Sunday, 29 November 2015

The many innocent faces of Kong Hee.

Kong Hee appeals. He feels wrongly convicted and sentenced. He wants justice to be done. He is innocent. He mentions that there are errors in the judgment. While it is within his right to appeal, his statement of appeal however is deeply troubling, if not offensive to any right-thinking Christian. It is three pages long and about 90% of it comprises the narration of Apostle Paul’s own appeal to Caesar. He mentions that Paul stood before the Sanhedrin and it is the same council that Jesus, Peter, John and Stephen stood before. 

For me, it is more a disingenuous statement of "I have done nothing wrong" than a statement of "I have been wronged." In the face of overwhelming evidence, a carefully-considered conviction, and a reasonably lenient sentence (because the prosecution found it "manifestly inadequate"), Kong Hee's appeal statement is undoubtedly a case of giving to Caesar what belongs to God, that is, he turned repentance on its head by whitewashing his guilt - whether by association or otherwise - with the good name of Apostle Paul, who died a martyr for God. Here is what I mean. 

Apostle Paul was accused of many things like rioting, breaking Jewish laws and committing treason against Rome. He was then held in remand for two years waiting for his case to be reopened. He then exercised his right to appeal before Caesar, who presided the highest court in the Empire.

This is what Kong Hee wrote: “…Jesus had said to him, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome”…He was also convinced that the evidence was on his side, and that he had a fair chance of winning the appeal in Rome.” Of course, Paul was acquitted of all charges before Caesar and he continued his missionary work to Western Europe, and as far as Spain.

But in 66 A.D, Paul was rearrested, imprisoned in Rome and beheaded by order of Nero Caesar. At this point, Kong Hee penned, “In God’s sovereign will, Paul was destined to be a martyr. However, before that appointed time for martyrdom, Paul exercised his legal rights within the judiciary of his day, and fought for the freedom to preach the gospel as instructed by the Lord Jesus…He fulfilled the purpose of his life and was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Paul appealed not because he was defiant toward the ruling authority. He appealed because (a) the weight of the evidence was in his favour, (b) he had a clear mission from the Lord Jesus that he still needed to fulfill, and (c) he was exercising his legal rights as a Roman citizen, a privilege that God had blessed him with.”

Wow…a standing ovation is in order. I have been a lawyer for more than fifteen years and have filed appeals for my clients before, but I have not seen such an intricately contrived justification for an appeal. Kong Hee must have really felt wronged by our justice system on so many levels. He must really be tormented by his own unproven, or unprovable, innocence.

Here, I am compelled to ask this: Is Kong Hee portraying himself as the modern day Apostle Paul? Is he saying that what he is going through is no different from what Apostle Paul went through in his days before the Sanhedrin? Or, is this just another of his outlandish public relation stunt to milk his congregation for maximum support? You be the judge.

For me, the association is irresistible, tactical even. My personal bet is that he is suggesting to the readily suggestible - with the subtlety of a jackhammer of course - that his fate is intertwined with that of Apostle Paul. That’s my takeaway from reading his statement of appeal. Can it be interpreted in any other way?

You see, he could just make it simple and say outrightly that his appeal was based on errors in some aspects of DJ See’s judgment, but he didn’t. Instead, he drew upon the experiences of Apostle Paul and used it not only as a backdoor to hanker for another bite of the I-am-still-innocent cherry, but to tell his congregation that he's got God's backing. This is reminiscent of the time when he told his audience that God apologized to him for going through what was then called the refiner's fire. As such, to me, this is clearly a calculated and deliberate move (some may even call it shameless or pathetic, but I simply call it unrepentant). This is my personal reading of that statement of appeal. Can you blame me for being too presumptuous?

But before the eager crowd goes oohs and aahs over it, let’s read what Apostle Paul wrote about his own experiences in 2 Corinthians 11: “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”

So, what did our very own “Apostle Kong Hee” suffer? How is their fate intertwined? Apart from the 2 years of investigation and 3 years of protracted trial, which resulted in conviction beyond all reasonable doubt, Kong Hee was and is living in the lap of luxury all this while in one of the most expensive resort-like condominiums in affluent Singapore. He owns a number of premium properties and is widely adored (God knows why) by thousands of die-hard church members who readily give of their time and money to him and his beloved wife to be disposed of at their sole and unfettered discretion. He and his wife also drew high monthly salaries and bonuses.

