A Simple Tribute To A Simple Brother

I received this from my friend Eric Ng. It was a lovely tribute from a younger brother to a brother who lived alone and died alone. I read it and could not put it down. If it had not been for this well written tribute, the deceased would have been another statistic to add to the increasing numbers who died in their homes (unknown to their loved ones). Another tragic and worrying report in the news with surface information about the person that departed and little about the life he or she lived. This tribute I read gave a beautiful portrait of a man who zealously sought the Lord and shared the good news about Jesus Christ to others. The tribute crowned the stark report with grace and dignity. I felt moved to share this with others through this blogpost, and if it touches your heart, do share this touching tribute with even more people. Here it is:


The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once…” (Heb 9:27a). That’s the edict from the Giver of Life who also has the equal right to take back the life when it has reached a destined expiry date.

On 26 June 2023, Shin Min Daily News wrote an article with this as headline: ELDERLY MAN PASSES AWAY IN TOA PAYOH FLAT, PLANTS STARTED WILTING A WEEK EARLIER. How unceremonious an epitaph! Then came the subheading: “77-Year-Old Elderly Man Passes Away In Toa Payoh Flat, Discovered After Foul Smell Detected.” SMDN is correct to make this sad commentary: “Whenever an elderly person who lives alone passes away, it’s always heartbreaking news. This is especially as the deceased would have left this world all alone, with nobody knowing of their demise until a decaying corpse is found.”

But it’s more heart wrenching for his next-of-kin to find out secondhand about this news from others. This lonely, elderly man is my second brother. He lived an ordinary life – ranked 5th in line in a family of 7 siblings.

Growing up with him, I remember his easy-go-lucky lifestyle. He hardly gave my parents any trouble. He was liked in his kampong. His greatest passion was playing hockey. He wasn’t a brilliant student but he got a Grade II result that qualified him to take a job with the civil service.

John grew up in the Westmoreland/Dorset area. Like most of the kampong boys, he smoked, gambled, and spoke with machine-gun speed vulgarities in the Chinese, Malay, and English [his only deficiency was Tamil ]. It wasn’t until 1966/7 that he seasoned his speech with salt and gave up his few vices when he was wondrously converted to Christianity. He became an intrepid witness for Christ. Soon, some of his kampong friends joined him in embracing the Christian faith—when they saw the radical transformation in his life.

Possessed by a passion to win souls for Christ, John began to witness to many of the kampong boys. Not long, he got some of them to follow him to attend a nearby church in Moulmein Rise. The church is still there and is still called Revival Centre. At this time, I had moved out of my mother’s house to live with my sister. But I would visit my mum every week. During those times, John and I would engage in serious conversations—mostly doctrinal and theological in nature. His love for God’s Word was almost unstoppable. He would spend hard earned money to buy books directly from overseas publishers. Many of the books were written by the renowned authors like DeVerne Fromke (Unto Full Stature, Ultimate Intention), C S Lewis (Mere Christianity), Carl F H Henry (Evangelism and Theology based books.

One vicarious benefit I got from John’s enthusiastic witness was in the 1960s when at a special rally conducted by A/G Singapore. Tommy Barnette, the famous evangelist, came to SG and the rally was held at the old Victoria Memorial Hall. That day, Tommy Barnette decided to award the person who brought the most people to the rally. It turned out that John had brought the most people but he told me to go forward on his behalf and accept the ‘reward’ of an LP cut by Tommy Barnette. Thank you John for that special gift.

Some time later, I told John about my church’s weekly Wednesday Bible Study. I boasted about my teacher’s incredible expository skills. That teacher is Sis Margaret Seaward. I was then attending Bethel Assembly. That church was located at 4 Palm Grove Avenue, off Flower Road, off Upper Serangoon Road (famously called Hougang 6th Mile). It was a long journey by bus from my mum’s house in Westmoreland. Despite the inconvenience, John decided to join me in Bethel not only for the Wednesday Bible Study but also the Friday ‘Glory Meeting”, i.e., Pentecostal Prayer Meeting. He never left Bethel until he started a church and called it Lord’s Grace (I may not have this name right, but I knew he started an informal ‘gathering of saints’ to champion his belief of the Apostolic Faith.

I write all these so that my FB friends from CCC/VFC and from the Westmoreland/Dorset group, who’re also friends of my Bro John Lui, should know some of the less known facts about him. John was a recluse and lived a very private life. That accounts for his dying alone and unknown until the news became public in SMDN.

