Life in abundance comes only through great love. Uncle Jeffrey Goh, now in his seventies, recounts how his father gave him the greatest blessing despite the lack he grew up in.

I grew up in a very poor household with 11 other siblings. My dad was jobless for the longest period of time and we couldn’t afford many things in life. We were so poor back then that I could only afford to eat hard boiled eggs that my mum prepared for me to bring to the cinema while my friends ate other nice snacks.

Uncle Jeffrey with his mum and 11 siblings.

My dad eventually found a job as an accounts clerk and I always remember how he insisted that we were to come to him whenever we fell sick to tell him our symptoms. I remember thinking to myself, “Whatever for? You’re not even a doctor!” But my siblings and I did it anyway.

It turns out that after we explained our symptoms to him, my dad would go to his company doctor and report our sickness as his own. He would then bring the medicine home and give it to us. On certain unfortunate occasions, he would even receive a few injections as a result. All so that we wouldn’t have to fork out money to see a private doctor.

That was the first thing I learnt from him – the sacrificial love of a father.

Every Chinese New Year, my dad would prepare angpows for his 12 children. He would set aside two 10 cent coins for each child and my mum would place them in red packets before presenting them to us on the first morning of the New Year.

I always looked forward to the 20 cents because at that point of time, 10 cents could buy you a big plate of mee siam. With two 10 cent coins, I could get two plates of mee siam! I remember the first thing I did every time I received the angpow was to shake it so I could hear the “shu shu shu” sound the coins make against the paper.

However, there was one year we were so poor that my dad couldn’t even afford to give us 10 cents each.

(On the left) Uncle Jeffrey’s father holding his newborn granddaughter, Charmaine.

He said to my mum, “Chai, you know tomorrow is Chinese New Year and our 12 children will be lining up for their angpows. But I do not have $2.40. I don’t even have $1.20 to make twelve 10-cent angpows.”

My mother gently suggested preparing empty angpows and telling us that he was very sorry that there was no money to give us this year. But my father strongly resisted the idea.

“How can I give empty angpows? How can the angpow have nothing inside?” he said to her.

It was so bad that he actually cried.

That night, unable to sleep, my father came up with a brilliant idea. He took some paper and a pair of scissors, cut out 12 heart shapes and wrote the names of his children on each of them. Jeffrey … Maureen … Dennis … Stella … 

He was going to give each of his 12 children a piece of his heart. 

The next morning, not knowing what had happened, we excitedly lined up to receive our angpows. I was the eldest, so I was the first to give my New Year greetings and receive my angpow. As usual, I shook it. But this time, there was no sound!

I was confused at first but thought to myself, “Ah, maybe it’s a dollar note! That’s why there’s no sound.” I was so happy because one dollar could buy me 10 plates of mee siam.

After we’d all collected our angpows, my siblings and I rushed into a room, closed the door and started to open our angpows. But when we saw the heart, we were so disappointed. I was so angry that I immediately crushed up the heart and threw it away.

When I did that my 11 younger brothers and sisters did the same. They threw their hearts away.

Today, that is the biggest regret I have when I think of my father.

That year, my father gave us the best gift of all – his heart. And if I could turn back time, I would have kept every single one of those little hearts and framed it up. In hindsight, it was the most touching thing my dad ever did and it was also the greatest lesson: A father’s heart is a gift that no amount of money can ever buy.

And isn’t it the same with our faith? As Christians, we also want the Father’s hand to give us material blessings. But what our Heavenly Father wants to give us the most is His heart – the most precious thing anyone can give.