Pastoral Perspectives

If Tomorrow Never Comes

“My beloved friends, thanks for taking time to be here today. It may sound a bit funny to many of you that you are listening to something that I have actually taken time to write before I die. Death comes when we least expect it and so at least I get to pen down what I would like all of you to know even after I have gone.

From the bottom of my heart, each of you means a lot to me in your own special ways. As I look back, God had somehow arranged for you guys to be part of my life in some way or other in which only He knows. I am probably thanking Him now right this moment.

To my wife, Hui Phing, I know you will be sad. Cry if you must but you must go on in life and be strong to take care of our kids. I may not have been the best husband but I hope that I made you happy being with me. I know God will be watching over you and our kids. He always does … We will meet again one day where there will be no more sorrows or pain. And I am sure I will stop snoring by then.

To my children (if any), do remember to put God first in everything you do in your life. Do your best in everything and be faithful in the small things. Take care of mommy since I am not here anymore to take care of you guys. Always listen to her for she knows what’s best for you. She may nag … I experienced it too, but she means well …

To my Dad and Mom, though the times were extremely tough when I was younger, I guess those hard times made me a stronger person in life. Though the both of you weren’t around most of my life, God was gracious to rescue and save me. I thank you both for bringing me up as best as you possibly could, and I pray that I will see you both in heaven with me as well.

To my sister Chris and brother Aaron, we have been through some tough times, but we made it! Chris, please come back to God ok? He loves you for who you are … always remember that! Aaron, do your best for Him. He made you a very special person and He will always watch over you!

To Nawin, my long lost brother, I thank God that I found you after so many years. It’s good to reconnect with you again. I think I have failed miserably in being a good elder brother to you when I was alive as I am always so busy. I can only ask for your forgiveness. I pray that you will give your life to Jesus too.

To all my friends both lost and found; I thank God for each of you! I know I may have given many of you headaches and driven you guys up the wall many times with my lame jokes but I want you all to know that each of you played an important part in my journey in life here on earth. I thank you.

May our Lord watch over each of you and reunite us together again someday. Rest assured that I would find you when we go back to our Lord someday. Be a living sacrifice for God and don’t sacrifice living!

Love, Stan”

No seminary training that pastors go through will adequately prepare them to comfort the terminally ill, the dying and the grieving family. When I was in seminary, my lecturer did help me and my fellow classmates to think about the topic of death.

One of the things my lecturer did ask his students to do was to prepare for our own funeral literally – the choice of songs to sing, who to carry our coffin, where to scatter our ashes, down to the smallest detail. All of us were made to write a farewell letter to our wives and children – to tell them what we wanted them to know and what’s to be done when we die.

Morbid it would seem. But he made us go through this process so that we ourselves could reflect on our own ‘death’ and empathise with those who might be dying.

One of the things my lecturer did to get us thinking was to share the lyrics from the song – ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ (If Tomorrow Never Comes – Garth Brooks).

In the song, the singer describes his fears of not being able to tell those he cares about that he loves them. A part of the song goes like this:

‘Cause I’ve lost loved ones in my life
Who never knew how much I loved them
Now I live with regret
That my true feelings for them never were revealed
So I made a promise to myself
To say each day how much she means to me
And avoid that circumstance
Where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel

Chorus:

If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I loved her
Did I try in every way to show her every day
That she’s my only one
And if my time on earth were through
And she must face this world without me
Is the love I gave her in the past
Gonna be enough to last
If tomorrow never comes

At the end of his lesson, my lecturer asked the question – “What if tomorrow never comes? If you were to die tonight, what would your loved ones and friends remember you for?” That made me realise how short our lives are and that we should live our lives like every day is the last.

In 2020, I had the privilege of journeying with a family whose dad was struggling with liver failure and other health issues. During his illness, many of us visited their family and prayed and encouraged them whenever we could. It didn’t help that we were in the height of the Covid situation and visits were difficult. When things opened up in 2021, I was really glad that I could bring the family out to have lunch together.

In 2022, my friend’s condition worsened, and doctors suggested a liver transplant. In God’s good timing, a suitable donor liver was found, and my friend underwent a successful liver transplant. Over the next few months as he recovered from the major surgery, I told myself that I would visit him when I was able to.

However, we both didn’t get to meet due to strict hospitalisation rules for visitors then, his frequent follow ups and medical appointments or I was unable to meet because of other reasons.

Finally, we managed to set a date where we could meet to catch up over lunch with his family and we were all looking forward to it. Sadly, my friend suffered a sudden cardiac arrest just a few days before our arranged meeting. He fell unconscious, was quickly put on life support, and he went home to the Lord shortly after that.

