Today before everyone else got to the cemetery, I got there early to read some of the stories that people had shared of Elaine.  I read them to her at her graveside.  As I was reading them to her, emotion came over me several times and I was able to cry. Emotions rooted in "I wish you knew how much you were loved and appreciated" and "I wish I told you more how much I admired your love for others."  These were all good emotions to get out, and I know there will be much more like them in the future.  

I do hope those of you reading this will not hesitate one second to tell those you love, what you appreciate about them and how much they mean to you.  I challenge you to reach out to one person this week: your spouse, kid, parent, sibling, cousin or friend and share with them how much you appreciate them and what they add to your life.  We are designed to need words of affirmation.  Don't let the awkwardness or shyness get in the way of you showing your appreciation--It could mean the world to them.

I know I talk about how hard it is to be around people with families of their own, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy seeing you.  Please continue reaching out to me to hang out, it means a lot to me.  I have really enjoyed meeting with people I haven't seen in a while, even to just catch up on life in general aside from what is going on.  As I try to figure out what my "New Normal" is, it will be great to stay connected with those who love and support me.

Friday, March 24, 2017


It has been an interesting past week.  I feel like it's the first week where I am not constantly thinking about it.  I've met with a lot of different people and have been starting some new habits, losing some old ones.  I have found it difficult to cry about things (and I have cried a lot this past month).  And sometimes when in the presence of those close to her, find it difficult to cry when they are crying.  I want to be sure that I am in touch with what I am feeling, but at the same time, I don't want to force anything.

There have been occasions when I have tried to make myself cry, but I just can't.  I passed by Irvine Presbyterian Church, where we were married four years ago, and I wanted to cry, but the tears would not come out.  When driving from Irvine to North OC, I look at the empty seat in my car, and try to cry because of the fact that Elaine will no longer sit there, but nothing happens.  

I don't completely understand why, but my therapist says that everyone grieves differently and in their own time. They even said that I am in a place right now that takes most people 6 months to get to.  I have shared with some (who have asked) exactly how I found her that night, and each time I share, it gets easier and easier to talk about it.  When I share, its as though I am more of an observer of historical fact, rather than someone who had experienced the event themselves.  As a man of faith, a verse sticks out at me, one that I first turned to back in February and one that I was reminded by recently by a good friend and man of God and ministry.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

As I look at this verse, maybe what I am experiencing is God's purest form of comfort, a taste of the comfort we will feel when we enter heaven.  Comfort that goes beyond all earthly understanding.  This is the only logical explanation that I can come up with.

Now I do know, and my therapist has also told me, there will be times, especially all the firsts-first birthdays, first thanksgivings, first Christmases, where it will be difficult, so I am hoping that I can cry during those times.  Even now, blogging about this is helping in my grief.

I wanted to share one last thing.  The same friend who reminded me of the 2 Cor verse also pointed out to me something when we visited Elaine's grave the other day, there is a water spout near the tree.  I had always known it was there and joked about how Elaine would appreciate the practicality of it, but it reminded him of Jeremiah 17: 7,8

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7,8

I hope we can all bear eternal fruit from what has happened because of this earthly event.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

How Will You Live Your Life?

I am thinking this will probably be one of my last posts for a while.  But I wanted to share what Pastor Sun Kim had shared with us at the funeral last Saturday.  He was also the one who had married Elaine and I.  This message really articulates the hope that we all have in Elaine's death.  Please pay close attention to the imperatives that Pastor Sun talked about-this is our application.

"I have to be honest with everyone, even though I was very happy and honored to have received this request to speak today, this probably has been one of the most difficult message to prepare in my entire pastoral life. I wasn’t quite ready to prepare a burial message whom I had wed only few years ago.  As much as I want to bless everyone who have gathered here today, I feel that its is very important for us to be honest and speak sincerely to the circumstance which brings us here today. Without this honest and deep introspection, I don’t think we can properly grow and heal. As I’ve pondered over the content of the message, asking God to give me the right words to speak, asking God to give me the wisdom to balance between grief and hope, honesty and compassion, present circumstance and faith…I decided to ask a simple question. What would Elaine say to us today?

I know that Elaine is now in heaven, resting in the presence of God free from the burdens of sin, brokenness, fear and pain. And I also firmly believe that she is finally made complete in the image of God lacking nothing. So if she can speak to us today from heaven, what would she say?  I know this may be a bit unorthodox way of preaching God’s word, and it may even feel a bit uncomfortable for some, but please indulge me and I pray that this message will give hope and strength to all of you. 

