My dad passed away two years ago. I was in the middle of a retreat where in some sessions I was the speaker. It was June 27th, I had a phone call from home at midnight. Usually I don’t get a call from home after 8 pm. My heart was pounding and I wished my sight had tricked me. Dad had been suffering from diabetes. It had taken a toll on his heart and his kidney. He was going to the hospital back and forth for his health treatments. Over the phone, I heard my sister stuttering. It didn’t take a long time to know that something bad had happened. Struggling with her emotion, somehow she finally finished her sentence telling me, “Dad has gone.” I couldn’t say any word at the time. My mind was blank and my hands froze. There was a long pause before I told her I don’t know what to do, I was in the middle of a ministry, and I couldn’t think clearly at the moment. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was praying to God that when I woke up I wish it was just a dream. As the dawn was coming, I got up from bed and prepared to lead a morning devotional in a group of fifteen students. I opened the retreat booklet and found Matthew 7: 24-27 to share that morning. The passage struck me, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” I heard God’s voice through the passage. As I struggled with the reality of my situation, I didn’t tell the students what happened upon me. I needed time to process and ponder.
After the devotional morning time, I took time to call home. I called Mom, and Mom was crying. I shed tears as I heard Mom weeping. That day was Sunday; we had a service on the retreat. I cried all throughout the service. I crashed and burned. I told God, “Lord, my dad passed away and I am serving you here”. After that Sunday service, I lingered to keep everything inside myself. I was planning to tell someone after finishing one session that I had to lead that night. When I was alone garnering my strength to tell a friend about my situation, I heard knockings on my door. Two of my friends came. They rushed into me and hugged me. They knew it. Apparently, a relative has posted something about death’s dad on Facebook. I couldn’t help but cry when they hugged me. Five minutes later, another three of my friends came. I told them the whole story and then we prayed. They encouraged me to go home soon and to not worry about sessions I had to do. But I insisted to stay because my flight would be in the next morning. I stayed until evening for a session that I had to handle. By the end of the session, one of my senior colleague informed the whole retreat about my Dad’s dead. I saw empathic faces from the stage; some were weeping. They prayed together for me and my family.
When I left the retreat site, one student that I mentored came to me and hugged me. He said that I’ve been a good role model for him. This young man used to be an atheist when we met the first time. He joined my small group and then came to faith. I thanked him back for being present in my hard time. I left with my thoughts all over the place: my Mom, my siblings, my family, and my memories with Dad.
God solaced me through brothers and sisters of faith when I dealt with loss. Through them I felt God’s presence as I walked through that difficult moment in my life. In hindsight, I see I had experienced something deep and transcendent about community.