Grief, Love, Honor, and Remembering Randel

To Randel’s Beloved Family:

Here is the message I shared at the funeral. May its truths bring comfort today and for the days of grief that lie ahead.

With God’s comfort, Pastor Hong

  1. Message of Encouragement – Pastor Steven Hong
    1. Standing here is a deja vu experience. Why?
      1. I stood here 18 years ago officiating over the funeral for Randel’s mom. Some of you were here. So if you thought I looked familiar, that’s why, although I had no gray hair at the time. 
      2. But I met Randel well before his mom passed, over 30 years ago. I was about 25, Randel, 29.  At the time, I was helping design computer chips alongside Randel’s older brother King. One day, King invited a few of us from work over to Randel’s house. The occasion was of course, to play music. 
    2. Meeting Randel immediately left deep impressions on me that are probably obvious to many of you in this room.
      1. He was a madman musical arranger. It was the first time I’d heard anyone break down every instrument, arrange, balance,  and play back songs from a computer, and this was 1992 technology. I was in awe. 
      2. Yet with that musical talent and prowess, he was so down to earth. And had a love to share his music with others. I was one of the recipients.
        1. Randel taught  me songs I still play to this day, and I’ve gone on to teach many students since with the songs he taught me. 
        2. Not only that, Randel made a mix tape for me with some of these songs. I’ve since converted that tape to mp3 and its on regular rotation on my iPhone. No joke, writing this message of encouragement, i was listening to that mix tape. 
    3. Let’s go Back to this present moment…As I’ve been meeting with Randel’s siblings and his beloved widow Madeline over the course of the past several weeks, we made space to process Randel’s unexpected passing. In doing so,  3 words came to mind that characterize how I experienced Randel those many years ago. And these three words are this: love, honor, and presence.
      1. I think about how Randel was a caregiver for his own mother during her last season of life. To be a caregiver is not for the faint of heart especially caregiving one’s own mother. What a beautiful picture of reciprocal love, a role-reversal that harkens back to Randel’s mom caring for him when he was wholly dependent on her. In Randel’s mom’s last season, she was wholly dependent on him. What love. 
      2. I think about Randel’s presence expressed in the many soccer games he attended of the nieces and nephews. And of course, the legacy of music evidenced by the special music. It’s not so much that Randel liked those songs, but those songs point to the lessons and jam sessions sharing between Randel and his nephews and nieces. 
      3. So love, presence, and lastly honor.
        1. Randel honored others; he lifted them up.
          1. That’s what i experienced whenever we played music together. He taught me parts he could have easily played himself, and better still, he then gave me a platform to play them. Although Randel could easily be a one man band, he instead used his musical skills to lift up other people. 
          2. When he was caregiving for his mother, he honored her
        2. And honor too, like love is reciprocal.
          1. Some of you know that honor is a very celebrated Chinese value.
            1. It ties into having good “face”
            2. It’s why our banquets are often started late
            3. It’s why deciding where to go eat lunch often takes longer. 
            4. It’s why you often see Chinese fighting for the check after going out. 
          2. The fact that you’re here is an honor to Randel’s memory. The fact that some of you have flown in from the Midwest, and I’m told really close friends from Canada are here too.
      4. With Randel’s unexpected passing, a 4th word comes to the foreground: grief 
    4. My message of encouragement for us today is simply this:  grief, love, honor, and presence can all coexist in the same space.
      1. May I direct your attention to the program, in particular the Poem called “Thoughts” written by Randel’s widow. I’ll be honest, this is the most beautiful lament, a poem of grief I’ve read seen in a funeral. But Madeline’s words also speak of the love they shared, a love shared cooking their many meals together, a love that built a dream to retire in Belize. And a love that today expresses itself in grief and loss. 