I think if Elaine were looking down upon us and was able to speak to us, knowing the kind of person Elaine was, I believe the first thing she will say is, “I’m sorry.”  I believe she’ll say…
“I’m sorry for leaving all of you so early…”
“I’m sorry for leaving you with so many unanswered questions…”
“I’m sorry for making any of you feel like you hadn’t done enough for me. That’s not true.”
“I’m especially sorry to my husband Paul, for not being able to keep my vow to stay by your side till the end. Not being able to share with you the promise of God as husband and wife till the end.” 
“I’m sorry to Mom and dad, because I know there is no greater pain than for parents to have to bury their own child.”

But most importantly, I know she had an opportunity to speak to God face to face and say “God I’m sorry, I’m sorry for giving up on your gift to me, giving up on the treasure of life you’ve entrusted to me”.  To which I know God said, “I have already forgiven you, when my Son died for you on the cross, bearing all your pain, all your sorrows, all of your unspoken prayers. I have seen all the tears you shed in secret and I wept next to you. They are wiped clean, purified as driven snow. Now enter into your eternal rest, in my arms, find your eternal peace.” For this very reason, we too must choose to find peace. To let go. To forgive.  And to also forgive ourselves.

Secondly, I believe Elaine will say, with a huge grin on her face, “It’s all good! I haven’t frowned once since I got to heaven. I haven’t shed a single tear…ok maybe from laughing all the time. I no longer feel darkness anywhere at all. I haven’t seen a shadow yet, I’m enveloped by God’s perfect light all the time. I can finally see myself as God sees me…. and I am beautiful. I can’t find a single mirror here that shows any imperfection. I no longer need any make-up. I’m overwhelmed with only certainties, as all the doubts are left behind. Every step I take here is with absolute assurance and with profound love of my heavenly Father. What I use to see and perceive only dimly, now I understand perfectly without any distraction. I am finally at peace, and I hope you’ll find God’s peace knowing where now I reside.”

Lastly, I think she will ask all of us a favor. I think she would ask that her life and death will have meaning as we ponder Apostle Paul’s words, “and all these things shall work together for those who love God and called according to his purpose”. As I was thinking about this last point, an image came to my mind. My daughter attends a Mosaic class at her school every Monday. It’s an art class taught by a wonderful local artist. They create this beautiful Mosaic by using hundreds of broken, jagged, and shared glasses. It is an amazing and most beautiful thing to see these pieces come together to create an image that an artist had in her mind. When being put together, it’s bit chaotic and hard to imagine the final outcome. But as these children, in full trust of their teacher and in obedience to her instruction, begin to lay pieces together, side by side, they begin to see this beautiful image begin to emerge and come alive right in front of their eyes. 

I think we are all broken, jagged, shared pieces of glass without meaning when left to ourselves. We must realize that we are all broken, but beautifully broken. Our broken, jagged, and insignificant piece has a deeper meaning in the beautiful imagination of our God, our heavenly Father. It is when we begin to realize that when my brokenness connects with your brokenness, and yours connect with others, that we can begin to find meaning, restoration, and, healing in the midst. 

Some of us might be saying, this is too much to process. Too much to make sense out of. I can’t neatly package it into my theology or my culture or my worldview… so we may end up just internalizing Elaine’s death. Some of us will cover it up or bury it deep inside. Some of us will just try to just move on as quickly as possible. 

I believe what we must do is honestly acknowledge Elaine’s brokenness. But the question is, how will we then come along, come along side of her brokenness and connect it with ours, and in turn seek God to accomplish even greater things than we can possibly imagine and hope for?

I think Elaine is asking us to be open. Open to those who are broken, those who are struggling in their secret rooms consumed by darkness. Open to young people who are experts at plastering the most perfect image on their social media, yet struggling with their sense of worth that can only be retrieved in God. Elaine might be asking you to take more proactive role. Some of us might be encouraged to create programs or start an organization that can help prevent any further loss of lives. Some of us may reconsider your career choices that may further help people deal with serious physical and mental issues such as depression. May be some of us are called to change the conversation within the Asian culture to remove the stigma of mental disorder; create true safe spaces, especially within the church, to discuss difficult subjects such as suicide and depression. Some of us will need to fight for the biblical understanding of the institution of family as the last defense in protecting the mind and hearts of our young people. Some of us need to seriously engaged the culture of Nihilism, a culture that continues to promote meaninglessness all the while aimlessly searching for happiness within. 

I’m hopeful for tomorrow, because I know we will meet with Elaine face to face in God’s kingdom. But I’m also hopeful, because I have confidence that so many of us will rise up and meet the challenges Elaine’s life and death has presented for us. Elaine’s life was dedicated to helping the broken and hurting. We all know this to be true because we know her heart and we have witnessed her faith in action. Now her death is demanding us to have a vision that cares for those who are quietly falling into the cracks, those who are being ruthlessly swallowed up by the visions of darkness. I have hope, not in our own ability to be good, but because God who has begun a good work in Elaine’s life will be faithful to accomplish it through all of us, all of us who are so beautifully broken before God."

-Pastor Sun Kim 3/11/17