I thank God that some of my friends had read the article in Chinese and could identify from highlighted facts that it was about John. The friends on my WhatsApp group, CCC Staff, alerted me of John’s death. I was only told of this in the late afternoon. That started me doing a bit of enquiries with the police. I could confirm with them that the person identified as a 77-year old man, who died in Blk 174 Toa Payoh, was my brother. Later this morning, I’ll be collecting his body. I will give him a simple cremation and bid him a simple farewell. He’s now in a much better place of comfort and rest—safe in the arms of his loving Saviour and cradled at His bosom.

John, I will meet you soon – over there on the beautiful shore of heaven. What we didn’t get time of earth to share as we did in my younger years, we’ll have eternity to do it! You lived a life that was pleasing to God. I would be remiss, John, if I failed to mention this. As it is, I already failed to say thank you inf life. Now, I want to say a VERY BIG THANK YOU for those years you quietly put the ‘Pentecostal’ handshake and gave me money when I was short of paying my Bible School fees. God used you to be the occasional, miraculous intervention when I was hard up of money. I know God took notice of what you did privately. He will reward you publicly in heaven. Thank you, John.

You had run and completed the race. You can now take your deserved rest in the Presence of your wonderful Lord and Saviour.

I thank God for the privilege of finding out at the very last minute of your demise and body which I will be claiming in two hours’ time. Rest well my dear brother. Until we meet again,

Your brother-in-the-flesh and
Your brother-in-the-Lord
Peter Lui

An online article about this and other similar deaths can be read HERE.

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Psalm 88: The End Psalm

Last Tuesday evening, my cousin went home to be with the Lord. She had fought a long-drawn battle with cancer for many years. Her treatment reached a stage where the Assisi Hospice at Thomson Road became the best place for her to spend the last weeks of her life.

I confess that I struggle to journey with people who are seriously ill or dying. I admire those who compassionately, patiently, faithfully journey with the dying. They suffer with the dying friend over every setback and regression, and rejoice with them over every step of progress and hope. They hold their hands, look at them in the eyes, listen to them, serve them gently and generously, act and speak kindly to them. I know everyone has limited strengths, but I cannot help but feel totally inept compared to these Mother Teresas. Most of the time, I feel helpless during a visit, and empty, worn and down after it. I sit, I listen, I hear stories and confessions, I serve the bread and wine, I sing, read scriptures, and pray, I leave, and I hope my presence somehow helped.

Kubler Ross observed five stages of loss among the dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I can recognize these stages in varying forms and expressions among those about to go home to God too. I do not try to control or fix them, but just notice them as they appear, disappear and re-appear as time went on till the sick persons come to a place where they are at peace and are willing, even wishing, to go to their loving God and Saviour as soon as possible.

Interestingly, during this period, I have come to Psalms 88 in my regular meditations. I felt drawn into its depths. It is such a sad, depressing, dark, heart-breaking psalm. I learned in seminary that such psalms are called “lament” psalms and served a liturgical and communal purpose for the Jews throughout history. I observed that this psalm does not have a hopeful ending to it unlike other such lament psalms. It is bereft of hope, except the address of the Lord as “God of my salvation”. 

This psalm is of one who has suffered from his youth throughout his life and feels like one who is abandoned by God, shunned by friends and about to die. I wrote on my Bible the emotions present: despair, guilt, anger, trapped, despised, bargaining, bewildered, lonely, abandonment, assaulted, hopelessness. As I meditated on this psalm it dawned on me that some of these emotions may have been felt by my cousin as she laid in the hospice. These range of emotions would possibly be experienced by those suffering and waiting for death. The psalm gave a painful but real sense of one who felt close to death. As I look from outside at all the pain and tears and pleas in the psalm, it moved me to be keenly aware of my frailty, my hour.

The darkness and pain of this psalm was not relieved by the three prayers (ver 1,9,13) that prefaced the three sections. The black sheet can only be lifted by a knowledge that these psalmists do not have: the blessed revelation of what Jesus death and resurrection accomplished for us who live under the new covenant. The curtains open to let in the Light that dispels all darkness and shadows, when we who know the grace of the Lord Jesus, affirm the great hope of a resurrection similar to that of our Lord who died and rose again. This hope alone can transfigure everything at any hospice and any deathbed.

Is the psalm 88 of any use then in this era of the new covenant? Yes it has its uses. For one it provides a contrasting background that highlights and demonstrates the complete and final victory of Good Friday and Easter over suffering and death. If there is no black night, we would never have been able to fully appreciate a beautiful dawn or sunny day!

I also feel the psalm can be a useful passage to pray with for people who are at the end stage of life. It will help them to express their struggles and longings, and to surface and process the authentic and real emotions and struggles they find difficult to label. It may trigger memories and emotions that the person can then reflect upon and talk with the Lord about. As this is done, ideally with a spiritual director, one can by God’s grace find a place of perfect peace, assurance and hope as he or she waits to be hugged and taken home by their heavenly Father. 

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