Eugene Cho

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

craig

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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First day of our daughter's college years at this great school. We love you. We're so proud of you.We believe in you. Go Huskies. Go Dawgs. And also, beat Stanford this Friday. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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