Thursday, May 26, 2022

Grief's Lessons

Grieving is likened sometimes to running a marathon. It feels like there is no end in sight. But I trust that there will be a resolution at some point and I will see nothing but goodness at the finish line. Meantime I have to learn to live with the maelstrom of emotions that I can't ignore because I may miss what it has to teach me.

Allow me to share some more of my stories of grief moments in my running blog. Thank you for following my blog. In time I will be back to my running stories.

The Watches

While doing some spring cleaning, I opened a drawer and there I saw Jinky's small collection of watches inside a turquoise-colored velvet cloth bag. Jinky liked watches. She had watches for different occasions. I remember her showing off to me how her watch and wardrobe match every time we go out. Unfortunately, when her cancer turned for the worse, she hadn't had a chance to wear them at all since we couldn't go out as much. Worse, she found out too that a lot of the watches stopped working. One day she asked me if I could bring the watches to a repair service. I said yes I would, but I put off her request for a few days, wondering why she actually needed it soon.  Eventually I took the watches for repair but sadly the repairman didn't have the right specialized tools for her classic pieces. When I told her the news, her head and shoulder dropped, feeling disappointed just like a child, being unable to play outside. My heart just sunk. I couldn't bear see her sad and crestfallen.

Looking back, I pondered on this event. Why did she urgently wanted the watches repaired at that time. Perhaps Jinky longed to be healthy again for an occasion to wear a watch in good condition. Perhaps she wanted those watches ready to wear them when the time comes. But perhaps, if she doesn't live longer, she was also symbolically getting herself ready, when her time comes. 

A Son's Tribute

Jinky's Celebration of Life
File photo from 3/25/2011

At Jinky's Funeral Mass, Tim (he was 14 years old then) spoke and said, "I wish I could take away your pain, Mom. If there's any way, God please take it away away from her. If you have to, give it to me. I can take it. If I could've done that, I would've done it again, and again, a hundred times. Just for my Mom. And when I said that, she was asleep when I looked at her, I could see a tear rolling down her cheek. That was the first time I saw her cry her whole sickness."

Tim and I celebrated Mother's Day (the first time without her) with an early morning Mass. During the blessing, I raised up a picture of Jinky when the priest asked all mothers to stand up. Jinky always proudly stood up during this time of the Mass every Mother's Day. That morning, Tim and I visited her at the cemetery. We spent some time talking and reminiscing Jinky's favorite things to do. It was a lot of fun and I thought it was a really special moment for us to share memories.

Tim also said in his tribute: "There was a point that I'd tell her that I love her and she'd just open her eyes and say I love you too. And then she'd close her eyes again. That was using all of her strength just to say that. And there came a point that she couldn't even respond. And I knew that I had to let her go. I  had to tell her that it's okay. Me and Dad would be fine here. We'll take care of each other. Don't worry, we'll be okay. But it's hard to be okay. It's hard."

Tim and I had our own tearful grieving moments that particular Mother's Day. But one thing we realized as we shared joyful memories, is that our grief is also a gift. It's allowing us to honor the tie that bind us even stronger now - our common loss in the person of Jinky. Although it's hard, our grief reminds Tim and I of our own capacity to love and take care of each other.

God's Moments

One day I found myself just crying while holding in my hand the receipt from the restaurant of our last dinner date. I also saw a box of her medications which reminded of how much she fought to outlive her illness. I also read our love letters that she kept where she wrote about our plans and dreams as a family.

I was feeling so heartbroken. But as I carried on with cleaning up, I realized I was making progress. I was able to box her clothes for donation. I organized her scrapbook materials. I was able to file the  important documents I still want to keep. I just kept going and before I knew it, I accomplished a lot cleaning up her closet. Awkward as it felt after crying a river when I started cleaning up, I now wanted to celebrate.

I thanked God I was able to sort Jinky's things and grieve. I realized that sometimes, grief is undefinable but you need to go through it to get through it. I call it God's moments. You can't explain but when you just let it be, it has the power to transform you to be the best that you can be.


