My father wasn’t close to God, but God never gave up on him.
He was born in China, and fled to Taiwan when China fell. There, a missionary introduced him to God.
He came to America for graduate school. He attended church and Urbana, a Christian student missions conference. He met my mother when she visited his church. The pastor mistook her for his girlfriend, and prayed with them.
After my sister was born, he was baptized out of gratitude for having her.
Church wasn’t a priority after that, but when he moved to Baltimore for work, he faithfully attended church. He also invited people to church, where they accepted Christ.
When he fell ill, I asked friends to pray for him. My mother’s pastor told him if he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, he would be saved. He said he did.
During the following months, he said he sensed Jesus standing outside his door, or walking in and out. While my mom wondered what it meant, I was reassured of his salvation.
His last morning, his nurse thought he looked comfortable. An hour later, another nurse told her he had died. When we arrived, he looked peaceful, like he was sleeping. We had wanted to be there with him for his final breath, but his nurse didn’t call us because he looked stable. A few days earlier I’d been concerned because his brow was furrowed, but it was no longer. I’d prayed God would take him in his sleep, and he wouldn’t suffer any more than he’d already had. I hope he fell asleep and never woke up.
My dad’s sacrificial love reminded me of how God loves us. He gave us the best food, treating me to steak while he ate a burger. He invited us to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream. He balked at accepting gifts from people who weren’t well-off, thinking their money would be better spent on themselves. He worked until age 65 to put my sister and me through college. He worked from 7 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. to drive us to our after-school activities. After transporting us, he would patiently wait. He didn’t complain when I stood him up by taking the school bus home, rather than meeting at school as we’d agreed. He spent hours assembling jigsaw puzzles and playing video games with us.
Like God, he was also egalitarian. While Chinese culture prefers sons, my father’s family didn’t. His father chose to send his sister, rather than his brother, to college, because she was a better student. My dad always told my sister and me we could do anything a boy could. To my surprise, he attended a black church in Baltimore.
I am grateful for my dad’s legacy. My mom has enough. My sister and I are educated, and have his example of persistence, resilience, and selflessness to follow. Although church wasn’t his first priority, he encouraged others to attend, and all of us do.
Because he trusted in Jesus, I believe I’ll see him again, and next time we won’t need to say goodbye.
My father, Frank Chang, loved our family extravagantly.
Four days before he died, doctors wrote him off as “severely demented”.
My mother, sister and I were all crowded around his hospital bed, communicating with him by whiteboard since he was wearing a mask to help him breathe so he couldn’t talk.
My father was in and out of clarity and during a good moment, my mom wrote in Chinese, “Ni Zai Shian She Me” or “What are you thinking about?”
“Wo Love You” he wrote back - the Chinese word Wo for “I” and the English words Love you.
He proceeded to write “love” and the quote sign for “you”
He wrote until the entire whiteboard was covered and he could write no more.
Although he was weak and felt like he was drowning in his mask, those were the final words he communicated to us.
Later, when his granddaughter Aria came to visit for 15 minutes, all the hospital would allow, she said in his ear “I love you Grandpa, I will see you in heaven”.
He said, gaspingly through his mask, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
He held her hand so hard we had to pry his fingers off of her.
My father was a strong man who overcame a lot.
He was born on June 21, 1933.
My father spent the first few years of his life raised by his grandparents.
He eventually went home to a family that extremely poor. When he borrowed a pencil from a classmate in elementary school, he lost it and did not go back to school that year because he didn’t have the money to replace the pencil.
My father’s mother died of malnutrition in World War II when he was 12.
During the Chinese Civil War, my father’s father took him, the oldest of 4 children, to flee China and find refuge in Taiwan. My father’s job was to cook and clean for his dad, and eventually my dad went to boarding middle school.
Despite poverty, the trauma of losing a parent as a child, fleeing a war-torn country and leaving his siblings, my father still was able to study hard and go to one of the best colleges in Taiwan - Cheng Kung University - to study materials science and engineering.
After college, my father immigrated to the US to earn his Ph.D. at the University of Denver.
In Chicago he met my mother at church, got married, and had my sister and I.
I remember my father as the one who woke up at 6 A.M. every weekday, left for work by 6:30 A.M., and came home at 4 P.M. to watch us and drive us to piano lessons.
He was a research scientist and he loved bringing us to the library.
In fact, he often bribed me to go to the library with him by buying me mint chocolate chip ice cream from Baskin-Robbins.
He was extremely responsible, never missing a day of work or a ride to our extracurricular activities.
In his later life he spent much of his time working on stock market investments to provide for our family.
My father also had a sense of humor.
One day about six weeks ago, we made the difficult decision to put my father on hospice. A nurse came to my parents’ home to enroll him in their hospice company, praising the company as “the best one” he’d ever worked for.
My dad, who was very hard of hearing, wrote on the whiteboard to me, “Salesman?”
I had to tell him, “No, nurse,” because I didn’t have the heart to tell him what he was selling.
Although my father never spent any money on himself, he would spend money on us, buying a home in a town with an excellent school district, sending us to the best schools like UC Berkeley, Stanford, the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and Northwestern.
Like any relationship, we’ve had our fair share of misunderstandings and ups and downs. But now as an adult who is also a parent, I look back upon my father’s life and realize he did the best he could with the resources he had.
My father knew God.
Although he had a spotty record at church and with reading the Bible, he often invited other people to attend church.
A few weeks before he died, my father said God was knocking on his door. He said angels were coming in and out of his room while he was sleeping.
And on his final lucid Sunday, he kept drawing a path or road on the whiteboard.
We could not understand what it meant, but I think he was seeing a path to heaven.
My father was very ill but he always wanted to live. He was strong even through the last few days. In fact, my mother kept trying to get us to leave his hospital room because he lingered… she was afraid he was unwilling to die because he worried about us.
She had to tell him we were well taken care of so he could leave in peace.
Dad, we love you. We will see you in heaven.
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