Several times over the past day and a half I have had to leave whatever room I was in to just go and cry. It is like someone has just punched me in the stomach and I cannot breath for a short while. I remember after my mom’s death twenty years ago feeling breathless in pain too many times to count; this same unwelcome feeling has resurfaced since the shocking news that my dear friend Praise Goh died suddenly on Monday in Los Angeles.
Praise had been in Singapore and then Thailand for a relative’s wedding and then some R & R until a week ago. She returned home, and started to have pain in her neck. Several trips to the doctor’s landed her with muscle relaxers… and then on Sunday, at church, the pain became more severe and had spread into her lungs/heart area. Our friend Beth took her to the E.R., where she was admitted. The symptoms got worse. That night they had to put her on a ventilator; the doctors were working hard to figure out what was incredibly wrong with her body. One lung collapsed; her heart was working hard to fight the infection. The next morning as family and friends were gathered in the waiting room, her heart stopped for four minutes and she was revived. The second time they could not bring her back; the friend that so many many have loved had passed away that quickly. The doctors still do not know what had caused this – they suspect a powerful viral infection that she had picked up the previous week overseas.
Praise has been a friend from our L.A. church for the past twelve years or so — since she was a teenager. Almost exactly a year ago, Praise came to Sanda and stayed with our family for several weeks. She was a God-send – quite literally. She and our friend Becky came and ministered wonderfully to our mission children while we had a fall retreat; then they both stayed on to do some ministry with us in Sanda. Praise stayed another week after Becky had to return home.
Here are just some of the things that I love about Praise:
1. She jumped right into my relationships and friendships with Japanese. She really was gifted cross-culturally. Her heart’s desire was to eventually serve in the Philipines and work there with street children.
2. She loved Japan – the culture, the people. She hoped to come back to Japan next year to work and pay off school loans before becoming a fulltime missionary. How much would I have loved to have her close to us for longer?
3. She wanted people to know Jesus like she did. (Wow – as I write this- I realize how much MORE she knows of Jesus right now than she ever could have imagined.!!..) I asked her to share a short testimony after one of our ladies’ English classes. She shared a story about a time when she went horse-back riding and she couldn’t get the horse to turn in the direction of the green grass, where it could have eaten in a wonderful meadow. And how she realized she can be like that with God — where He has a wonderful plan for each of us but sometimes we resist what is really the best thing for us… A month later, our friend Naoko, who had been in the class, accepted Christ. She shared that one thing that had affected her decision was Praise’s testimony. Yesterday, as I shared with Naoko about Praise’s death, she was able to recount almost word for word Praise’s sharing to some other friends. (Naoko is on the left in the photo below)
4. We shared real life together. I am not sure how to say this- but she really entered my life, and gave me the privilege of sharing in hers. She has been here with me at critical junctures. She was the first one to visit the pink and purple house with me (see previous blog) and pray about it.
One of my favorite memories is a hard one to remember because it makes me cry almost every time I remember it. We were sitting at the edge of our dining room table holding baby Yuu (not named Ian yet). We were still just fostering him. But I started to share how attached I was to him and confused about what God seemed to be saying in terms of us keeping him or not. We sat there and prayed together – and cried together. It was two sisters with the same heart of love for this little one…. When I was in L.A. later in December and we had to decide about keeping him, again she cried and prayed with me. I will always think of Praise when I think of my early days with our fourth child and the process in which God guided us.
5. She loved Ian so much! There is a picture of Ian I had posted on Facebook, and she wrote “The love of my life!” I think they bonded when he was just two months old and she tirelessly carried him all over. They had a special relationship. It breaks my heart that she cannot see him grow up.
6. Praise celebrated every day of life. She lived for THAT day. Whatever we were doing became great fun because she threw herself into it. I love this picture below… She and Becky and I went sightseeing in Kyoto, and she nonchalantly joined this school boys’ photo. She modeled not living in the past nor in the future, but living in the NOW.
7. She made every child she knew feel so special; and every parent think that they had the greatest children in the world. When Olivia and I were in L.A. last December, Praise took her for the day and they toured the Long Beach Aquarium and went running on the beach. Olivia still sleeps every night with the stingray named “Stinky” that Praise bought her there as a gift. One day when Owen had a school holiday Praise and I took the two boys to a nearby amusement park… Praise was part of Annie’s birthday party this summer at Becky’s home… She babysat for them when we were back this summer. All of our children adored her…
8. She was a great source of encouragement to me, even from afar. If you were to go through old blog entries or Facebook photos, you would find the various entries that Praise wrote at just the right time when I needed to hear those words (just last week she posted on the previous blog entry). I was greatly blessed to get a long email update from her a week before she died… She shared a lot of the spiritual journey she has been on recently — what God has been teaching her — some exciting updates in her life. And of course she ended with words of encouragement. Praise– I am going to miss the way you have spoken into my life with so much love!
9. She loved Hawaii and everything about it! Our Japanese ladies had a great time learning hula dance from her when she was here. We had hoped for a time when it would work for our paths to cross there.
10. She was a great sport! Perfect prey for a practical joker who knows a bit more about the culture than she does… We laughed so hard – even days later — about a hot springs practical joke that I pulled on her (written up here) Here we are enjoying the hot springs, before and after the joke…
11. She was an amazing amateur photographer… especially of children. She captured our children’s expressions so incredibly…
12. Eric and I were talking last night and he said, “she represented the hope for the world.” Her vivaciousness; her spunk; her free spirit; her celebrating life; loving children and people of different cultures…. Her deep calling to children and missions… the many youth she has mentored, the children she has loved, the friends she has brought joy to, the way that she embraced Jesus in her life. Those who didn’t know Praise may think we are being a bit sappy after her death, but those who knew her, know that we are not. She was an amazing woman; her life remains an incredible example to many of us of a woman sold out to Jesus and determined to find joy in the journey. I am more than sad that she will not be walking any more on my life journey with me nor with the hundreds of others who were inspired by her; but her life will remain a praise to our Savior of a life well-lived.