Unlike Apostle Paul who suffered shipwrecked thrice, stoning and had spent in the deep, enduring dangers in the wilderness and at sea, and amongst false brethren, and went hungry and naked as he persevered to spread the good news on bare feet most times, Kong Hee and his recently ordained pastor wife in contrast travelled in style and class, rented extravagant apartment overseas, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on her wardrobe, makeup, consultancy fees, medical, restaurant food and hairdo.

That’s not all. Apostle Paul was also jailed on many occasions and he had even converted the jailer and his household as he (and Silas) sang hymns to God in the worse of circumstances. The songs belted out were simple, from the heart and purely accapella. China wine however is far from simple. It was sordid in fact. It was sexually suggestive, blatant. It portrayed loose morals, fornication and even adulterous liaisons. It was financed by fraud, falsification and dishonesty. And there is no denying that Kong Hee, in his blind zeal and ambition, was at most times more consumed in promoting his wife’s music career with money meant for the building fund than to spread the gospel. Can Apostle Paul and Kong Hee be any more different?

Further, while Apostle Paul knew by his Savior's assurance that his appeal will succeed as “the weight of the evidence was in his favour and he had a clear mission from the Lord Jesus that he still needed to fulfill,” can the same be said about Kong Hee and his current appeal? Can Kong Hee say that he shares the same destiny with Apostle Paul in his appeal and that his Crossover Project had the divine endorsement from our Savior? I guess what Kong Hee needs now is not so much an appeal to the appellate court, but an urgent appeal to his own insular heart.

Personally, I think Kong Hee had pushed things too far. He wrote that “In God’s sovereign will, Paul was destined to be a martyr.” Again, it is difficult not to see the parallel here. Is Kong Hee playing the martyrdom card? Is he saying that he is sacrificing for God the same way the early disciples had given their life for their Savior? Can we expect a second apology from God? For me, the suggested intertwining of fate gets more and more convoluted as Kong Hee digs deeper and deeper into his own trenches of self-delusion.

In the end, there is no denying that Jesus’ disciples gave their lives for the cause - just like Jesus gave of himself at the Cross. They died a martyr’s death. While James was put to death by Herod Agrippa I and Andrew was crucified in Achaia, Kong Hee however “engaged in covert operations and conspiratorial cover-ups” and “contrived to create cover stories and clever round-trips concealing their unlawful conduct.” While Matthew and Thomas died a martyr in Ethiopia and India respectively, Kong Hee and his leaders misused “CHC’s funds, which included siphoning off large amounts from Building Fund for Sun Ho’s music career.” And while Simon Peter was crucified and felt himself unworthy and asked to be put to death with his head downwards, Kong Hee and his leaders “chose to defraud the auditors with falsified accounts…and the evidence points overwhelmingly to a finding that they had all acted dishonestly and in breach of the trust reposed in them.” 

Alas, only one disciple died in his own hands and that was Judas Iscariot. He hung himself. I guess Kong Hee did somewhat the same by going through the 140-day trial. By his own hands, Kong Hee tightened the legal noose that goes around the only hope of his own redemption and restoration, and that is, his repentance.  Cheerz.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Uncrossing the Crossover.

The conviction and sentencing on Friday (20 Nov 2015) have finally wrapped up a case that has captured the nation’s imagination (mostly negative of course). 2 years of investigation and 3 years of trial have unraveled both religion and church leadership. DJ See singled out the 51-year-old leader Kong Hee as “the mastermind behind the conspiracy to cause wrongful loss to the church and defraud creditors.” He said Kong Hee was the “prime mover and driving force for the Crossover.” He got 8 years – the highest sentence meted out. The rest got between 6 years to 21 months. While Chew Eng Han made it clear that he will appeal, Kong Hee wrote that “unfortunately, I must continue to face some very difficult days ahead.” He may appeal subject to further legal advice. In a church service yesterday, he appreciated the support and love of his church members and thanked them on behalf of the other accused persons. He said, "My family and I, we are fine. We are just living each day by faith."
Lesson? I recall that Sun Ho, co-founder and recently appointed pastor of City Harvest Church, made this public statement after the conviction one month ago: "As was the case throughout these past three years of court trial, and the earlier two years of investigation, we have placed our faith in God and trust that whatever the outcome, He will use it for good (Rom. 8:28)."
I guess no biblical verse inspires more this side of heaven than Romans 8:28. Every trial has a silver lining and Romans 8:28 is that silver lining. While I can't read Sun Ho's mind on what she meant by "He will use it for good", I have my own view about the good I hope  to see in CHC after last Friday. And I am sure they diverge at a steep tangent from what Sun Ho had in mind. At the risk of being presumptuous, I have divided my Romans 8:28 hope into three parts and I preface that they are not prophecy or revelation of any kind - not by a long shot. They are however based on what I think is a common-sense approach to how things have developed. So, here goes.

