Not Parted By Death

(Published on May 1, 2017 Newsletter)

(按此觀看中文版本)

 

It all started with a message posted on my friend Esther's Facebook.  One of Esther's friends was asking if anyone knows how to contact her priest.  I then thought, did something happen to her?  Was it an accident or illness?  Death never crossed my mind.

Few hours later, I received a message on my phone from Sr. Letticia telling me that Esther has passed away!  She died in her sleep!  It was a sudden death that left everyone in shock!  I woke up the next morning hoping it was just a nightmare, but all the messages on the cell phone confirmed that it was not!  For an entire week, I went through the emotions of disbelief, denial, confused, anger, and regret.  I got really emotional looking at the pictures posted on Facebook by her friends in Taiwan, the pictures of her funeral Mass.  I was feeling surreal with this experience and could not accept this as the reality!  I was fortunate to find my comfort after talking to Sr. Letticia and praying at the adoration chapel to our Lord.

Looking back at how Esther and I met, we met shortly after I had just returned to the Catholic faith.  I was enrolled in a confirmation class and the instructor, Sr. Felicitas was recruiting young adults who know how to type in Chinese to help out with the newsletter "Gift From a Heavenly Father (天父的禮物).  Both Esther and I volunteered, and we met at Sr. Felicitas' garage / studio for the first time.  Our friendship developed quickly and grew with all time we spent together working on the newsletter articles.  There weren't any young adult groups at St. Thomas Aquinas at that time, so we both participated in the adult Bible study led by Sr. Felicitas at her convent across the street from church.  I remember how Esther and I raided Sister's refrigerator, borrowed religious books from Sister's collection, helped ourselves picking figs and other fruits from trees from Sister's garden, and wrote our names with a sharpie on pomelos to claim the fruits before they were ripe.

The first few days after learning Esther's passing away, I couldn't help but to reminisce all the good times we had together.  All those Korean BBQ we ate at Korea Town; endless hours spent working on Sr. Felicitas' publication "天父的禮物"; the times we met up at St. Therese to pray at the adoration chapel, but ended up spending more time chatting in the parking lot instead.  There were the times we messed around with the toilet plunger and scrub washing the baptismal font after Easter Vigil.  The day I received my confirmation.  Not to mention all the faith gatherings at Sr. Letticia's convent.  The most hilarious memory was after attending Theology on Tap in 2005, Sr. Letticia, who was then ministering the youth and young adult at St. Thomas Aquinas, asked us to write an article together based on the talk of "Song of Songs" for the Sunday bulletin.  Esther and I flipped through the scripture in the Chinese Bible and couldn't get our minds out of the gutter.  We looked at each other and she said,"it's kinky!"  We laughed, but at the end was still able to turn in a very seriously written article for the bulletin.

While I reminisced the good times we had together, I also felt angry at God for taking her at such a young age!  The reason why Esther went back home to Taiwan was to take care of her family.  She was a devout Catholic whom not only loved Jesus, but people around her.  She had given up her working visa that she just received to return home.  I was even more angry with myself and regretted for not being a better friend.  I should have kept in touch with her more often.  I expressed my sorrows by praying at the adoration and talking to Sr. Letticia through Facebook messenger.  Looking through the monstrance of Jesus at prayer gave me a moment of peace.  Despite her own sadness, Sr. Letticia's words of comfort offered consolation for my grief.  She said that God loved Esther so much that she left the world painlessly. With all the stress in her life in this world, God has shown His mercy and compassion to take her in her sleep without letting her suffer.  Esther had fulfilled her missions in this world and completed them wholeheartedly.  Sr. Letticia said that maybe Esther felt it's enough too and followed the light to meet Jesus in Heaven.  Even we miss her a lot, we had to let her go.  This conversation reminded me of the Scripture in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have completed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith".

I found out Esther's funeral Mass was around 6:30pm Pacific Time on January 14, 2017.  On that day and at that time, I went to the adoration at St. Therese after work to mourn and offer my prayers.  We believe the communion of saints, therefore I was offering my prayers at the same time while people were attending her funeral across the Pacific Ocean.  The next evening Sr. Letticia and I chatted through the Facebook messenger.  Sr. Letticia felt my sadness through my messages and decided to call and talk to me instead!  Sr. Letticia reminded me that death is the first step to enter eternity.  Esther is with Jesus now and will pray for us in heaven.  We need to be positive and move on with our lives.  This is our faith and what we believe.

As much as I do not want to accept Esther's death, I know this is God's plan.  The pictures of her funeral showed how packed the church was and indicated that she was well loved by people around her!  It was a blessing to have known Esther, who almost became my sponsor for confirmation!  It was a booster for my faith working on Sr. Felicita's newsletter with Esther, and I truly believed she was a gift from the Heavenly Father to me too.  When it comes to farewell, I love how the Chinese words for goodbye (Zhai jan).  It literally means to see each other again.  With much unwillingness, I have to treasure all the wonderful memories and let Esther be with God.  

 

Esther, I will say "see you later" for now.  Rest in peace, until we meet again in Heaven.

 

Truly yours,

Teresa

 

 

 

 

 

 

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