How can I pray for you today? In the light of the tragic event of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, I offer my sympathy and prayers to the families of the 19 children and two teachers who died. As a teacher myself, this tragedy touches me to the core. Hug a loved one today and tell them how much you care for them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Grieving Runner

My blog is back. Last May 17th was my late wife Jinky's birthday. As you may know, she is the inspiration for the Praying Runner and this blog.

It's been a few years since my last entry simply because I stopped writing. But I continued to run and do races. I'm actually now at 62 marathons. 

I'm confident to share with you that running (and any exercise) and writing can help you heal and recover from sadness and grief.

However, some events in my life lately have just brought me back to some level of grieving over losing Jinky 11 years ago. Inevitably, that is just but the nature of grief - it ebbs and flows.

To help me cope, I decided to return to writing in my blog. This comeback entry is nothing about running but all about my reflections during the first few days after Jinky died. These are actually excerpts from my eulogy delivered on March 24, 2011. 

Allow me to share my thoughts about grief with you. And allow me to share some more in my succeeding blog entries. I might be able to help one or two people out there who are grieving over a loved one. For sure, writing this entry is helping me process my current grief feelings; thus the title - The Grieving Runner.

So here are some excerpts...

The Kiss

On our wedding day, standing at the foot of the altar for our photo ops, Jinky and I were standing side by side, with her arms around me lovingly, and smiling in front of the camera and everyone in church. I could still remember Jinky soaking in the moment. While me, my mind was floating and thinking and worrying about the details of the wedding reception. When the photographer told us to kiss each other, she turned to me right away, prepared to give me her sweetest kiss. But here I was, still running in my head details I might have overlooked about the reception. So I turned to her but only halfway with my mouth twisted towards her lips while my eyes looking the opposite way towards the direction of the reception place. But then, Jinky calmly and tenderly turned my face straight facing her and she told me, "Joey, be in the  moment. I love you, and I am here. Now, come on, and give me a big kiss."

What Are You Praying For?

During the last few months of her life, Jinky stayed in bed most of the time, resting and praying. And one night I asked her, "Love, what are you praying for?" And she said, "I'm praying that God gives me a longer life. I still want to see my future grand kids. I still want to go out and travel the world with you. I still want to get stronger so I can go running with you. I still want to spend more time with you and care for you." She stopped talking and gave a big sigh. "But look how sick I am. I think I'm asking for a miracle."

My Rock

One day, Jinky started talking incoherently and was responding gibberish to my questions. She was having a seizure. Though it lasted a few minutes, it felt like she wasn't coming out of it. And I said to myself, "Oh no! She's the only one who knows the PIN to our one and only ATM card." I panicked because she might lose her memory completely before she could pass the PIN to me. When she recovered from that seizure, she started turning over to me a lot of the things that she did for the household. Honestly I was very afraid to lose her because she was my pillar, my rock. I depended on her on a lot of things. I can't run a household without her. I can't raise a family without her. But most of all, I can't lose my wife and partner for life.

Crying My Goodbye

It was just a matter of time. A few days before she died. I laid down next to her in bed. She was very weak she could only turn her head partially towards me. She made a barely audible sound as if she wanted to say something. She tried to move her arm up as if to embrace me, but her arm just dropped back to her side. So I gently put my arm around her and turned my face to her ear. And before I could say a word, I just broke down in tears. I was crying trying to say goodbye.

Every Moment is God's

It's been only a few days since she died, and I miss her terribly. I have been reflecting on her death and how early and young God took her. So I prayed for wisdom to understand. Then two days ago (before  her funeral), I went to the barber shop for my haircut and shave. It was one of Jinky's bedside wish to make sure I look handsome during the funeral. So there I was sitting on the barber's chair, grieving and praying for an answer. And of all places, God talked to me at the barber shop. I was in deep grief over losing Jinky, but God talked to me in prayer, "Joey,...Jinky was mine. And I loved her all this time." And immediately I remembered our wedding day. How bubbly and joyful she was, savoring the time, being in the moment, giving love and accepting love. Never letting a moment slip away to smile at everyone, and never letting worries bother her or stop her from giving the best of herself to others, especially to me. Jinky was always present in the moment.


What can I pray for you today? How can I be reminded every day to love every moment and make it my purpose to live life to the full?