1) To reconsider Sun Ho’s ordination. I have spoken to pastors and lay persons alike about the recent ordination and the general consensus is that it is not a wise move. I can’t disagree with them. While this is clearly an internal matter and CHC's leadership is free to do as they deem fit, I sincerely feel that what one deems fit may not be the necessary fit that plugs the problem in CHC and Christianity at large. It can't be denied that the 140-day trial and the full dirty-laundry-and-linens disclosure (or exposure) had dragged the name of Christianity through the mud. The public at large (netizens at least) are shaking their heads in disgust. Believers are clearly disillusioned. And many have left the faith because of the whole saga.
It is painfully ironic that the sacred act to save the “unchurched” is the same act that pushes the unchurched (as well as the “churched members”) away from church. The casualty, both direct and collateral, is deeply unsettling. Therefore, the right and decent thing to do now is to give more thought (or time) to handing over the leadership mantle. I feel that one should not go for the lowest hanging fruit at such time.
While the wound is still raw and tender, the ordination of Sun Ho as the head of CHC would deepen the divide (or at least muddle the water further). The reason is actually obvious. The commotion is all about the theological legitimacy of the Crossover Project.  Notwithstanding the charges, sentences and the guilt of all the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt, China Wine and Kill Bill with all its audaciously racy videos outrightly betray any theological legitimacy that Sun Ho or Kong Hee can ever hope to raise in support of the Crossover Project. The premises upon which it is based is in itself a non-starter because the concept is self-sabotaging and inherently inconsistent (or incoherent).
The bottom-line is that you just can't compromise the gospel in order to spread the gospel (to quote a local pastor) – however good the intention is. In fact, the defence of good intention may just be used as an excuse to ride roughshod over genuine opposition to the Crossover Project. You see, the logic for the Crossover Project as a missionary goal is completely reversed, inversed and even perverse. And the main protagonist and originator of it is none other than Sun Ho. She was and is at the center of the theological, criminal and penal storm.
All monies were funneled, surreptitiously by her hubby, to build up her stardom for purpose that are highly controversial. She is the main, if not the sole, beneficiary and recipient of the church funds, whether given as love gifts or otherwise, to be used to shore up her fame, looks, hair, brand, style, choreography, accommodation, travel flights, makeup, medical and consultation fees, and album sales. Even her bonuses and royalties were astronomical by any standards. In other words, the Crossover Project is Sun Ho and Sun Ho is the Crossover Project. The two are inseparable.
Whether one can ever argue that the Crossover Project is a Trojan-horse mission for evangelism and the betterment of all in the supposedly ecumenical faith is really a foregone conclusion now since the net evangelistic loss for Christianity as a whole is painfully plain to see. The numbers, and more importantly, the destructive trail left behind after the trial, just doesn’t add up. Like the haze, I can still smell the burning from a distance for many years to come.
The best analogy I can give about the Crossover Project is to picture two adolescents with good intention playing a prank on another only to have it backfired to such extent that it ends up in total permanent damage irreparable. The joke, however funny and well designed, mutates into a tragedy – so to speak. This does not mean that the pranksters are less culpable. It only means that they should have given it more thought and deliberation. And if you transpose this analogy from unwitting pranksters to two grown-up, mature Christian leaders who hold the sacred responsibility of thousands of young and growing believers in their sole hands, the tragedy is compounded manifold.
(Actually, if you think about it, Roland Poon - the godsend whistle-blower - was the crossroad the pastoral couple needed to turn their gambit around if they were truly convicted at that time by a God-inspired conscience. Alas, the reverse happened instead and they discombobulated the situation further. It shockingly deepened the devious dare and made the couple's subterfuge even more insidious. They in fact upped the ante to pile up the cover-ups with more cover-ups in the guise of sham bonds, dubious advance rental and sham companies. These were all elaborate schemes pursued by a scheming mind to exact the maximum disinformation, duplicity and defrauding. It was not just an act with some calculated deliberateness, but one that was in blatant defiance and unmitigated deceit. This just deepens their guilt even more. That’s double, if not triple, the irony! I guess that is why the one (Kong Hee) who shifted all the blame to another (Chew and the auditors) also bore the highest penalty because he compounded the cover-ups with the cardinal sin of being a leader and that is cowardice. Alas, it is said that you will know who a true leader is in the foxhole of a trial. He is one who'll never leave his men behind. He is one who takes the first bullet. He is one who leads by example. I guess such leadership is rare nowadays because it is so much easier to preach the Word than to live it out).
But I have digressed. I apologize. Let’s return to Sun Ho’s ordination, or the reconsideration of it.
So if Kong Hee, as DJ See said, was the mastermind, then the Crossover Project was Sun Ho’s brainchild, conceived in the fermented womb of her innermost desires. And Sun Ho is currently thriving on the technicality that she was not charged and convicted - while those of much lesser culpability are - and therefore she is conveniently innocent when the truth is that she is just, if not more, guilty as her self-saving marital partner. That's just my view.
So to ordain her to lead CHC 2.0 simply smacks in the face of good sense, unbiased judgment and prevailing wisdom. Ironically, just like the many cover-ups in the Crossover Project, Sun Ho's frictionless elevation to the top appears to me to be enshrouded in secrecy, opportunism and convenience. Were independent and autonomous advice sought on her ordination? And were their views, if sought after, taken into earnest consideration? Or, is this another in-house, family-oriented decision made within closed walls? Alas, is history repeating itself?

