(This is a translation of my previous post. Sorry, I don’t have time to write something new. In this April, there has been two deaths in my extended family. Reflecting on Raymond’s life provided me much comfort. Hope it give you strength as well.)
On February 1st, 2014, Raymond Fong concluded his fifteen year battle with brain cancer and returned to Our Father’s house in victory.
Jocelyn and I have known Raymond since 1998, the year we were married. Raymond was diagnosed in Hong Kong with a tumor in the middle of the brain. After a diligent search by his brother William, they discovered that Dr. Black at Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston had previous success with cases similar to Raymond. They decided to travel around the globe to Boston for treatment. They did not know any friend in Boston, except that the wife of their pastor at Causeway Bay Baptist Church was once a classmate in nursing school with the mother of my best friend Gideon. Through this connection, Gideon became their host in Boston.
Once they arrived at Boston, Raymond had to go through a series of tests and consultations before surgery. So that were a few days when we took Raymond, his wife Shirley and his brother William sight seeing around Boston. Raymond loved to eat, and he was impressed with Boston’s delicacies.
On the day of surgery, what was planned to be a 3 hour surgery turned out taking more than 8 hours. Shirley’s overwhelming anxiety can only be quenched by fervent prayers. It turned out that the tumor, which appeared as the size of an egg in MRI, was actually much bigger – roughly the size of an orange. At the end, the surgery was a success; but that was only the beginning of a long road of recovery.
Gideon’s house had many stairs, therefore it would be inconvenient for Raymond and Shirley to continue staying at his house after Raymond’s surgery. (William had return to Hong Kong.) Instead, they stayed at our house. During that time, it was as if Raymond had become a baby again: he had to learn to eat solid food, learn to walk again, learn to put on his own shirt, and learn to speak. He had very little energy and slept many hours in a day. Shirley used to wake him up and encourage his effort in rehabilitation by whispering in his ears, “Cheesecake Factory – Now Open!”
During that time, Raymond had to take medication to prevent seizure. He could not swallow pills. We tried grinding the pills into powder, but it was too bitter for him to swallow. Our solution was to mix the powder into ice-cream and fed him. He had no recollection of most of the events in Boston, but in his heart he must have wondered why ice-cream in Boston tasted so terrible.
Raymond spent more than a month recovering with us. Before he left us, he could manage simple housework. He even planted in our front yard some tulip bulbs, which budded the next spring. To this day, we still have tulips planted in our front yard to remember Raymond.
After the surgery, Raymond lost his ability to form long term memory. He memory lasted only for a few minutes. It would take many repetitions for him to remember anything. He could handle simple conversation. If you had the chance to talk to him, you would not notice anything wrong until you had carried on a longer conversation conversation with him. Then you would discover that he had forgotten what you just talked about a few minutes ago. After he finished his rehabilitation in Boston, he returned to a rehabilitation facility in Hong Kong. He conditions did not improve, but instead regressed because the nurses at the facility were not as attentive as Shirley and he did not get the chance to talk to many people.
It took a while for their family to adapt to Raymond’s memory problems. He learned to write down everything in a small notebook – which bus to take to get home, phone numbers, name of his nurse, etc. If he had to go to the bathroom at a restaurant, he would find someone to accompany him, or else he would not be able to find his way back to his table. Slowly, Raymond and Shirley learned to cope with the inconveniences of his memory loss.
My family visit Hong Kong frequently. Every time we went back, we made an effort to visit Raymond and Shirley. If we were all busy, we would have a quick dinner or desert. When we could afford the time, we would go on a field trip. Raymond remembered nothing about his trip to Boston, but miraculously he remembered me and my wife.
Through the years, the cancer never went away. After the initial surgery, Raymond had more than ten surgeries. Sometimes after a surgery he would become more alert. Other times he would become less responsive.
Shirley took Raymond touring whenever possible. They had not only travelled throughout Hong Kong, but also went overseas. They even went on a pilgrimage to Israel. People asked Shirley, “Raymond can never remember his travel. Isn’t it a waste for you to take him on trips?” Shirley’s answer was, “He may not remember, but the people around him will remember him.”
I once shared with a non-believing relative of mine about Raymond’s condition. He said quite bluntly, “If I were him, I would have preferred death.” If not for the sake of being a witness to Christ, for Raymond to have fought with cancer for fifteen years would have been worse than death. The love of Christ, however, made all his suffering meaningful. Raymond and Shirley showed us how what is sacrificial love. We saw them serving the Lord unceasingly, both inside and outside their church. They were praiseful even in the hospital. Raymond sang so beautifully that his hymns and praise songs moved the doctors, nurses and other patients. He was a beloved angel in the hospital. In his weakness we saw the strength of God. The Apostle Paul once said, “To live is for Christ, to die is to gain.” That was such an appropriate description of Raymond’s life.
The last time we met with Raymond, we took him to Hong Kong’s fisherman museum on Lamma Island. The very first sentence Raymond said to us that day was, “Have you had your morning devotion this morning?” His pure heart and his devotion to the Lord put us all to shame.
I know many of us had been praying for Raymond and Shirley throughout their years of battle with cancer. We were wishing for a miracle. I now know for a fact that miracle did happened. No. It did not happen to Raymond. Instead the miracle happened on all of us who were inspired by his life. Raymond was strong in his faith, he did not need any miracle to make hime stronger. Instead it was all of us who knew Raymond who benefited. Through Raymond, we learned to have faith, we learned to cherish, we learned to sacrifice, we learned to love. This was the miracle of Raymond Fong!