Song and I have been classmates since Primary One (elementary school). We grew up and attended school in a small town in Peninsula Malaysia called Melaka. After finishing Form Five (high school), Song was one of the first to disappear from our usual hangout. It was then I found out that after our final examinations in secondary school, students still have to study for several more years before they come out to work. For Song, his parents had sent him to Australia to further his studies.
Time passed by quickly and it was after 50 years since leaving school that our class decided to meet for a reunion. I was pleased to see Song looking healthy and happy. After university, he had worked in Australia and settled down there as a citizen. That night in 2019, there were about ten of us seated around a table having dinner as a pre-reunion gathering among ourselves.
Somehow, the conversations evolved to talking about our personal faith since leaving school. I remembered that Song did say the sinner’s prayer while in school but I was unsure if he attended church and grew in his faith back then. So, I asked Song if he was still a committed Christian. He replied, “Life in Australia is so comfortable that you don’t need God there.”
We need God
Fast forward to Aug 2023, another classmate called me to ask if I wanted to go with him to Melbourne to see Song one final time as he was having fourth-stage cancer and was under palliative care. The doctors had given up hope on him and stopped all active treatments. I recalled what Song said over dinner in 2019 and agreed to make the trip with my classmate as I was concerned with Song’s salvation, more so after my classmate told me that Song applied for Voluntary Assisted Death (VAD) which was recently legalized in Australia.
Song was lying on his bed in his house when we met up with him and he was happy to see us. He apologized for not being able to bring us out for a meal but he had purchased online some cinema tickets for us as a replacement. It was nice of him to be so thoughtful and hospitable to us despite suffering in pain every moment of the day and night.
On our first visit, we laughed and joked about the good old days in school, the pranks we carried out on our teachers and their reactions, and despite being pressured one by one, none of the classmates betrayed the other, resulting in the whole class being punished severely in full view of the entire school.
Before leaving the house, I asked if he was open to being prayed over for God to heal him. He said if it were three months ago, he would have said “no” but since he was suffering so much and unable to sleep at night because of the excruciating pain, he nodded his head. In my prayer, I thanked God for His grace that despite Song having once said that he did not need Him, he now acknowledged that God can help him.
Assurance of where we are going
On our second visit, having broken the ice, I was intentional in asking Song whether he knew where he was going if he died from terminal cancer. He looked straight at the wall picture in front of him and said he wanted to go there. The picture showed a peaceful scenery of water and greenery with the brightness of the sun shining through.
I said to Song, “It looks like it is your version of heaven. How certain are you that you will go there when you die?” He replied, “I can only dream that I will go there.” Then I told him in no uncertain terms, “The Word of God in the Bible clearly assures us that we can be with God in heaven when we die only when we accept that He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins so that we can be accepted and be reunited with Him. Do you want to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord?”
Song again nodded his head and so I led him in the sinner’s prayer. After his confession, I further assured him of his salvation according to the Word of God and we sang a hymn to worship God and celebrate His grace upon Song’s life. I further proposed that he spend some time with God by using our SSC Guided Christian Meditation Session video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNCvWEY3f5o) and he agreed to try it.
The third and final visit
At our third and final visit, Song was excited to tell us that he had sound sleep last night for the first time after so many weeks. He had been unable to sleep each night due to the pain from the cancer, made worse by the swellings all over his body. But halfway through listening to the meditation video, he was already sound asleep till the next morning. Indeed, as we come into the presence of God at night, He will grant us peaceful sleep (Psa 3:5, 4:8).
Meanwhile, I was concerned with Song’s decision to go through the VAD as he was now a Christian. He had empathetically told us in the presence of his family members that this was a decision only for him to make as he could no longer tolerate the poor quality of life that he had to endure for so long. In fact, his application for the VAD had been approved and the date was set for 6 Sept 2023.
As Christians, we are to honor the sanctity of life as God has not given us any jurisdiction over when or how to end our own lives. But due to Song’s firm stand on VAD and his physical condition, none of us wanted to confront him openly. Nevertheless, I did give him the following message upon leaving Melbourne:
“You can take one further step of faith and commitment by asking Jesus what He can do for you at this stage of your illness. For example, you can ask Jesus to heal you completely, and if He does not, to take you home so that you don’t have to go through the VAD. Surrender to God instead. He will honor your faith and commitment to Him.”
Subsequently, we gathered some other classmates to pray for Song using the Zoom platform. God hears our cries. On the morning of 6 Sept 2023, before the doctors came to administer the VAD, Song passed away soundly in his sleep. God in His mercy took Song home by sparing him from taking his own life through the VAD!
Although the focus of this blog is on the end-of-life episode of Song, there is a hidden gem in the story. It is a supplementary confirmation of what works: Christian meditation can help us overcome our insomnia! If it can work for Song who was in so much pain from his terminal cancer, it will work for any of us suffering from insomnia. Indeed, it is scientifically proven that there is a direct correlation between meditation and the reduction of stress, anxiety, and sleep disruption (Beauchamp-Turner & Levinson, 1992).
Dr. Edmund Ng
24 Nov 2023
Corresponding SSC monthly teaching video: V12 – Overcoming Insomnia at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ytZEqQEydI
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