I almost met Andrew. In fact, our team was scheduled to interview him two weeks ago. He had dropped me this message:
“Hi Gracia! I’m so sorry for the ultra late reply… Will you all still be keen on interviewing?”
I had first approached Andrew in June when I heard of his story. But when I didn’t get a response, I thought that the treatments might have taken a toll on him.
And true enough, they did.
“Apologies for taking so long to reply… I have been undergoing extreme chemo and radio the last few months, leaving me super exhausted… Everything has failed now, and I’m on palliative care.
Still my peace and hope remains, if ever stronger.
I hope to share this message of a stingless death to encourage people who might be going through their darkest vales.”
A stingless death. Wow. This was a young man who, in the face of a bleak prognosis, could declare with unwavering certainty the hope he had for his future.
But it was sooner than he expected. Last Saturday, Andrew took his last breaths.
Despite our meeting that never was, I want to honour the memory of Andrew, whose courage in confronting death will live on as a legacy.
Even in his death, his life continues to impact, as heard in the stories that have emerged over the last few days during his wake. In this brief period of time, I’ve also caught a glimpse of the man that Andrew was.
I’ll remember these lessons that he has left behind:
DEATH REALLY DOESN’T HAVE A TIMING
Growing up as the middle child among three boys, Andrew was playful and often got into trouble. But he was also extremely talented – he excelled at playing the piano – and his passion for life inspired the people around him.
Young and fit, he served faithfully in church and his career in the bank was just starting to take off when the big C struck a year ago. Diagnosed as Stage 1 Aggressive Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, what was initially thought to be easily treatable turned into a worst-case scenario that came to pass.
So severe were his tumours that the day before our interview, I got a text that Andrew had been admitted to A&E because even the morphine was not helping with the pain. It was a shock because barely an hour ago we had still been exchanging messages to arrange our meeting.
I was later told that he had to be rushed for an operation that night. While successfully carried out, his condition eventually deteriorated to a point that his body could no longer cope. He also developed pneumonia in hospital, requiring an oxygen mask to breathe.
One of his biggest wishes was to see all his family and friends one last time, so Andrew planned a thanksgiving service last Saturday. Although he was too weak to be physically present by then, he still attended the event through Skype.
Andrew picked out the worship songs, ordered and paid for the food, and even mustered all his energy to issue an invitation to anyone who wanted to know more about the joy of eternal life.
Just hours after his last celebration, Andrew went back to be with the Lord.
AT YOUR DEATHBED, YOUR HEART WILL ACHE FOR OTHERS
Andrew anguished over the fact that he might never meet some of his family and friends in Heaven – especially his grandmother – enough to ensure that one of the wake services should be conducted in Mandarin/Hokkien so that the gospel would be preached in a language that his po po could understand.
Even in his pain, Andrew was thinking about how he could get his message out in the best way possible.
Another true story: When Andrew was offered the options to write his own testimony, be interviewed for an article or do a video shoot, he chose the last option, even when we advised him that it would be the most taxing one.
I believe that with his media background as a producer, he understood the power of an on-camera interview.
Despite being wheelchair-bound and having to balance other medical needs such as long periods of sedation, Andrew suggested a location that would have required him to get out of his home. When asked if it had any special significance to him, he said no – he simply thought we’d appreciate a nice setting to shoot in.
The message of salvation burned in Andrew’s heart – and he felt it would be selfish to keep silent about it.
In his eulogy, Andrew’s elder brother gave new meaning to Andrew’s Chinese name: 國鋒.
“他是天國的前鋒，他宣揚福音，鼓励大家一起接受救恩，得著救恩永生。” (He is the forward on Heaven’s team, spreading the Good News, encouraging everyone to receive the gospel of salvation for eternal life.)
He needn’t have to, but Andrew openly shared his story because he wanted as many people to hear about the joy of knowing a Saviour and the peace that could bring.
THE HOPE OF ETERNITY CAN GIVE SOMEONE HOPE TODAY
In his final moments, Andrew – frail as he was – was heard proclaiming: “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”
Perhaps he caught a glimpse of the glory of God, the way Stephen the martyr did just before he died (Acts 7:55-60). No one knows for sure.
But what we do know is that Andrew would have experienced the fullness of joy when he arrived at his destination.
As Andrew himself had so beautifully articulated in a Facebook post last month:
“It has been a long, painful and drawn out battle for the past year… and finally my strength has almost been completely depleted. My status is beyond the reach of medical sciences as well now.
Though my armour is battle worn and broken, my peace remains. As sure as the sun rises on the dawn, my destination awaits me…
“Death is but a gateway to my eternal home. Where there will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears and always, always peace.
As my Master awaits me with open arms in Heaven, I invite each and every one of you to join me at the very end when inevitably we all reach the great equaliser.”
We grieve for the loss of Andrew, but not as one who has no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). It was Andrew’s desire for everyone to come to his wake with a smile and avoid wearing mourning clothes.
As 牵我的手 was sung during the service, I drew comfort in this same promise that Andrew clung onto.
The path that led Andrew to his eternal home was thorny, but it was also a path of grace (he liked the song 恩典之路). God held Andrew’s hand as he walked through the valley of death – right until the very end when he stood at Heaven’s door and was welcomed home by his Father.
Andrew was determined not just to run this race of life, but also finish well.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
Many of us prayed for a miraculous healing that never happened, but the greater miracle is that Andrew is finally with the Lord, completely healed, completely restored.
Dear Andrew, you’ve gone ahead of us, but I thank you for the impact that your short life has made.
May you rest in peace, in paradise where there is no more pain in the presence of God.
See you on the other side.
We’d like to request that you keep Andrew’s family and friends in your prayers. If you feel led to pen a word of encouragement for them, do leave a comment below.