      2. Enhancing the beauty of her poem is the fact that our ancestral roots, incidentally the roots of almost all immigrant from China pre 1965, are Hoisan. We are the people who built this side of the transcontinental railroad and who settled in the first Chinatowns across the US.
        1. So why is that beautiful? Hoisan people, and Chinese people overall are not known to display much emotion. Too much display of joy or sorrow can slow down, even  our inner energy, the chi, and can get you sick. 
        2. Unfortunately, the myth that displaying too much emotion is bad for you has gotten into funerals I’ve attended where there’s little space to grieve, as if it’s bad for you, a sign of weakness, or perhaps can really get you sick.   In those funerals,  you hear words like
          1. Don’t cry (Don’t feel bad. He or she is in a better place (rationalize)
          2. Be strong for others  (as if grieving were a sign of weakness)
          3. Just give it time 
    5. The scripture I read earlier gives sanction for this irony, that grief and love and honor can beautifully coexist together. But more than that, grief and love and honor actually enhance each other. Let me draw this message of encouragement to a close by connecting what we’ve talking about with the Scripture that was read earlier. 
    6. Lam 3:24 proclaims “Great is Your faithfulness”
      1. This is easily the most famous chorus of the verses i read. These are words of praise, words of honor. 
      2. Some of us might know songs or hymns fronted by these famous words.
      3. Others of us might have read the whole book of Lamentations from which these famous words came from. For those who have, you’ll know that the whole context of the book is about grief and lament, hence the name of the book, Lamentations. 
      4. And if you read a  bible with study notes, they’ll tell you that the 22 verses in ch 1 and 2 form an acrostic, following the Hebrew alphabet from Alex to Tav, as if to suggest that grief needs to be fully simmered, from A-Z. 
      5. Ch 3 has 66 verses, which is 3 times 22. Now instead of each letter occupying 1 verse, each letter occupies 3 verses. In musical terms, we’ve playing cut time. In this case, each note if you will is lengthened by a factor of 3.
        1. For the 2% of you who still drive a stick shift, the author has shifted down to first gear. Really steeped in his grief, and really taking it in from all angels. 
        2. Then right smack in the middle of this grief, he writes these famous words, Great is thy faithfulness
        3. It’s as if God’s faithfulness can be found most vividly against a backdrop of grief, heavy, unexpected grief.
          1. When I read Madeline’s poem, I’m struck by its heavy, unexpected grief. 
    7. Couple more things I want to say about grief.
      1. The fact that music was one of Randel’s passions is quite fitting. The ancient hymnbook of the Bible is the book of Pslams. And in it, the most populous genre or type of Psalm are ones of lament. 
      2. Last observation I need to make about grief. Today is the day between Good Friday and Easter. Jesus died on Good Friday, not just for our guilt, but for our shame. In the 1st century, the cross was more a symbol of shame than any thing else.
        1. Of course, this is not just a 1st century idea, but a huge Chinese idea, the idea of saving face. Today, it’s not just an Asian idea, but w social media, shame is the silent epidemic of this generation. 
      3. So tomorrow, Easter, Jesus, the suffering servant, one familiar with grief. This Jesus resurrects from the dead, and offers righteousness and honor
    8. Today we grief the loss of Randel. Tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade, we’ll continue to grieve the loss of Randel. Grief is long-term. But accompanying this grief will be memories of how Randel uniquely embodied such love, presence, and honor. 
    9. The Good News is the grief, love, honor, and presence can exist together. We don’t need to be scared of them. And rather than the parts of Chinese thought that showing too much grief can make you sick, because of the work of Jesus on Good Friday and  Easter, grief can actually make you well. Let me encourage you. Let’s learn from Jesus, the suffering servant, the one who most familiar with grief, and love, and presence. Amen.


  1. Cindy Yee Au on April 30, 2024 at 9:39 pm

    Really beautiful message!! I hope many were blessed by it.

  2. Susan on May 1, 2024 at 11:26 am

    Wow, Steve. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this out with your readers. Lamentations is such a book for our times.

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