I celebrate his life and will never forget him.
We laid him to rest today after a life full of great overcoming. He was 72. I miss him, but am so grateful for the treasure he was to me on Earth and the eternally impactful gift he leaves me…answering my deepest relational query before my Maker.
I write this remembering my long visit recently with him in which I got to hold his stroke-withered hand, tell him how much I love him, how greatness reveals itself through him in the face of his most staggering heartbreaking journey. His response? Said with a quieter-than-normal Korean man’s grunt, “I have a lot more to work on on the inside.” My heart broke open more in the ensuing palpable silence and from that moment began this unexpected confluence of revelations.
I wrote this poem to describe my uncle:
LOVING WITH UTTERLY EVERYTHING
EXPECTING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING
HOPING SOLELY, COMPLETELY ON THE LORD GOD ALONE
THIS IS FREEDOM AND HIS PEACE…HIS SHALOM
EXEMPLIFIED AND ONCE EMBODIED BY MY “SAMCHOON”—UNCLE SUNGJIN CHOI.
In the throes of final arrangements and interactions with family and his friends, I am hit more deeply and see more clearly the gift he truly was.
You see, I battled anger lately about how I come from a lineage and family that is so stubbornly, incomprehensibly self-sacrificing and given over serving others… as I had lingering thoughts that this may have further compromised uncle’s already hardship-wracked life and body. He could barely walk, yet he would load himself down with things others needed and delivered them on foot! That’s just one example.
I have seen too much (and too often) injustice; unfairness…things clearly “wrong” done towards those I love, including uncle. But then, in the time since his passing, my own angst and prayers were addressed. The answer from the quiet of His Spirit unlatched the prison encasing my hurting heart : real, eternally rooted love is unreasonable. And so, that’s why it is also hard to accept the endless, unfathomable, boundless, overcoming love of God, Agapeo, because it makes no sense to a finite human until the connection and flow from God is established and flourishes. It is still hard for our human hearts–oh, the deceitful beauty of humanity. But prioritizing this flow from heaven is essential in this life because it allows the liberty only eternal election can provide. For me, this means as much self-forgiveness as the forgiving of others. Still, it’s hard to quiet the wish I did more, with more care while uncle was still with me on Earth.
As the last human to see him and embrace him in this world, I am so unspeakably moved and grateful… I got to hug him and smother his chubby right cheek with kisses. For this, I am so joyful.
Pained with gratitude, I weep that I got to see how a human who seemed to “need” so much due to his disabilities and heartbreaks pursued and found true peace…showing me how to live with the love of God in Christ and reliant on that bountiful provision alone. He showed me how one’s true hope and expectation can be on the Heavenly Father with no other dependence to cause one’s soul and footing to waver too long. Because of my family’s faith and especially in this time, due to my uncle (and my mom whose heart bears her brother’s likeness,) the deepest relational puzzle has resolved for me. Having my heart ever full, and buoyant overflowing in God’s peace and love is indeed possible in the face of any painful situations with any other soul, including those in my innermost circle…for is it not when we are most vulnerable, the deepest soul wounds can happen? Yet, it requires brokenness to be made more whole than otherwise possible. The how of this is my own path with steps to discover, but I know that because my uncle proved it possible, it truly is for me, too.
Thank you God…Thank you Jesus for overcoming death, hell, and the grave and giving me real hope. I look forward to seeing my beloved uncle as he was first intended to thrive on the other side of eternity.
“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” Psalm 62:5
A gift from a friend to remember my uncle.