2) Acceptance and moving forward. Kong Hee may appeal. He is still defensive about his god-purified conscience. He desires a second bite of the cherry of innocence. His apology is more self-serving than self-reproaching. And on this point, DJ See remarked that the charismatic preacher is prone to exaggeration and inflating facts. His oral judgment in fact sums it up about Kong Hee - not as a humble shepherd willing to sacrifice for his flock - but as a manipulative leader driven by blind ambition to ensure that his wife's music career succeeds at all costs. In fact, according to Chew, he once confronted Kong Hee after the COC report in 2013 and this was what Kong Hee told him, "Let's forget about everything that we are talking about. I just want to know are we good or not...Are you still on my side or not?" I guess there are always two sides in a church. One is on the side of the leader and the other is on the side of God or truth.
At times, I felt that whether the likes of China Wine and Kill Bill would bring in souls into the Kingdom of God was largely secondary to his unquenchable appetites to make sure that his wife makes it really big in the international music scene. Like the 2008 economic recession where banks are deemed too big to fail, for Kong Hee, his wife's music career simply cannot afford to fail as the stakes and the personal reputation are just too high.
After the 140-day trial, DJ See noted that there was never any genuine belief by Kong Hee that the bonds invested using the building funds would bring CHC any financial return. Further, the Judge stated that there was never any genuine belief in Sun Ho's prospect of success for the US Crossover. Even Serina herself had conceded at trial that her Asian Crossover albums all made losses and Xtron "incurred substantial accumulated net loss." The Judge also noted that "the accused persons hid or obscured material information" from their auditors and lawyers.
In being satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that all the accused persons were guilty of all charges, DJ See wrote: "The accused persons chose to engage in covert operations and conspiratorial cover-ups. They contrived to create cover stories and clever round trips concealing their unlawful conduct. They chose to participate in the conspiracy to misuse CHC's funds, which included siphoning off large amounts from the Building funds for Sun Ho's music career...They chose to defraud the auditors with falsified accounts suggesting a series of genuine transactions for the redemption of bonds and advance rental. The evidence points overwhelmingly to a finding that they had all acted dishonestly and in breach of the trust reposed in them and they played their respective roles in a conspiracy with intent to cause wrongful loss to CHC and to defraud the auditors.” 

The above opinion in a 140-day trial of a mountain load of evidence closely scrutinized, debated and reexamined contains such words like "conspiratorial cover-ups", "contrived to create cover stories", "concealing their unlawful conduct", "conspiracy to misuse CHC's funds", "defraud the auditors with falsified accounts", "all acted dishonestly", and "in breach of the trust". The question here isCan the Judge be any more subtle? And can Kong Hee (and his church members) be any more unconvinced?
So, after all said, convicted and sentenced, is Kong Hee going through a Job-like, God-approved trial to build his godly character and faith with a Joseph-like ending, or is he no different from the many other fallen leaders before him who were led astray by their own greed, pride and self-delusion? You be the judge. And in my view, in either scenario, God has nothing to do with it - not even by a long shot. 

