Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ode to My Grandmother

I gave my first eulogy ever last Sunday before we buried the beloved spiritual matriarch of
our family, my grandmother Kyung Hee Cho. I wasn't planning on posting it but at the behest of a couple people I thought it might be encouraging to anyone who finds themselves discouraged when life does not go according to plan. Though our plans may fail, God's plan can never be frustrated. His is a good plan for those who know and love Him, because He is a good God. 

Good evening. Thank you for joining us to celebrate the life of my grandmother. Before I begin, I’d like to read two verses from 2 Timothy which I think capture her life and legacy so well:

2 Timothy 1:5  “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
 2 Timothy 4:5 “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

My grandmother’s first name was Kyung Hee. But if she ever took an English name, I think “Lois” would have fit her well.  We don’t know much about “Lois” in the Bible, as this is the only time she is ever mentioned; likewise not many people have probably heard of my grandmother: Cho, Kyung Hee. Though, she lived to the remarkable age of 92, most would likely deem her life rather unremarkable -- at least by the world’s standards. She never amassed much in the way of wealth, never gained much in the way of titles; never even collected a university degree. But it’s truly an honor to call her my grandmother and to stand before you and share her story, because it is impossible to tell her story without telling God’s story. They both loved each other so much.

If I had to describe my grandmother I think I’d only need three words: Frugal. Funny. Faithful. 

First, my grandma was FRUGAL. When you don’t have lots of money, you have to save everything to get by. She lived through war and poverty and I know that profoundly impacted her but this woman saved everything -- and I mean everything. She would stash napkins and bars of soap like they were diamonds and bars of gold. Sometimes she would give candy to my children but I’d always get a little nervous when they ate them, wondering if the candy was older than they were. And whenever we took her out to eat at a restaurant she’d always take the free bread and stash it in her purse and then ask for more. She loved Old Country Buffet. I think she had OCD when it came to OCB, because to her it wasn’t just all-you-can-eat, it was all you can stash. When I read about Jesus feeding 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread. Sometimes I honestly wonder if my grandmother was somehow involved in that miracle. I could just picture her showing up with that big purse and feeding all 5,000 from her personal stash. 

As I got older, I realized that she wasn’t saving things so she could enjoy them later for herself. She was saving things so she could give them to others when the opportunity arose. Her frugality was actually generosity. Last Monday morning shortly after my grandma passed away, the Hebron pastors came by to pray with us. After praying together Pastor Lee shared that every time he would visit my grandma in the nursing home she would always pull out a stash of one-dollar bills and force him to take some - so that he could buy his daughter some candy. It didn’t surprise me at all. That was my grandmother. Though she never had much to give, she always gave all she had.

Second, my grandma was FUNNY. She lived each day with happiness in her heart, and a smile in her eyes. That in itself is probably not all that unique but when you realize the great heartache, loss and suffering she has endured you can only conclude that the joy of the Lord was her strength. To give one example, at the start of the Korean War and in the chaos of fleeing from the North, she was separated from her 5 yo daughter – never to be seen again. As a mother, I know not a day went by where she did not grieve that loss, wondering if her child was still alive and praying that they might one day be reunited again. She made us promise to make every effort to find her, if the North Korean borders ever opened up again.  But you would never know that she carried that profound pain because she was always quick to laugh and slow to anger. This joy gave her the strength to just tell it like it is. She was never afraid to speak truth. In fact just a few weeks ago, we held a family reunion at my house and I woke up early one morning to find her sitting by herself on our couch in our living room. So I sat down next to her. I wasn’t wearing a shirt since I had just gotten up and in the quietness of that morning she looked over at me and in Korean she smiled and said, “Peter, your breasts are large enough to nurse a child.” I knew that was her way of telling me to lose weight. But that was my grandmother. Though she was losing her memory, she never lost her wit or her sense of humor. Though she had so much taken from her, no one could ever rob her of her joy.  

Lastly, and most importantly she was FAITHFUL. You cannot be faithful without faith, and my grandmother was a woman of great faith. And she had no greater passion than sharing her faith with others. She felt her calling in life was to be an evangelist. She would often tell me, that as a young woman her dream was to attend seminary and become an evangelist, but when the Japanese occupied Korea they shut down all the Bible schools. But she didn’t need a degree to share her faith. When she immigrated to the U.S. and was unable to speak English – most would call it quits. How do you share the gospel if you cannot speak the language? Well, apparently her purse was not only good for carrying bread. She also used it to store hundreds of gospel tracts which she handed out to pretty much everyone in the Chicagoland area telling them “Jesus loves you” in her broken English and every once in a while she would do this and see a grown man break down and cry.  

Looking back at her life I’ve come to realize what made her special was not her great faith in God, but God’s great faithfulness in her. Because she lived through a war, and experienced having nothing, she was able to live in peace and give away everything. Because she was separated from a child that she loved so dearly --longing to be reunited, she understood God’s love for His children, separated by sin, and who longs to restore us back into relationship with Him. Her heart for the gospel was shaped by her hardships in life and God did this for her good and for His glory.    

My grandmother prayed without ceasing, memorized large portions of Scripture, and passed her faith on to her husband and two remaining children – my grandfather, who passed away 13 years ago, my aunt, who went to be with the Lord five months ago, and my father, both of whom she loved dearly. The two children she raised married godly people in my uncle and my mother, who had a very close relationship with her mother-in-law. From the two children she raised, six grandchildren were born and from those six – sixteen great grandchildren -- almost all of whom are sitting here today. Those numbers include four elders, three worship leaders, a children’s pastor, and two missionaries. Though my grandmother never fulfilled the dream she envisioned for herself, she fulfilled the ministry God had given her and it was far better and far greater than she could have hoped. God was faithful to this woman of faith. Thank you, Lord!

And Grandma, thank you. Thank you for showing us -- all of us how to endure suffering well. Thank for you for doing the tireless work of an evangelist. Thank you for fulfilling your ministry on earth. And now your reward is in heaven -- where you stand united with your Savior who loved you more than His own life, and reunited with your two daughters whom you loved more than your own life. You have inspired us to give all that we have without letting anyone take away our joy. You have inspired us to have faith because God is faithful. And now your legacy stretches beyond your faith and into your family. May we all fulfill the ministries God has granted us, just as you have fulfilled yours. We love you. 

No comments:

Post a Comment