Life Lessons

“I Can Only Imagine…”

Remember all the things we wanted
Now all our memories, they’re haunted
We were always meant to say goodbye.
Even with our fists held high
It never would have worked out right, yeah
We were never meant for do or die.
I didn’t want us to burn out
I didn’t come here to hurt you now I can’t stop

I want you to know
That it doesn’t matter
Where we take this road
omeone’s gotta go.
And I want you to know
You couldn’t have loved me better
But I want you to move on
So I’m already gone.

“Perfect” couldn’t keep this love alive.
You know that I love you so
I love you enough to let you go.

You can’t make it feel right
When you know that it’s wrong.
I’m already gone, already gone
There’s no moving on
So I’m already gone.

~ Already Gone performed by Kelly Clarkson

“I CAN only imagine.”

That was what a close friend of mine, Nathan Cheng, had spoken to me countless times over the phone during these past two years I have come to know him. As such, his words have touched me very deeply—deeply enough to write a special column dedicated to this simple sentence.

As I can vividly recall most of our conversations ran the course of touching on life and how it has affected the two of us, coming from different backgrounds and families but sharing similarities all the same. Through our talks, whether brief or enormously long, Nathan I believe has come to know me as the person I truly am—a person with scars and pains but simultaneously, a person who is continuously learning to work on himself. I know that I am still a work in progress but I also humbly thank Nathan for lending an ear to hear my stories and I vice versa.

We have not only grown as close friends over time but I also believe in my heart we’ve come to understand each other a lot more than most people would perhaps comprehend at a mere first glance.

It is true that friendships take time to grow and mature, as with so many other things in this world but its rewards in the long run are so cherishable as well.

Looking back and looking forward though, Nathan is just one out of the large circle of friends, acquaintances and classmates I have not only taken the time to befriend but also to understand as another human being.

Recently this past Thursday afternoon I went shopping at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Palm Desert, California. I told one of the attendants I was looking for a specific shirt to pick out but eventually I settled for a jacket instead. It’s a black Russell Athletic Men Fusion Tech Fleece Zip Cadet Jacket by the way. Very stylish indeed.

Despite the looks though I later on recalled that another friend of mine—or rather acquaintance—used to wear a similar kind of jacket whenever I’d see and greet him at school. He unfortunately passed away six months ago shortly before his nineteenth birthday due to a medical condition called aplastic anemia. His name was Max Horng.

I met Max as I’d meet most of my classmates and schoolmates—through brief, casual conversation. Our first meet wasn’t anything too special but it was very memorable as I can remember it. We introduced ourselves and had a few exchanges here and there but that was about it.

I’d see Max every now and then in school and whenever I did I was never too hesitant to say a quick “Hi” and get a quick hug while I was at it. But that was what most of our meets were like, and for many months we’ve stopped talking to each other. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to converse with Max. It was because we never really took the time to have a deep and meaningful conversation together, in sharp contrast to the talks I’ve had with ol’ Nate.

But hearing Max pass suddenly on January 5th was a tremendous shocker to me. I literally broke down and cried for a few weeks after hearing the news and even now I still have my spiritual talks with him in Heaven and memories of him on Earth. Just last Saturday on the 9th he told me that he was doing great and he looked much taller and stronger than I could really envision him in the flesh. It was great to “catch up with him” though when I had the opportunity to.

Now that I have the jacket I think of him too. I think of the all the memories I’ve experienced with him and the years ahead when I get to see him in Heaven again too. It just sucks that he seemingly had to go so soon. That’s always the heart-wrenching part.

I just didn’t know he had aplastic anemia. I never would have even guessed he would have had it in the first place.

But that’s where I’m always taken aback.

I never expected anything like this to happen so soon or that Max had the condition.

But as time progresses and as I get a little older every single day I still take away two very vital lessons about people and about life. First off I’ve learned that everyone has problems whether visibly shown or hidden.

Second, I’ve learned that at the appropriate times it’s best to ease your way into a conversation about someone else’s problems, or even my own problems. Never assume that everything is always a-ok with someone else because most of the time, it might be not.

Find time to discuss critical issues when need be. Someone will be there listening to you. All you have to do is to find someone trustworthy to discuss these personal issues with even though it can be hard to.

We all need to have this time to have a catharsis but I unfortunately did not get to have one with Max while he was still here on planet Earth. Regardless I still pray for him though and he pops up in my head from time to time—whether I’m asleep or awake.

I guess it just goes to show that I not only care about Max and Nate and all my other friends but a lot of people do say that I have a big caring heart.

Now I want the rest of the great big world to do exactly the same.

Reach out to people. Care for them. Treat them well and they’ll treat you well.

But here’s Step Two in this multi-step process: Know people on a charismatic subjective level. It’s the only way to get to really know others as you know yourself.

The Golden Rule already spells it out very clearly in black and white. That’s why it’s “Golden” in the first place.

Finally I am also reminded of a short verse in the book of Hebrews:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. ~ Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

Never forget that. Seriously.

I’m pretty sure the people around you will notice and maybe later on compliment you for what you are doing and are continuing to achieve. Actions are usually very noticeable and memorable. It’s very true.

Enough said.

Until next time…

~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.

P.S. Max Horng’s obituary can be found at

Thank you for your time and your condolences.

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