3) Uncrossing the Crossover. Today's paper talks about Chew Eng Han. He once "urged Kong Hee to talk to CHC's board and executive just apologise and repent." And when Kong Hee did not, Chew quit the Church. Having said all that, my third lesson is about turning back. It is about the prodigal son’s final leg home. I trust no man (or woman) is beyond redemption. And sometimes, it takes a life-shattering event to change for the good. If you allow me some indulgence, I imagine these eight spiritual transformations of Kong Hee for each of the eight years he will be serving his sentence (not in any strict order).

1st year: Crossover. This is the cause of it all. The project to save the world by becoming the world. This is what led Kong Hee to where he is today. Everything was done in the past decade or more to make the Crossover project a runaway success by whatever means possible, whether legally or illegally. And this is also where the main focus (and rehabilitation) has to be. This is the convergence of all efforts to transform Kong Hee in the next eight years of his solitary confinement. 
2nd year: Crosscurrents. I would expect stubborn resistance here. It was a calling from god anyway. The couple was vacationing when they claimed to have heard the divine mandate. So, the cognitive dissonance will raise up a wall of denial and a storm of protest against calling it otherwise. Kong Hee will fight with every carnal fiber in his soul against the thought that he might be wrong, that the calling was self-serving. He will struggle real hard to admit his mistakes. I'd expect that it's going to be a tough battle between the dawning reality and self-delusion.
3rd year: Crossfire/Cross country. Yet, Kong Hee cannot help but face his waterloo. He has to own up to reality. In the four walls of his cell, he will have hours, days, and even months of intense self-reflection to confront the demons within. He will be compelled to take a long and hard look at St. James' mirror and see the shared brokenness of humanity. This is the wilderness he alone has to trek to find himself, and to find God.
4th year: Uncrossing. In his fourth year, Kong Hee will have arrived somewhere. The preceding three years will have mellowed him somewhat. I'd expect a return of some good sense. I'd expect some somberness and direction to set in. Hopefully, Kong Hee will start to see the folly of his ways. He will come full circle to view all past creeds and deeds in a whole new light. The crossover will by now  come undone before his eyes. He will undergo an internal process to "uncross" the crossover.  
5th year: Crossroad. The fifth year is Kong Hee's turning point. It is where he confronts the Crossover project with a gradual change of heart. His resistance over the years has taken a reversal of direction. With heart and eyes opened, Kong Hee is empowered to take the first step forward. He is no longer entrapped by the blind ambition of success at all cost. He is starting to see the futility of it all. He is gaining a Solomon-like perspective. He is on his way out.
6th year: Re-crossing. As it all started with the crossover, the road to make amends will invariably involve another crossover. This time, it is about tracing the steps back from where he came before. Like the prodigal son who came to his senses and returned to the father, Kong Hee will do the same. His road to enduring change will lead him to a place of poignancy and familiarity. It is a place called home. And on the sixth year, he is spiritually ready to pack up and go home.
7th year: Crossing Jordan. If crossing the Jordan river represent the last hurdle to overcome in order to enter the promise land, then Kong Hee will have to complete this journey in faith and hope. In the same way that God was with His people led by Joshua, God's presence will follow Kong Hee as he crosses the final hurdle towards repentance, reconciliation and restoration.

8th year: Cross of Calvary. The eighth year is where Kong Hee comes face-to-face with his Savior, his first love, after a long leave of absence. Here is the culmination of all the years of reflection, rehabilitation and remorse as he surrenders himself at the foot of the Cross. The Cross was where it all first started before he lost his way with the Crossover and this will be where he starts all over again and find his way back. And as he steps out of solitary confinement to reclaim his legal freedom, the greatest victory for Kong Hee is the spiritual freedom he had fought so hard for in the eight years to secure. It is this endearing freedom in Christ that will ensure that his transformation is genuine, enduring and even inspiring. Till that day comes, we will all be praying. Cheerz.

