I was 14 when my father was first diagnosed with osteosarcoma, otherwise known as bone cancer. Half of osteosarcoma patients see the disease metastasising to their lungs. There is often a low survival rate when this happens.
My father was in the half that saw the disease metastasise but not before the cancer had caused so much damage that his right shinbone snapped in two when he was walking down some stairs. He lived as an amputee for about three years before the cancer spread into his lungs, eventually claiming his life in 1998--four years after he was diagnosed.
Two years before my father passed away, my parents made the decision to be baptised into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They were introduced to the Adventist Church through the health message almost immediately after my father was diagnosed.
It's sometimes hard to imagine someone wanting to have anything to do with religion or God after being dealt such a severe blow in life. How can someone believe there is a God who loves them when the only witness they've had in their lives is a dilapidating disease, a subsequent amputation and eventual death?
In a way I can never quite explain, my father lived through all his obstacles with an inextinguishable sense of hope and unwavering belief that his God still loved him. Right to the end of the final months, when he was bedridden and moved to a hospice--he was so frail he looked like a skeleton with skin and was so racked with pain he was constantly on morphine--he still had hope and shared that hope.
He had on the wall in front of his bed a drawing depicting the second coming of Jesus Christ and sometimes, he would stare at it for hours and smile. When he was gasping in pain, he would look at the drawing and his countenance would change. When people came to visit him, they often left with their spirits
lifted and tears in their eyes, commenting on how he had helped them regain their faith in God.
But he did have one thing plaguing him. His daughter--me--did not know the God Who gave him so much hope. I was a rebellious teenager and had no interest in what God had to offer me.
But then came one evening I would never forget. Dad was particularly sick that evening and doctors didn't think he would make it through the night. I thought it was time to make amends for all the wrong things I had done and let my father rest in peace, as they say.
I made a promise to him that evening. I promised to open my mind to this concept of God. I made no promise to accept God but I was finally willing to hear what He had to offer me. It was a promise that would change my life forever.
When my father passed away the next day, he had hope. Hope of seeing his beloved God and the hope of having a new and whole body. He also had the hope of being reunited with all his family in an everlasting world.
I now share his hope. A hope that one day everything will be made right. A hope that no matter what happens in this world, no matter how lonely, how sad, how painful life may be, I have something amazing to look forward to.
And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. . . . So comfort and encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13?18.
Melody Tan is associate editor of Signs of the Times magazine, based in Wahroonga, New South Wales.