Thursday, February 4, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Ps 23; Wis 3:1-5, 9; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 35-38, 42-44, 53-58; Jn 6:37-40
Good afternoon. My name is Thomas Eoyang, Jr., Tommy to my family. I’m Eugene Eoyang’s youngest brother. Most of us here refer to the one whose life we celebrate today as Por Por, but I hope you don’t mind if I call her what I’ve called her since childhood—Auntie Frances—because to me and to my siblings she and Uncle Eddie were more truly our aunt and uncle than any of the aunts and uncles we were related to by blood.
The two families, the Lees and the Eoyangs, have had a close relationship since long before Eugene and Pat got married. We form a clan of families interwoven by multiple threads. Uncle Eddie and my father were members of the same fraternity that brought New York area Chinese families together for summer reunions and Christmas parties. Pat and my sister Lillian were childhood playmates. My two brothers and I attended the Horace Mann School because Myron had attended before us. Pat, Lillian, and I all studied under the same piano teacher.
And new threads continued to be woven after Eugene and Pat were married. One of the more recent connections has never been properly acknowledged. When Elizabeth Lee was an undergraduate at Stanford, she visited my mother regularly at her Palo Alto home. Liz, we’ve never adequately thanked you for the time you spent with my mother in her sometimes lonely widowhood. I know it gave her comfort and stimulation to have the attention of a young person at that time in her life. Thank you for forming that relationship; thank you for sharing a part of your life with her during that period.
But I come before you now not as the baby brother of the Eoyang family, but as a priest in God’s Church, Episcopal division. And I come not to speak of the loving relationships among the Lees, the Aus, and the Eoyangs, nor to speak of the rich and amazing life of Frances Lee. I come to speak to you of the resurrection, because every service celebrating the life of someone whose earthly journey has ended is an Easter service. Even though we gather in mourning and sadness, my priestly duty is to speak of the resurrection, to remind us all that in a life of faith death never has the last word. And I’m aware that this will be a bit of an uphill climb, as we’re not all in the same place regarding the church and Christian faith.
For those of us who hear the word “resurrection” and think only that it signifies Christianity’s willful defiance of the laws of biology, allow me to review the story very quickly. God did not just pick some ordinary person to rise from the dead so that there would be one more unlikely religious doctrine to befuddle our gift of reason. The one whom we believe rose from the dead came into the world to teach, to preach, to feed, to heal, and to show by his words and his example what a new, transformed way of living a human life could look like. He stood firmly on the foundation of the Hebrew prophets who spoke of an abundant world where abundance would be shared; a peaceful world where weapons of destruction would be turned into the tools of farming, nation would not lift up sword against nation, neither would they learn war any more; a just world, where the oppression of one human being by another, or of one people by another people, would be resisted and overcome.
This teacher convinced a body of followers that this vision of the world as it could be was achievable if there could be a transformation of heart, if human beings could learn to act more often out of generosity than avarice, more often out of compassion than cruelty, more often out of justice than envy. He convinced them that this vision was in fact God’s vision and intention for humanity, God’s dream for us all.
But at the same time, the ruling powers of that historical moment, including the Roman Empire and the local Jewish state, saw the subversive power of this man’s teaching, and because such a radical transformation of the world would clearly threaten their interests, they executed him in a manner commonly prescribed for low-life criminals.
His followers were of course heart-broken and terrified by the death of their beloved teacher. But in their mourning and sadness, they realized their experience of him had been so powerful, so life-changing, so unprecedented, that they continued to feel not only his spiritual presence but his physical presence. Moved by the power of that presence, and by a spirit they called the Holy Spirit, they committed body and soul to continuing his ministry: to teach, to preach, to feed, to heal, and to show by word and example the transformed way of being human that he taught them.
This body of followers grew into a broad movement, and the movement grew into an extraordinarily successful and powerful institution. And, like all powerful human institutions, over time the church itself fell prey to many of the evil and oppressive human tendencies that we have not yet learned to overcome. But, inspired by the ever-renewing, constantly repeating experience of the resurrection, Christian faith and the church in every generation have also tried to call humanity back to that original transformative vision that Jesus taught his followers, that vision of shared abundance, of peace, of justice.
So what does any of this have to do with Auntie Frances? At least two things. Two very important things without which being human in this broken world hardly seems worth the effort: hope and love. The resurrection is possibly the most outlandish statement ever devised about the necessity and the power of hope: hope in the face of evil; hope in the face of oppression; hope in the face of death. A famous African American theologian once said, “Without hope you die, and there are a lot of dead people walking around.” If there’s one thing Auntie Frances showed with her life, it was the tenacity of hope. Facing repeatedly the oppression of systemic and professional racism in this country, she and Uncle Eddie persisted. In the thick of the deadliest and most global war in human history, they persisted. Facing the loss of her great love, her great partner in life, she persisted. Facing a lengthening old age, which many people find tedious and mortally depressing, she persisted. That degree of persistence, I would argue, does not happen without a deep well of hope, an indomitable will to wake up each morning to see what the new day will bring, a fundamental even if unstated sense that the world can be a better, safer, and more just place tomorrow than it is today.
