When our loved ones fall terminally ill, it’s as though the rug has been pulled out underneath you. You know the world as you know it is about to change. And seeing them struggle, slowly stripped away by disease and creeping closer to death is excruciating.

I was 11 when my father was diagnosed with cancer. I can still remember the day clearly. I was woken up rudely in the morning by my grandmother wailing. She had just received the news after my dad was brought to the A&E at SGH for what appeared to be a serious headache.

I didn’t even know what cancer was then, just that it was very serious. On top of everything, it all happened during the SARS epidemic. In my young mind, anyone who went to the hospital these days usually didn’t come back.

But my father did. In the short span of a few months, he underwent an operation to remove the brain tumour, and chemotherapy thereafter. He bravely soldiered on, trying to maintain a semblance to the normal life we had before, going back to work as soon as he could and sending me to school in the mornings.

I thought things had taken a turn for the better until we got into an accident one morning. He couldn’t see a car approaching from his right and it slammed into us, causing our car to careen into a ditch. By what could only be the protection of God’s hand, we were shaken but unscathed, although the car was damaged to the point of no return.

But this was how we discovered that the tumour had returned. This time, it had caused him to lose part of his vision – the reason for the accident. The cancer was back with a vengeance. Bit by bit, his other bodily functions – things we take for granted daily – started slipping away. He became a shell, eventually losing his ability to recognise or respond to us.

I wondered where God was in all this. Why did He allow bad things to happen to good people? My dad was a loving father and a good family man, always striving to provide the best for us.

One Saturday afternoon, my pastor and some members from my church came over to pray for him. The day, my father finally accepted Christ with tears streaming down his face. He had lost his ability to speak by then, but no words were needed.

Trust may not come easy in the midst of difficult situations, but God’s plan is always perfect, though we may not see it now.

I will always be thankful for that moment. To know that our God provides hope beyond death, and that someday we’ll see each other again in Heaven. I regret the times I lost my temper with him, times where I did not reciprocate his love. But I’m glad I was there before he passed on, just holding his hand and being present.

I don’t know why God’s plan unfolded this way for us, and may never know during this lifetime. But I’m thankful for the grace He has shown my family, guiding us through those tough times. Glad that my dad got to know Jesus before he passed on. Grateful for the people He’s sent along the way to help me.

Trust may not come easy in the midst of difficult situations, but God’s plan is always perfect, though we may not see it now.

“‘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)

Of course, coping with the loss of a loved one isn’t easy. There were times when I was angry, times when I felt guilty that I was relieved when my dad passed on so that he wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. I went through the five stages of grief in reverse, from acceptance to anger, denial, and depression before surfacing back to acceptance again.  

But I’ve decided to live a life without regrets. Jesus said in John 10:10 that “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. So I try to be a blessing to the people around me, even joining the medical community so that I can make a difference to those I have the chance to interact with.

As Mother Teresa says, not everyone can do great things, but we can do small things with great love. 
If you’re going through a similar situation, take confidence in the Father’s love for you and your loved one. Even when everything seems to be falling apart, He is holding you in His loving arms. Never letting go.

It may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but God promises that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We are after all strangers in this world. Live without regrets, live with eternity in mind. 

If you know someone struggling, just be there for them. You don’t even need to say anything. My friends did simple things like playing computer games with me to help me take my mind off my dad’s illness, even though major exams were round the corner.

Give thanks to God and tell your loved ones how much you love them before it’s too late. Life is far too short. 

I remember how my youth leader’s wife, who happened to be a teacher in my school, opened up a room for me to pour out my emotions when I had a delayed reaction to grief (If you’re reading this, I’m sorry for making you late for your class).

If you’re blessed and life has been good, give thanks to God and tell your loved ones how much you love them before it’s too late. Life is far too short. 

And Dad, thank you for everything. I still keep a picture of us in better times as my phone screensaver to remind myself to live as a blessing to others and that someday, we’ll meet again.