“For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
Thank you so much for all your thoughts and prayers for Jennifer’s recent surgery. I will do away with the usual formalities and share some thoughts honestly.
As we were preparing for the surgery, we were already warned to be prepared for the worst: surgery complications, massive bleeding, post-op infection and so on. The surgery needed three experienced surgeons to work as a team. The tumour, though it was supposed to be benign, was behaving ‘benign-aggressive’, and needed to be checked for possible malignancy. The surgery is major in every sense of that word. We were told to expect a 6-hour surgery and a 10-day hospital stay, assuming there were no complications.
Jen wrote her will and placed it on her table. It was updated from the first time we wrote it 14 years ago when we were preparing to go on a crisis relief mission trip to earthquake-hit Bam, Iran. We discussed whether signing the Advanced Medical Directive was necessary, of which we finally thought, it was not, though there would be wisdom in doing so.
I think our close friends could also sense the seriousness of this kidney-liver-vein operation, even if it was hard to explain or understand it medically. There were the usual pre-op prayer meetings. Bishop summoned us to his chapel to pray and anoint her with oil. We were asked to gather in a room at St James’ Church where about a dozen close SJC friends and clergy colleagues prayed for her. Last Sunday, a small group of SAC intercessors joined Peter Truong to pray for her.
There were many other prayers made, visions shared and another close family friend (an elder from Cornerstone) insisted that we wrote the word “shrink” on both sides of her stomach and shouted in prayer over the phone. Different strokes from different folks. At the human level, it can be exhausting to be at the faith-for-healing and trust-in-suffering tension.
But what we indeed sensed - on all occasions - was a deep deep love in Christ expressed by our brothers and sisters. Our own families shared the same anxieties, albeit, quietly as years of Christian faith - often on the giving and faith-dispensing end for those in sickness - would allow.
We were told that the operation, which started at 11 am (7th June), may last for up to 8 hours. As our brother-in-law is a surgeon too, we were privileged to be forwarded text messages of what was going on. The first was a relief as with the rest. As it turned out, the surgery was smoother and faster than expected. We informed our intercessors that they too can break fast since the surgeons were doing so. Everyone was able to have lunch. Visually, the tumours looked benign, confirmed histologically a few days later.
Jen’s recovery was textbook, feisty as we know she is. She was already up and walking by the fourth day. Jen loves to sing. The normal guitars are too heavy but the ukulele works just fine. By the sixth day, she was back to the comfort of our home.
It looks like it is not time yet for us to “execute her will”, which still lay unopened on her table. What we do know is that we are living out God’s will. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21 are not words of comfort, like the tiger balm ointment which Jen had to apply from time to time to soothe her backache. It is a “vision statement” for all Christians. Whether we live or die, it is for Christ. Every day, whether here or on the other side of eternity, is to be lived for Him.
This experience drew attention to our mortality. We can say, same bedfellows with many others, who equally need our love and prayers. However aren’t we all also facing a terminal condition and living on time as He would allow it? If Paul’s statement is to be echoed, as should be for all Christians, we need to reflect on how it can direct our living and dying.
Thank you again for your loving friendship. May His grace and daily surgical forgiveness keep us in His rich presence daily and forevermore.
Terry & Jennifer Wong