And what of love? Is there any need to point out that every word you have heard spoken this afternoon is testament to the fierce, nurturing, quirky, and abundant love that Auntie Frances showered upon her husband, her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and upon all of us privileged to know her; that her story from beginning to end is not only a story of persistence and accomplishment, of struggle and success, but above all a story of love? I have only to add that love is the through-line, the generative, foundational force of God’s story, of God’s dream for us. It is love that transforms our hearts, so that we in turn can transform the world to become the world that God intends.
Jesus says in the gospel of John, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” For me this passage is a statement of the law of the conservation of the human spirit, something akin to the law of the conservation of matter and energy: nothing is lost, nothing is wasted in God’s economy, in God’s physics.
My other brother Carson and his wife Kemay are grieving the loss of her mother earlier this year. My own parents departed this earth fifteen and twenty-three years ago. So, from my corner of this interwoven clan of families, all the members of that generation have now left us. But nothing is lost, nothing is wasted. We are all the heirs and the conservators of their legacy: their struggle and success, their spirit, their hope, and their love. In large part because of their legacy, this clan is rich beyond most people’s imagining in material things, in education, in professional accomplishment. The question I put before all of us now is what do we do with this abundance? To what purposes can we apply all the gifts that have been given to us?
Myron has said that Auntie Frances lived the American dream. As a beloved matriarch surrounded by generations of descendants, she can truly be said to have lived, also, the Chinese dream. In light of all that we have been given, in light of the legacy of abundance to which we are heirs, what I invite us all to do now is to think even bigger than either of those dreams, and to ask how we may enter into God’s dream—God’s dream of a world that is more peaceful, more loving, more compassionate, and more just than the world we have inherited.
By teaching us not just to do well, but to do good and to do right, by showing us through her words and example how to love, Auntie Frances, whether consciously or not, participated in the dream of God and left her corner of the world a better place than what she inherited. It is our turn now to make sure that nothing is lost, nothing is wasted. It is our turn now to work toward the world God dreams for us.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
It is astounding to me how flexible she was, even until the end. At the age of 90, she could undergo intensive surgery and relocate to the West coast (from a home she had lived in for over 40 years!)
Not only did she move once, but every year she also moved to Utah for the winter months. She actually enjoyed Salt Lake because it was an exciting city environment and had more stores. Also the altitude in Utah was not as high, and therefore not so taxing on her.
There have been many amazing support people who contributed to Por Por's long life. The woman in the turquoise Chinese jacket entering is Susan, the nurse who loved Por Por very much. I'm certain that Susan prolonged Por Por's life, in many ways. Not only in her wonderful care, but Susan stimulating Por Por by chatting with her all the time. She endured Por Por's complaints with infinite patience.
Susan said whenever Por Por was edgy, Susan would mend her clothes. That calmed her down. It was such a gift that Susan was with Por Por in those difficult years when she was physically challenged and needed help with everything. They truly had an understanding and a language together.
I posted many videos hoping that the family will enjoy seeing those "Day in the Life" moments she had with us. Please feel free to comment with stories and reminiscences. Again, I apologize that it's so Lee-centric. Growing up, it seems the other families really got to know Por Por and Gung Gung and spent much more time with them. We were too young for that, and lived a fair distance from them.
We (the Lees) are so lucky that we had this time with her, at the end of her life. I believe she had three sisters: Golden Phoenix, Jade Phoenix, and she was Lucky Phoenix. Watching these videos, I feel that we are the lucky ones. --Elizabeth
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
to the American Cancer Society.
Frances Moy Lee died on December 6th, two days after her 101st birthday.
Born Frances Gum Moy, on December 4, 1908, in Providence, Rhode Island, she was the daughter of Pink Fun Moy — of San Francisco; New York City; New Bedford, Massachusetts; Providence and Newport, Rhode Island — and Fong She, his second wife. Frances graduated at the top of her class at Julia Richmond High School in 1926, and earned an Accounting degree with honors from New York University in 1930, as well as winning a New York State Regent’s Prize. She was of one of the few women of that era — certainly, one of the few Chinese-American women — to earn a college degree.
In 1930, she married Edward Wonkai Lee; they had three children: Georgia (deceased), of Greenwich, CT; Myron, of Incline Village, Nevada; and Patricia, of Bloomington, Indiana; and Hong Kong. Frances raised her family through the vicissitudes of the Depression and World War II, and survived the vagaries of life in the United States and China during the 30’s and 40’s; in China, she was secretary to the President of Lingnan University in Kwangchow (Guangzhou), and she served as a translator-interpreter in the U. S. Consulate in Hong Kong until she and her family were repatriated in 1942. In 1950, she and her husband opened the West Lake Chinese Restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, which they owned and managed for twenty-five years.
She is survived by her son and younger daughter, nine grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.
I had to break this video into segments. Por Por was having some trouble walking at this point, and Sue and I were both worried about her standing for too long. Of course, she was fine. The scissors were sharp, but very bulky. She had no trouble giving Sue a fine haircut.
Por Por was still giving herself a stunning red manicure. She took such great care of herself, it's no wonder she lived to 101.
It's probably one of my earliest memories of Por Por, when she cut Beverly's amazing head of hair in the Monroe house. --E.
Monday, January 25, 2010
She'd use her cane for many things. I remember at Laurence and Adina's wedding, she hit Laurence's friend with her cane, because he was standing up and blocking her view.
Unfortunately, the fan sound really impairs the audio in this video. --Elizabeth