Postscript: I believe God loves the Church. He loves the Church so much that He is able to work all things for the good notwithstanding flawed leadership. I have myself been to CHC and I know intimately why God loves the Church. I saw eager seekers of the truth. I saw people praying with real needs.  Some were kneeling for answers. Others were even tearing with the genuine struggles they brought back with them to the unglamorous home they live in. They are the reason for Calvary. They are why Jesus gave his life for. The heart of the Church is the body of Christ. They are made up of people from all walks of life, reconciling their brokenness, grief, pain, and humanity with Calvary's finished work. I feel that the people in CHC is why God loves the Church - not so much its disappointing leadership. While CHC 2.0 will move forward with or without Kong Hee, I believe that they cannot go forward into a new future by denying, ignoring or dismissing their past. They have to come to terms with it. They as a body of Christ have to take up the interim leadership and tell it as it is - the same way Jesus courageously told it as it is. Jesus did not come just to offer the free gift of salvation. He also came to be our advocate, to bring our brokenness before God, to fight for what is right, to receive repentance, to give hope and to discipline and correct in love. At times like this, the body of Christ has to realize that their support for their leaders may be in direct opposition to God. And therefore, to support them absolutely is to oppose God absolutely. They therefore holds the sacred responsibility to stand in the gap to save the Church and her leadership. And to save her leaders is to break them into repentance, that is, to say sorry this time not for the turmoil caused to the members. But for being the main cause of that turmoil.  Cheerz.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

What I learned from my brother in law.

I came back home from the hospital this evening just after visiting my brother-in-law. He had a bathroom fall this morning. He is recuperating. He is also undergoing chemotherapy and he is being monitored in the high dependency ward. He is in his late thirties. A few weeks ago, I visited a close friend who had her pancreas and spleen removed due to suspected tumor. She is in her early forties. And a few months ago, I went to see my uncle-in-law who is in his early seventies. His cancer had sadly spread to his other organs and he was recently discharged to be placed under palliative care.

I recounted all these visits because I am struggling to describe the effect these people have on me. It took me some time to regain some direction and expression of how I really felt inside. And the first word that came to my mind was cowardice. I can’t imagine myself going through what they are going through right now. Theirs is a story of overcoming that I can only stand by the sideline to quietly dread and at the same time, to be deeply inspired. I told myself that I underestimate the power of the human spirit at my own self-inflicted ignorance and disillusionment.

Take my brother-in-law for example. After his brain surgery five years ago, he never gave up. He was unflinchingly persistent. His fight was as relentless as the affliction was relentless. He took it all in his stride. He confronted it not because he had no choice. But on the contrary, his choices were many and what made the difference for him (and us) was that he dared to make the toughest choice amongst them. On the continuum of innumerable options with giving up at one end and braving forward at the other, my dear brother-in-law chose the far end of the latter. And he made that choice every single day.

He was not a man without any choices. He in fact had many of them and he chose life. He chose hope. He chose to overcome. He chose to believe. He chose to never give up. He chose to love, to trust, to embrace, and to have faith. Like my friend and my uncle-in-law, they all had choices and they valiantly made theirs in their own unique way – not with superhuman strength mind you, but with that part of humanity that is admittedly fragile but hopeful, privately broken but grateful, and intimately scared but determined to soldier on.

Theirs is no doubt an ordinary life with extraordinary courage that makes living such an invaluable gift worth hanging on to. And for those who are well, their fight to be well is a fight that ought to make taking living for granted an unpardonable sin. It ought to set us thinking about what is the true meaning of life. It ought to make us treasure that which can never lose its value come what may and to let go of that which readily do when all is unraveled.

At his dying bed, Steve Jobs hurried all his loved ones to gather around him. His sister, children, wife and daughter of a previous relationship all came to be by his side. This was what his sister had to say about Steve Jobs on his final lap of life: “His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.” 

Before he went quietly into the night, Steve Jobs couldn’t keep his eyes off his loved ones, especially his children’s eyes. In all his weakness and pain, he maintained eye contact as if to lose it was to lose them forever.

The author of his biography wrote: “At one point he looked at Patty (sister) and his children for a long time, then at Laurene (wife), and finally gazed past them into the distance. “Oh, wow,” he said. “Oh wow. Oh wow.”

That was how a billionaire died. That was how a fearless and feared entrepreneur passed on. The last thing he took away with him was not the memory of all that he had achieved - the recognition and the accolades. His immense wealth and monumental innovations were secondary to the last enduring and endearing look of his loved ones standing right before him. That vision of love, contentment and joy is incomparable, irreplaceable. It was what gave him the courage and hope to finally let go. It was the defining moment of his entire life captured in one priceless image and that image is family.

My brother-in-law is family. His family is family. I pray with him and rejoice with him. I hope for him and stand by him. I believe with him and move inexorably forward with him. I guess at the end of the day, when all is said and done, when the wools are finally removed from my eyes, and when the fog of this material world is cleared from my cluttered and weary spirit, that which stubbornly remains is what I have been drawing on for strength, hope and resilience all this while. And that timeless, dependable resource is none other than the unwavering love of family. Cheerz.