Eugene Cho

the 7 life lessons of craig wong [1972-2009]


Please do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to read this and pass it on to others. I want to share 7 Life Lessons of a younger man named Craig Wong (1972-2009) who despite his arduous battle with brain cancer over the past 15 months, began sharing “Craig’s Life Lessons” to as many people who would listen…

The call of being a pastor has its ups and downs – as it reflects the ups and downs of life.  I believe in the gospel that is Christ and the good news that not even death can separate those that have claimed Christ in their lives.  But there is still mourning and grieving in the loss of a loved one.  As a pastor, there are times I honestly wish I didn’t or couldn’t be emotionally connected to my flock.  But then, that simply wouldn’t be worth it.  This past year, our church came alongside the pain of numerous in our church community. I presided over the memorial service of a newborn baby that died 3 minutes after birth.  Today, I officiated the burial service of Craig – son, brother, husband, father to two, and friends to so many.

Honestly, I did now know Craig well prior to the diagnosis of a brain tumor in October 2007.  He was experiencing headaches so he went in to the doctor on a regular Friday afternoon for what he perceived to be a “routine check-in” only to be told he had a brain tumor.  I remember receiving that phone call.  The brain tumor was initially diagnosed as benign but when they went in to remove the tumor several days after that Friday, it was found to be malignant and the tumor has already begun its ugly growth.  I have gotten to know Craig, his wife, and their larger groupr of family and friends over the past 15 or so months and realized that even in his 36 years of life, he left an amazing legacy.

He loved his wife, loved his children, loved his family, and was devoted to his friends.  And all those relationships were informed by his faith and love for Christ.  This was apparent today as several hundred folks gathered later in the afternoon after the burial for the “celebration of Craig’s life.”

I still remember learning about his first response once he work up from his first surgery upon learning the tumor was not benign but malignant:

“Is this hereditary?  Will my kids be ok?”

I don’t know why this has been so emotional.  I guess they all are in their own way.  Perhaps, it’s because he was near my age [couple years younger], or that I’m a father and when I see his kids – I can see my own, or because I dedicated his two children to the Lord couple years ago and it wasn’t just a ritual but a profound covenant I and the church made with their family, or maybe I’m understanding the reality of my own mortality, or simply because I’ve grown in love with their family.

I don’t know.

And while I still mourn, I do rejoice that God has finally restored Craig to full and eternal wholeness.

Praise be to God.

Over the past 15 months, rather than wallowing in self pity, Craig had been preaching, teaching, speaking, calling, writing, emailing, and blogging to as many of his friends and family and anyone else who were willing to listen. He wrote on his blog and called them

“Craig’s Life Lessons.”

I believe that the Holy Spirit was impressing such things upon his heart and so in a desire to honor Craig’s life and faith, I want to share Craig’s 7 LIFE LESSONS with you:

Life Lesson #1:
None of you should fear death either. What you should fear is “not living” Make sure that you truly live during your life. Don’t just coast through life. Don’t just go through the motions. If you do, you will miss out on the gifts that God has provided for us. Make an effort to spend quality time with your kids everyday; Spend regular quality time with your family and friends. Don’t miss out on what life has to offer.

Life Lesson #2:
Don’t put things off. If you’ve been wanting to take a trip with the family or If you’ve always wanted to do something – do it now. Don’t put it off – there might not be a tomorrow.

Life Lesson #3:
Don’t take anything for granted. Live a good life. Be thankful to God for everything that you have. Be thankful for your family. Cherish the time you have with them. Be thankful for your health. Be thankful for being able to be carefree. Be thankful for every moment that you have on this Earth.

Life Lesson #4:
Finding Meaning in Your own Life – Love

“Meaning is not something that you stumble across, like an answer to a riddle or a prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you.” -Anonymous

As I sit here nearing the end of my own life, I have been reflecting on this quote that I found about 10 years ago……The things that I think about and cherish the most are my family and other loved ones; the most important thing in my life is Love and friendship, and my faith in God. Love gives meaning to my life.

There are many other things that can give meaning to your life, but without these three things, I think it is difficult to find true happiness and inner peace.

Love God. Love your family. Love your friends. For that matter, show love to strangers. Use your love to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s easy.

Life Lesson #5:
Ask yourself this – if you were in my situation, and had only months to live how would you live your life differently? Spend more time with your spouse and children? Work less? Spend more time with your friends and family? Go on that vacation to Europe that you always wanted to go on?

None of us know when it is our time to go. Only God knows that. So why aren’t you living differently already?

I once read a quote that said “Maybe some day you will be lucky enough to live life as if you were dying.” I’ve said it before – live a full life. Don’t forget your priorities. Enjoy what God has provided for us. Don’t have any regrets.

Life Lesson #6:
In addition to your new year’s resolutions (many of which are probably already broken), I would like each of you to do something more meaningful and look back on 2008 and find at least 10 things that you are thankful for.

I’ll start…

  • I’m thankful to God for his daily miracles of minimizing the symptoms from my tumors.
  • I’m thankful to God for letting me make it to 2009 – my docs said I’d likely be in heaven by now.
  • I’m thankful for every moment I had, and continue to have, with my wife and kids.
  • I’m thankful for my wife, mom, and brother who are there daily by my side dutifully taking care of me.
  • I’m thankful for all my faithful friends who just flocked to my side at a moments notice.
  • I’m thankful for my loving church body who amaze me daily with their continual prayer and love.
  • I’m thankful for my magician of an accupuncturist, David Lerner, my caregivers at SCCA and SCTWC who have taken such good care of me over the last 15 months.
  • I’m thankful for my wonderfully supportive employer – NeuroVista – who continues to support and love me on a daily basis
  • I’m thankful for my family and friends who have cooked us meals and taken our kids on play dates.
  • I’m thankful for each and every one of you who have read my blog, thought of me and prayed for me.

