Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September ends
Like my father’s come to pass
Seven years has gone so fast
Wake me up when September ends
Here comes the rain again
Falling from the stars
Drenched in my pain again
Becoming who we are
As my memory rests
But never forgets what I lost
Wake me up when September ends
~ Wake Me Up When September Ends performed by Green Day (2004)
THE SOLE reason why I chose January, out of all the other months of the year, is because it seems like January is one of my toughest months to go through nowadays. In actuality, the winter months (ranging from November – February) are always a tough time for me, personally. But it’s not just limited to me. The winter months usually can take a toll for the rest of my family as well most years, ranging from the constant cold chills to financial struggles to occasional family fights.
Now, there could be many causes why my family can have hard times getting through the winter months. The cold surely is a large stressor. You can either bear the cold, like a polar bear or a fluffy penguin does, or dislike it at times as I do, when I have to step outside in the morning (and risk freezing my face and my hands off).
Sudden, unexpected events can be a large stressor as well, and as you can guess, that can contribute to our occasional fighting (psychological and emotional tensions can build in the weeks before and after the Holidays, and it’s sometimes harder to work when the weather gets too cold).
But I’ll be covering more than just after-Holiday stress; I’ll be covering the bittersweet experiences of January.
January is sometimes an optimistic month due to the start of a new year, meaning “more-than-just-time-flying-by.” A new year can bring new changes, I know, but we have to make some changes happen if they are to be freshly new. So why not start in January, at the start of the New Year, and gradually make substantial progress in multiple areas of each of our lives, count the days, and then in December, look back and see how much we actually contributed?
Cause that’s what making all those countless New Years’ resolutions year after year after year are supposed to be about.
You make goals and plans for the coming year, and then set out to fulfill them.
Sure, it sounds simplistic, but that’s what the purpose of making them—I don’t care if you have to write down a list and pin it on the wall—and doing them are for. But as simplistic as this all can sound…many of us may never fulfill all of our resolutions—several of them still count—that we anticipate to fulfill. And that’s fine—as long as we have the will to achieve our goals, even if we have to push it back until next year.
January is also the start of all of the holidays on our calendars, and this past Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To honor Dr. King, I uploaded one of his quotes on my Facebook Timeline profile as a cover image. But I hope it speaks a lot of truth to the world.
Here, I have a very strong gut feeling Dr. King urges his audience to choose love over hate and bigotry for a purely simple reason: Love can bring changes as much as hate can, but love has one power that hate doesn’t, and that’s acceptance. When people can reach a stage where they have achieved loving their fellow neighbors with a certain standard of respect and compassion that, my friends, is when people have and are achieving great things.
In the words of the late John Lennon:
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
The question is, have we given peace a chance yet? Have we learned to love?
I know it’s difficult if your friends or relatives are treating you like douchebags. That’s understandable; and I also know it’s easier (and more vengeful) if you can just hate them right on back.
But Dr. King, bear in mind, also once quoted a great passage from the Bible that still strikes a fundamental cord with human souls:
It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
~ An excerpt from Loving Your Enemies, delivered by Martin Luther King on November 17, 1957
They are powerful words I tell you, powerful enough that this African American man would be willing to go to jail for it—and face racial charges. But the remarkable thing was, he did it anyway, countless times, in the face of trying to tear down a wall that segregated whites and blacks; and for that, I applaud this man.
His sermons as a pastor are also some of the most influential sermons I could read and listen to. They move my soul very much.
January is the month of world changers, and to us Chinese, the celebration of the Chinese New Year in a few short days as well. To usher in the Lunar New Year, I will anticipate wearing red, dining on great meals and receiving a red envelope or too. But because this year is the sign of the Dragon, I’d jokingly exclaim to my mom at times, “Guess the dragon’s coming out of its hole then, huh?” [Cause she’s the Dragon in my family]
Though January is a month of optimism and celebration, it can also be a pessimistic month as well. That’s because I now acknowledge the passing of a dear family friend, Shun-Yean Chou, age 88, on Friday, January 6, 2012.
Our mother was the most kind-hearted and generous individual you could ever know. She always believed that it was better to give than to receive—this willingness came from a deep love for God. She was never rigorous in taking her medications, but was unfailingly dedicated to attending fellowship and church. She loved the Word of God with all her heart, and her only wish was that all her children and grandchildren would come to know Christ the way she did.
To those that knew her, she was a well-respected individual, who was a friend to everyone. To us, she was a kind, caring, loving mother and a beloved grandmother who was a joy to be around—always welcoming with open arms, a tasty treat, and a warm smile. A mahjong master and impeccably dressed world traveler, she was the family expert behind the sewing machine; no project was ever too challenging for her, so long as a warm cup of tea was within hand’s reach.
~ An excerpt from Shun-Yean Chou’s obituary
Coincidentally, this is not the first time I’ve experienced hearing loved ones pass away—my paternal grandma passed on October 12, 2006 at age 81—and just last year, an old high school acquaintance of mine, Max Horng, passed on January 5, 2011 at age 17.
But every time I get the news, I apologize if I start bawling.
It just takes me some time to mentally take it all in, and I think that that’s understandable. Grieving is a natural process of showing people that you love them and pay your humblest respects.
But Mrs. Chou’s memorial service is actually the first one I’ve ever attended in real life—after being exposed to death scene portrayals in films and TV—and bawling my eyes out again when I glanced at her beautiful body lying in the casket.
She and her husband were close to my parents and my family—we got to know them through Home of Christ 3 Church many, many years ago—and I occasionally remember the few times in my younger days when we’d drop by to visit the Chous. Mrs. Chou was like the grandmother I never had, and she would always try to offer me a few treats every now and then.
But as her obituary states, she really was one of the godliest and devout Christian women I have ever known, next to my own mom. Her bonding times with our family mostly consisted of sharing her life-long testimony with us, and how she and her husband have come to love God so deeply. It blesses my heart to hear them talk.
So yes, death can change a person—in many aspects. And I can imagine that when Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the song, he knew that his own father’s passing would not only strike a deep chord with himself, but also his Green Day fans.
Because death does change you. Death is the reason why I strongly believe in an afterlife, and why I believe in a God. “Becoming who we are” is when we each take the time to deeply contemplate how death affects us, in both positive and negative ways; but, be prepared, you don’t really feel that mixed feeling of sorrow and joy until it hits you.
Trust me. I’ve been there as well. It’s painful, but until then I’ll be looking to the sky and say, “I will never forget you all. Because one day, I will come home too.”
RIP 周媽媽. You will be missed, but I hope to see you again soon. 🙂
~ A Fellow Columnist, Josh Chen.