I grieved for my friend and regretted not seeing and speaking with him sooner. There were just so many things I wanted to tell him. In my mind, there was always a tomorrow where we could meet, fellowship and have a meal together. But that was not to be.

Recently, another close friend of mine discovered that she has third stage cancer. She recently became a grandmother to two lovely grandchildren and was looking forward to spending time with them. However, all her plans had to change quickly as her doctors rushed to run tests and scans on her and she was quickly advised to start chemo treatment.  

Immediately, memories of how I couldn’t spend time with my late friend a year ago came to haunt me. I told myself I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen again with another friend. I quickly got in touch with her husband and visited them in hospital to pray with them. She has just started her chemo sessions and I will continue to pray and visit them.

As someone in his 50s, I begin to think about my own life. While I am thankful to have crossed the 40 years mark, it also dawned on me that if I estimate myself to live till 80 years, the lifespan of an average Singaporean male, I would have already crossed the halfway mark in my life.

I did some reflections and asked myself, “What have I done for the first 50 years of my life? What were some significant milestones in my last 50 years? What do I see myself doing in the next 30 years?

But having thought through those things, what makes me so sure that I will live till 80? We are all living in uncertain times – battling sicknesses and diseases in this broken world, and the uncertainty of war that may happen any moment.

I fell sick a couple of weeks ago and wondered if it was Covid as I have not gotten it yet. What if I am infected with the Covid virus? As someone who has many underlying medical conditions, I am considered a high-risk patient. I may lose the fight with the virus and die within a few weeks. Or I may die when I am 60 from my other medical conditions. Or God willing, I may live till age 90.

While we are often told to be wise to plan ahead, we are also unsure of when our final breath will be. What are we to do then?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us that there will be different seasons in our life journey. Yet we are not sure where these different seasons will take us. But whichever season we are in life, the Bible also teaches us to live each day wisely because they are numbered.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

I asked myself, what does this mean for me? For me, I realize that my life is in the hands of our creator God who knows all my days on earth and everything about me. I do not know how long my journey here is going to be but with the life he gives me, how can I then live my life daily being thankful to God and living it wisely? How can I live my life in a way that would be a blessing to others?

I guess in busy Singapore, we hardly have the time to think much about our lives right now. How to think about life when we must study, take exams and work our socks off to put food on the table? I am not about to go on a long bucket list of things for us to do when we are about to die.

But here’s a few to think about while we are still alive:

  • Have we been too busy with our careers to think about our families and loved ones? Can we spend more time with them?
  • How’s our relationship with God? Has it been lukewarm? Has it been one where we feel that we have fulfilled our ‘duties’ each Sunday when we leave church or served in our area of ministry?
  • Have we taken time to appreciate those whom we love and care about with our words and actions?
  • Have we found courage to share the good news of God’s love and grace with our loved ones and friends?

Recently, my wife said she missed my hugs. I told myself that I must treasure whatever time I have with her as we share this season of life together. So nowadays, I would frequently give her a random hug or whisper ‘I love you’ to her. And just in case you are wondering, I do mean it when I do that. J

My friends, let’s take time to reflect on our lives to – never take our lives and the lives of our friends and loved ones for granted, persevere in loving Jesus and live each day like our last.

“For everyday I have on earth is given by the King. So, I will give my life, my all, to love and follow Him.” (My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness – Keith & Kristyn Getty)

Afternote:

My sharing above was originally scheduled for next week. Since, it’s Easter Sunday today on 9 April 2023, I thought I just add an afternote.

My lecturer Anthony Yeo himself, passed away suddenly of leukemia two years after he taught me. His words, ‘What if tomorrow never comes?’ frequently comes to mind to remind me of the brevity of life.

We often hear the phrase ‘death comes when you least expect it’. Should we then be paralyzed with the fear of death?

At a recent funeral, I encouraged the grieving family that Jesus risen from the dead has given us hope and assurance. We do not have to fear death and we can go on living our lives right now with a strong sense of hope – anchored & grounded in Jesus Christ! And one day, when we ourselves have arrived at the end of our own earthly journey – we can face death confidently and not be afraid, knowing that we are safe & secure in our Lord Jesus Christ and that we will live eternally with him.

Dear God, we thank you that You are our only refuge in this troubled world plagued by sickness & death. We thank you that in this world – we have hope because Jesus died & rose again. We thank you that in Jesus Christ, death is past, and pain is ended and You have promised us that those who believe in Your Son Jesus Christ, will have eternal life! Amen. 


Rev Stanley Soh

April 9, 2023