Have you ever wondered how you would feel if your friends around you suddenly passed away? Would you regret something that you did or didn't do in his/her life? Somehow I question myself each year as I grow older whether I actually love and treasure the people around me, without taking everything for granted. That's why I want people around me to be happy, to love one another, and to provide support to them if needed.
Two years ago on August 22, a friend of mine, who was a devoted Christian, passed away in a motorcycle accident. It's hard to believe that it's been two years since Benji Cantwell left his band and his group of fans behind. Despite the fact that I know for sure that he is in better hands now, I still feel very sad and depressed about his death. I met Benji back in March 2004 when I was working out at the 24-hr fitness in Mountain View. He invited me to attend his church in Redwood City on Sunday and I gladly accepted. Somehow I was surprised to learn that most of the church members are not the typical wealthy white Christians you see in many Churches around Palo Alto. Many of them are actually Hispanic immigrants or Christians with a more "typical" or "average" American lifestyle. I enjoyed the diversity of the group and I started going to the weekly bible study held by Benji's brother, Josh Cantwell.
I really learned a lot during the time I spent with the Cantwell family. They are such a devoted, loving family. Benji had a great passion to use his music to spread the gospel to the people around him, though he was also a fun and compassionate person. I helped out Benji briefly during the preparation of his 2nd major CD release as he was gearing up to attend professional photoshoot and going to LA to do the mixing and recording. However, I became too busy and too involved in my own emotional affairs that I didn't put in as much effort as I wish. The last time I heard from him was in July when he told me that he just released his 2nd album and bought a new motorbike. He even sent me a picture of it. I was so happy to listen to the CD and ended up getting a few copies for my friends.
Well, even though Benji was gone, we can still help out his ministries by going to http://www.benjicantwell.org . You can purchase his CDs and see his performance! Most importantly, I encourage you to donate to his ministries. I know that's what Benji really wanted in his life. He wanted to have a positive impact on the people around him. I was the fortunate one to get to know him during his 25 years on earth.
Ng Kar-Yue, a high school friend of mine from Hong Kong, passed away this March because of heart failure. Despite being in the States, a group of our high school buddies contributed to send a bouquet of flowers to the funeral home where the memorial service took place. I was touched but happy that all of our high school buddies showed some sort of support together to "celebrate" his life even though we were thousands of miles away.
I knew Kar-Yue when I was in Secondary two (equivalent of the eighth-grade in US). When I looked at the time I spent at Queen's College (my middle and high school), I realized that I actually was never in the same class with Kar-Yue. We happened to know each other pretty well through our common friends including Albert Hsu and Manfred Lam. We ended up hanging out quite a bit when I was at Queen's College and after I returned from North Carolina in 1999. I still kept the book that Kar-Yue gave me when I was about to leave Hong Kong in August 1995 to start my undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After I became a Christian and returned to Hong Kong in 1999, Kar-Yue invited me to attend his church a few times and I went along once to check it out.
Kar-Yue is and will ever be a role-model of my life. Despite his heart conditions, he was very devoted in serving God in any ways he could. After he graduated from college, he worked in a community center to help immigrant kids. He spent endless hours in the center to encourage and educate the kids to make sure that they felt loved by someone. He took them out to movies, which many of the immigrant kids couldn't even afford. I read his website and learned so much how the work he did on each and every one of the kid in the center. Trust me, I don't understand how someone could be so selfless in helping other people. He gave more than 100% to the kids even thought it was just a job that he was having at the community center.
Everyone of us from high school has long known that Kar-Yue had a heart condition. However, he did very well in school and had never used his medical condition as an excuse for not participating in various activities. He worked hard at school and spent time outside school in many activities organized by the Christian organizations on campus. Just when all of us thought that he was doing excellent, he started getting ill again in December. No one would have predicted that this time, the hospital stay would be longer than before. I heard from my high school friends that during his funeral. The funeral hall was completed jam-packed with people. It showed that during his brief time on earth, he had a significant impact in changing the course of many people. Kar-Yue, I wish you well in Heaven.
The death of my college friend, Matt Cress, was a big blow in my life. Matt passed away this July in the hospital. After a battle with cancer and another battle with mental illness, Matt finally decided to end his life on earth. I was disheartened when I heard this news from Jason Lutz, my best buddy in college. I met Matt my junior year in college when both of us were involved in the Campus Crusade for Christ. A group of us including Matt went on to the Big Break in Panama City Beach in March 1998. Matt was sharing his stories about his battle with cancer and how he fought and won the war. It was a very touch and impressive life story. However, behind the happy face, no one knew that he was battling another war with his own mind. During the times that we hanged out, none of us really felt any different or strange about Matt. He was always very cheerful and positive in groups. You can read more about Matt's life on his girlfriend's myspace website.
I was disheartened when I learned about his suicide. After reading his suicide letter, I feel that I understand the pain he had been through all the years. I don't want to go into details about it on my post here but if you ask, I am more than happy to share with you. I couldn't help crying for a few days when I read and re-read his note. I feel the pain, the angry, the frustration, the loss of hope, and the despair within in words. I wish I had known about it. I wish people would have asked. I wish he would have shared it with us before his suicide. I wish....