Life Lesson #7:
Fifteen months ago I had a near perfect life – beautiful wife and kids, a job I loved, great friends and good health (or so I thought). I now sit here with brain cancer and 4-8 weeks to live…life happens. And it happens fast. Cherish every moment you have with family and friends and take nothing for granted. Create memories. Live. Love.

Filed under: church, faith, marriage, , , , , ,

16 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

    Powerful. Beautiful. Necessary.

    Thank you.

  2. lvsblog says:

    Two years and one day ago, I held my teacher and mentor in my arms, his head nestled between my breasts as he took his last breath. He died 3/13/07 of glioblastoma, brain cancer. Although his initial prognosis was 3-6 months, he lived 18 months. I mean REALLY lived, each and everyone of those days. After his brain surgery he became paralyzed on his right side and was wheelchair bound. Although he was dependent on us for his physical needs, he continued to teach us and serve as a mentor for living every day for the rest of his life. Caring for him during that time was one of life’s greatest gifts to me.

  3. gar says:

    Thanks for posting this. I never knew Craig, but I admire his courage in writing what he did – his words resonated with me. It takes a Godly person to be able to see beyond their own pain, and still reach out to others.

    Speaking from my own personal experience, losing a father at a young age in a devastating thing for any child. May his family be comforted, and may those who knew him be blessed by his memory.

  4. Linda says:

    Thank you, Craig, for sharing this initially.
    Thank you, Pastor Eugene, for sharing this widely.
    Thank you, Lord.

  5. Joseph Lee says:

    Thanks for posting this PE, I appreciate it.

  6. daphne says:

    I’m a radiation therapist. When people find out what I do, they usually say “oh that must be a really hard & sad job.” I can understand why they might think that, but in reality it is quite the opposite. I love my job. I get to meet and get to know people like Craig. So many of the patients I’ve helped treat have inspired me and been examples of how we should live every day. This is a wonderful gift, and one I am very grateful for. My thoughts and prayers to Craig’s family and friends.

  7. beattieblog says:

    Thanks for posting, Eugene.

  8. […] posted the first three here but you should head over to Eugene’s blog to read the others. It’s a wonderful list and a great testimony to Craig’s […]

  9. CoachMickey says:

    So true – words well spoken. Appreciate your strength and unselfishness in sharing your lessons. Something we need to remember is, life is good. Make the most of it in the best way you know possible. Live your vision and make every effort in fulfilling your goals. Step by step, it’s okay. Eugene, thanks for sharing this note from Craig. Be Well.

  10. Paul says:

    God Bless the Wong’s. Thanks Eugene.

  11. […] in loving memory of craig Read Craig’s 7 Life Lessons! […]

  12. Dave Faulkner says:

    Thank you so much.

  13. booyahbagwells says:

    Thank you Craig for your inspiration. Thank you God for your goodness.

  14. […] If this doesn’t move, you nothing will: The 7 Life Lessons Of Craig Wong, 1972-2009. […]

  15. […] a class entitled Learning to Lament. It came at an appropriate time during Lent and right after the passing of a young church member (Be sure to read Craig Wong’s 7 Life Lessons from Pastor Euge…). I especially like this one from a quote Craig saved: “Maybe someday you will be lucky […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Bittersweet month but so much gratitude to my team at @onedayswages. January marks a major transition as 2 of our 3 full time staff move on to their next chapters.

@melissasarapack (2nd from left) has been with me for nearly 4 years - first as our Development Director and then our Communications Director. This was her 2nd stint with me as she was my Live Music & Art Director at @QCafe many years ago. Thank you, Cush, for your friendship and commitment. You embodied our values and it kept moving us forward.

@philipkeeton (far left) has been with me for nearly the entirety of ODW. That's a long time. We've had our shares of ups and downs but  he's one of a kind. He was my right hand person that provided great leadership for our scrappy team of staff, volunteers, and interns. PK: Brother, you're gonna be missed but so excited for your next season. I didn't say this enough: I appreciate you. Thank you. And I hate Alabama football.

Changes are tough but it's also an opportunity for introspection and going deeper. I'm excited to introduce our next Ops Director next month and we're still looking for the right Communications Director. And Kenzie: What a gift to have you on our team.  Thank you. Be humble.

The world is bigger than your view of the world. And certainly, God is much bigger than your view of God.

#Deeper #RootsMatter 41 years ago today, our family immigrated to the United States from Seoul, South Korea. I was six years old; the youngest of three sons. My father, when he was also six, fled from what is now known as North Korea. Just recently, he shared with me that he and some of his family had been in a refugee camp when war and violence broke out on the Korean peninsula. It's emotional thinking about what my brothers and I went through coming to a completely foreign country. It wasn't easy. And then, I think about what my parents had to go through:

They fled their homes near Pyongyang which also meant leaving some of their extended families.

They experienced unfathomable hunger and poverty.

They experienced the pain of war.

They immigrated again to the United States as adults with minimal resources and a handful of English words.

All in hopes that their children would have the opportunities that were never afforded to them.

I'm thinking of my brothers today. I'm thinking of my parents and honoring them for their sacrifice and tenacity. And finally, I'm thinking of refugees and immigrants all around the world that are yearning for family, peace, hope, and opportunities. Don't reduce Martin Luther King Jr. to a yearly quote on social media. Live out the dream. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Confront evil. Be a truth-teller. Seek justice. Love mercy. Pursue reconciliation. Build bridges. Love your neighbors. Forgive your enemies. Pray unceasingly. Live a committed life of peace, love, and justice.

The God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today.

Be brave. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here's the full context of his famous quote: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." An important word for the Church...

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