Coffee with Uncle Reggie: Funeral thoughts – Funerals can make you thoughtful
葬礼之思:葬礼会让你深思 (Dan Zhao 翻译)

Have you ever wondered, if babies are sick and die, do they go to heaven? I’m a newborn baby specialist, so I have to think about such things!

Every so often in my life, I make roughly 10-year plans, to provide me clearer focus. Essentially, “focus driven decades,” reviewed and renewed periodically. For example, at around age 54, I took my “first early retirement” to start a medical mission in China. About 10 years later, at around age 64, I took my second retirement to be full-time missions and youth ministry elder, at the church we helped co-found many decades ago.

12 years later, at age 76, I began my third retirement as a writer, which I am doing now. Roughly 11 years into my final (?) retirement, I will be 87, which is the average life expectancy for Asian Americans, so I think targeting that as my special date is pretty reasonable! The Great Teacher taught that that you never know when is your last night, and we should always get ready, so all of this is tentative! Some people might think this is a rather morbid topic, but not me, I have always thought it an interesting topic. I am even fascinated by cemeteries, ever since I was a teenager, see, “I love cemeteries,” which might give you further insight into my state of mind!

As a child, my family never tried to shield me from death and funerals. Maybe it was partly because dad was a surgeon, so life and death were common issues for him, and he “knew” I was also going into medicine, from at least age 7. As they say, “human beings have a hundred percent mortality rate,” and death can come upon young and old. This was obvious to me, since I grew up from childhood in a good-sized church of people of all ages, and often attended the inevitable funerals, even singing as a child in the choir, as part of the services.

As a church Elder, I have also officiated, or given the eulogy, at many funerals, some of which were surprisingly quite joyful, when the deceased had lived a meaningful life, and was clearly going to a better place. I could then readily give a celebratory message, recounting often significant joyful events in the life of the deceased.

At the recent funeral of beloved Elder Shipei Chu, who co-founded our Cincinnati home church with us, I recounted his special “style,” to the many who attended. Shipei was a faithful servant of his Lord, and a unique feature of his ministry was often his intense and “tough” preaching, like some ancient prophet, often severely scolding the congregation when he thought it necessary. When he stepped off the podium, he could still look like a giant polar bear, especially to children, and be initially quite scary. But, suddenly, without warning, he would burst into a big grin before the children, and pinch their cheeks or something “affectionate” like that. Think more like Kung Fu Panda. Life can be full of great memories, and funerals allow us to bring them back. With joy and gratitude.

Other funerals I attended might not be as joyful, and my funeral message would be much more somber, especially if the lives of the deceased had not been in the “straight and narrow way,” and there was even uncertainty of where they were going next.

In the Catholic tradition, priests perform “last rites” to those who are dying, listen to their confessions, and anoint them with “holy” water, to prepare them for the next life. Cincinnati is quite a Catholic city, so, in the newborn intensive care units that I directed, nurses often did the priest’s role, baptizing babies with water, particularly sick or premature infants who seemed not likely to survive. I was often quite touched by this, but I think there is something even more profound in this ritual.

In a great book “Heaven Wins,” by Don Richardson, a renowned writer and personal friend, he discusses very thoughtfully, from theology to practical understanding, how babies who die should go directly to heaven. He argues persuasively that there’s no need to be concerned about where they end up. As it turns out, I have always been an instinctive believer in this “baby to heaven” pathway, and I snapped up his book. My instincts have been particularly based on the declaration by the Great Teacher who said, “To enter the kingdom of heaven, you have to be as little children.”

Photo 10: A remarkable book by a remarkable author, that has profound implications for my favorite win-win, baby population, and my profession (see text above). I’ve always wondered if the author’s life for decades among cannibal tribes gave him especially novel insights into life and death. After all, life among the Sawi tribes was frequently shortened by disease and recurrent inter-tribal war.


在一本好书“天堂赢了”里,唐 里查克森 (Don Richardson),一个非常有名的作者和朋友,他非常有考量地探讨了,从神学到实际的理解,死去的婴儿怎么应该直升天堂。他有力地辩证没有必要担心他们会去哪里。原来我一直都是直觉相信“婴儿直升天堂”, 所以我就一把拿起他的书来读。我的直觉特别来自伟大的老师所说,“想要进入天国,你必须变成小孩子的样式。”

I have taken this to mean the “reference standard” for heaven is, interestingly enough, the child! I mentioned this to Don when he visited, and he concurred. Which makes my professional job pretty much a winning job: save the child, and we have helped to give him or her a head start on life, but if sadly for the family, we cannot, he or she goes directly to the Father’s embrace, a good comfort in my otherwise quite intense clinical profession.
我一直把这个教导理解为天堂的“合格标准”是,很有趣,儿童!我在唐 理查森访问的时候把这个想法告诉了他,他很赞同。这也让我的职业几乎是一个赢家的工作:救治儿童,我们已经帮助他或她有一个生命中的好开端,但如果对家人很伤心的是,我们不能,他或她会直达天父的怀抱,一个对我超强度的临床职业的好的慰藉。

At my paternal grandfather’s funeral in our ancestral village, I heard that literally hundreds of people trekked over hills and valleys to attend, because of his kindness and reputation as a Christian doctor in the region. It must have been quite an event, a passing of a revered patriarch, and, an era. Funerals like that deeply reflect culture, faith and community, but unfortunately, I personally missed the momentous event.

Photo 2: Grandpa’s funeral in the village, many decades ago. A symbol of a significant life of commitment, love and professional medical care. He knew what his future was, so there was no need for traditional wailing and screaming of hopelessness.

