I have been asked by Rev. Miak Siew to deliver a eulogy as we bid goodbye to our friend and brother, Tony Tan. Although I cannot be present physically, I am happy and honoured to be able to address all of you today.
I first met Tony when I flew over to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur for the Amplify Conference in September 2014. We met in the little room at Free Community Church that served as a pantry during the Conference. Tony was very friendly, and we chatted a little. It was not long, however, before I learned that Tony was a good friend of Henry Yeo, whom I had met in another Amplify Conference in Hong Kong in 2012. These unexpected but delightful connections soon materialised in the three of us spending time together for dinner in the evenings after the day ended at the Conference. In between mouthfuls of food at Bugis and Changi, I learned of Tony’s difficult but courageous past. I discovered that he had a career that involved a lot of travelling. I was very touched when he shared the journey of his self-discovery, of how his coming to terms with himself was not without heartache and pain. My heart rejoiced and ached with him in his many joys and sorrows.
Although I had just met Tony, I told myself that this was a man who had seen more of life and love than me. In some strange and ironic way, the fact that Tony was doing his best to make sense of his life’s complexities was comforting to me. It helped me realise that the process of understanding oneself as a human being was a lifelong process, and that nobody had the privilege of knowing all the answers. It helped me realise that this process was one in which God was very much present, and that God reveals God’s self through the joyous and sorrowful episodes of life. Hearing Tony’s struggles made me feel less alone, and reinforced my conviction that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5: 7).
There was one thing Tony said that I still remember vividly. He mentioned that it was his friend Henry who pulled him through his deepest moments of darkness, and introduced him to Free Community Church. It was not only what he said that struck a chord in my heart. It was the way he said what he said that remains with me to this day. Tony praised a few church members and criticised others, but he said these words in a way that one would expect of a person who admonishes his family members with love. Tony had lost a former life, but he found a new life and a new love in Free Community Church, a place where he felt that he belonged. The church motto, “Welcome Home,” rang especially loud and true for Tony.
I believe that our gathering today is not as much an occasion to say “goodbye” as it is to say “welcome home” to Tony. What we are doing here is that we are changing the tone and direction of wishing “welcome home” to Tony from Free Community Church to the everlasting arms of God. Those of us who are left behind are called to be “of good courage” (2 Cor. 5: 6) in mourning his loss. At the same time, we are called to keep Tony’s memory alive by cherishing his stories, his laughter, his silly and irritating yet lovable ways, his mini outbursts, his abiding sense of forgiveness, and his presence with us as one of us. Welcome home, Tony Tan, and from where you are now, guide us to discover our own paths to our true home with the One who loved us into existence, and who will greet us with warm embrace when our time comes.
Dedicated to my ‘aunty-in-Christ’, Tony Tan, who passed away in his sleep in January 2014.
© Joseph N. Goh | josephgoh [at] josephgoh [dot] org