sometimes grace hits you before you realize the fullness of all that’s happened.  undeserving.  abundant.  and that’s the beauty of it.

beaute pour des cendres.

My first funeral was for my great aunt whom I never met.  The second funeral I attended was for a high school acquaintance who died in a car accident due to excessive speeding (90 mph around a curve, to be precise).  My third funeral occurred, inconveniently, last weekend for my grandpa (An aside: you know, I’d love to call him “Tranpa,” as that would be a bad-ass nickname.  But Tran comes from my dad’s side.)  I think John Green put it aptly when he said “Funerals aren’t for the dead; they’re for the living.”

In April, my friend’s dad had shared Psalm 23 with me, with the prophetic intent of advising me that the forests of North Carolina – not the breezy beaches of San Diego – would be my home for the summer.  To be honest, I’d hope to live in a much bigger city because I love city life.  And I don’t mind population density, because I’m an extrovert.  New York? Chicago?  Boston? San Francisco?  Oh, c’mon.  What the hell is in Chapel Hill?  “The valley of the shadow of death,” He promised.  In addition to such an ominous promise, I discovered how much I’m not a big fan of daily thunderstorms, scorching heat and sticky, intense body-odor inducing levels of humidity (good thing Southeast Asia set the bar pretty damn high), and the rarity of authentic Vietnamese and Chinese food.

Death is never convenient.  So are breakups.  So is finding real Asian food in the South.  But then, is change really ever convenient?  I doubt folks whenever they say they “love change.” It’s only because they’ve accepted the tradeoffs, particularly their ability to tolerate the costs and fixate on the benefits.  Every decision you make has tradeoffs.  To get something requires a loss of something.  You’re faced with a double-blind situation where strings are always attached to a gained benefit.

But are there tradeoffs in death?  Unintentional ones, I think.  Grandpa’s death was unintentional – well, he didn’t want to die.  He was deeply afraid.  My mom and grandma would tell me that he’d cry out during the wee hours of hospice care.  Not so much from the agony of liver cancer and spinal inflammation, but from the imminence of death.  He’d like to think he was afraid, but I think his life proved him wrong.  You don’t just bring your wife and six kids across the world, during the pinnacle of war and violence and a country divided, traversing the open seas where disease and famine struck thousands of your people, to start anew in a country where you don’t become naturalized until 20 years later, to one day saying you’re afraid of death.  You don’t just ride on your bike every day and collected cans to ring in $5 or $15 a week to give us income to one day saying you’re afraid of death.  Uncertainty and poverty are some times even more costly than death.

You faced death daily.

And you taught me the LORD’s Prayer when I was five years old:  “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  The beauty of heaven intermixed with the ashes of earth.

You were brave, grandpa – yes, even in the face of death.  And you gave us beauty.  You gave me beauty.


Mom, grandpa, & me @ queen mary, long beach – circa 1991

“…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in
Zion –to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the
oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead
of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.”

Isaiah 61:3


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