照片1: 很多年前爷爷在村上的葬礼 。充满意义的一生承诺,爱和专业的医治。他知道他的未来是什么,所以没有必要去接受传统的没有盼望的哭天喊地。

At my Sunday school teacher Charles Hau’s funeral in San Francisco, it was a smaller gathering, but the atmosphere was also definitely highly reverential, with many testimonials about what a wonderful, kind and gentle teacher he was, all through his life. I deliberately flew thousands of miles from Cincinnati to personally pay my last respects. I recalled vividly his personally coaching me on how to tell a dramatic bible story, such as David’s heroic act, staring intently at the giant Goliath’s forehead, while swinging the stone in his sling, boldly and steadily around and around, before letting it fly into the targeted giant’s head. That lesson helped me later when I taught vacation bible school missionary stories in dramatic fashion, and even lives in me today. Charles’ life, lived with a laser focus on heaven, was a recipe for a full meaningful life, and thus made his funeral a wonderfully touching celebration.
在我的主日学老师候作谦先生(Charles Hau)在三藩市的葬礼上,虽然是很小比较小的的聚会,但是气氛确实是非常敬仰,很多人感言在一生中他是怎样一个良善,出色和温柔的老师。我从辛辛那提飞跃几千英里去致以我对他的最后的敬意。我记得他生前教导我怎样去讲一个戏剧性的圣经故事,像大卫王的英雄举动,紧紧地盯着巨人歌里亚的额头,一边抡着带着石头的投石索,大胆地稳健地走着,直到让石头飞出去击中巨人的头。那堂课帮助了我在多年以后在暑期圣经班讲出生动的故事,甚至一直在我生活的今天。作谦老师的一生都聚睛在天堂上,也就是有意义的人生的配方,也因此让他的葬礼成为了一个无以伦比的感人的庆祝.

The funeral of the great, great, grandson of Hudson Taylor (founder of the legendary China Inland Mission), James Hudson Taylor, was held in Hong Kong. I had co-worked with Dr James Taylor, in founding the medical mission MSI in China, and had the privilege of being one of the pallbearers, at the gathering of thousands of people from all over the world. He was a legendary figure himself for much of Asia. In particular, his 6-generation family legacy of service for China was just awe-inspiring, and the funeral became a touching testament to that joy in serving, and its world-wide impact.
戴德生(传奇的中国内地会的创始人)的玄孙的葬礼, 戴紹曾,在香港举行。我和他曾经共事过,一起建立了在中国的医疗服务机构事工,也有殊荣在那个来自世界几千人的聚会中作为其中一位护柩者。他在亚洲很多地方也是一位传奇的人物。特别是他连续6代的家人在中国的服事是那样的让人倾佩,所以葬礼就成为了那个在服事中的快乐和这个精神在世界范围的影响的感人宣言。

One of the most meaningful comments I heard about funerals was by a great friend and teacher Reverend Lam of Macau, who had started working in China from the very beginning of the re-opening up of China to the outside world, in the 1980s. He loved to remind his numerous villager friends that funerals can be a thought provoking testimony to the community of what kind of life the deceased had led.
我 听到的一个最有意义的关于葬礼的评论是好朋友和老师,来自澳门的Lam牧师,他在80年代中国一开始改革开放的时候就去中国服事。他喜欢提醒他众多的乡村朋友们葬礼可以是对社区的一个激发人思考的逝者一生的见证。

He encouraged villagers to invite many to come and celebrate the significant life of a person going to meet his Maker, and to make sure they heard a message of peace and hope. This would be in strong contrast to the cries and wailing of hopelessness in traditional funerals, because there was no assurance about where the deceased was actually going. The Christian funeral, undoubtedly being a message of hope, could help give profound meaning to this life, and powerful implication for the next.

Photo 3: The conservative Midwest town of Cincinnati turns out, touchingly, for the death of beloved Korean-American police officer Kim who died in the line of duty. A minority of minorities, who loved his community, and gave his life for it. Just Google his name.


It might sound morbid to think about my own funeral, but hey, I’m a writer, so I can write freely! Let me at least say upfront, it will not be necessary to mourn my passing, dear friends, since we all have to go sometime. Some people leave without saying goodbye; not me: I just said it! And, I have lived a full life, with so many blessings that I can barely count them, so there is no reason at all for sadness, or anything like “regrets.” From my hundreds of stories, you might also sense the tremendous variety of experiences I have been privileged to have, to serve God and others, especially foreigners or minorities, in Asia and America. Someday, in the meantime, come join me, to have coffee with me, in Seattle, or even Cincinnati if we visit. Or heaven, a place I shall likely beat you to it! Jesus had mansions prepared for his listeners, I only have coffee waiting for you, no need for decaf.
也许谈论我自己的葬礼听起来很病态,不过,我是一个写者,所以我可以随便写!让我至少先说明,没有必要为我悲哀,好朋友们,因为我们所有人都有那一天。有些人没有说再见就走了;那不会是我:我刚刚说过了!而且,我活了充充满满的一生,领受了我数都数不清的祝福,所以没有任何悲伤的理由,或是“遗憾”。从我的数百个故事里,你可能会感受到我在服事上帝和别人,特别是在亚洲和美洲的外国人或是少数民族,的过程中得到的无与伦比的经历。不过有空的时候,来和我喝喝咖啡,在西雅图,或是辛辛那提在我们去拜访的时候。或是天堂,我看起来会比你早去!耶稣为他的听众们准备了大厦,我只有备好咖啡等待你, 不需要低咖啡因的.