He was called home to be with the Lord early morning on Saturday, having battled with cancer for many months.
I have delayed writing this post. For when I went with my cell group to visit him in hospital in new year's day and was so encouraged and moved by his unwavering faith and spirit and he shared with us, I even asked Robert if I could use his real name in my blog to which he smilingly gave his affirmative answer.
Now, I ended up writing a obituary of sort.. but not quite. I am just compelled to share as I saw how much his life has touched so many people, and in death he has left a legacy.
Of course most of us knew of him as a former newscaster, and the man with that deep golden voice. It was only in the last few years that I got to know him because of church ministries such as ISM and worship. I learned that he was truly someone who is really passionate for God's work and for people. He was 64 but had the enthusiasm and zeal of a 46 year-old.
When I knew that he was diagnosed with skin cancer some time last year, I wanted to join my friends to visit him at home. Somehow it got delayed and I subsequently saw him a couple of times in church and got to talk a little with him. And then his health condition took a bad turn end of last year, when cancer cells had spread to all the important organs. But all the while he remained optimistic, faithful and hopeful. To the very last day, he had never once complained or moaned about his pain and infirmity.
I visited him twice in the hospital - first on new year's day when he was fully alert but his strong deep voice had been reduced to half. And he was still very hopeful that God would heal him and give him 10 more years to live not that he's afraid to die but he wanted to serve God more on earth. That's what some of us have been pleading to God as well.
Then last Tuesday afternoon, as I was driving to hospital, I received an sms saying that Dr had given him 3 more days, my heart was heavy but I know I couldn't give up and even then Robert was fully alert. He called out my name when I walked towards his bed. His family was around and he struggled to want to introduce me to his children and siblings. Not wanting to make him talk, I just spent some time praying for/with him and I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Robert responded to my prayer with `Amens' intermittently, i could feel he was totally in God's hands. Although with a heavy heart, I felt peace and comfort because I knew God's peace and comfort was with him..
In the weeks that led to his home-coming, Robert had no short of visitors. And many church friends also had a chance to see him last at an appreciation evening that was organised specially for him - just less than 2 weeks before his real farewell. It shows how much he was loved and respected and although some may see the service as slight `morbid', Robert himself was really excited over it and although he could hardly speak much and had to be wheeled into the church with drips, his spirit was high..
And then, there's the wake service last night. As I entered into my church foyer, I saw colourful balloons, and then the auditorium itself was decorated with more balloons - including heart-shaped ones. Though unusual, I thought it was really refreshing and it would be something Robert would love to see. And true enough, I heard from another church friend that Robert had expressed his wish that his sending off would be a celebration! Indeed even the worship part was exuberant, our church choir singing along side a band of musicians (piano, guitar, bass, drums, violin and bongo) - it was the `loudest' wake service worship I've ever attended - true to the celebration spirit that Robert would have wanted.
I think many more people would have wanted to give their eulogy but the time ran out no thanks to an old friend of Robert whose long speech took up half an hour at least! Maybe it's hard to blame him for he does have many fond memories of his close friend of more than 20 years plus the fact that he is a public speaker who like Robert, could hog the mike with their commanding voice presence for a long time! :p
Personally, besides missing Robert as a friend and brother, I would miss his beautiful deep voice God has blessed him with. When the choir sang `You Raise Me Up', I was brought back to not that long ago, Robert was standing on that same stage as part of the worship team and sang the song. And on that stage, his trademark long yet commanding announcement to urge people to join and support the International Student Ministry which he was so much a part of.
The turnout at the wake service was enormous - the whole auditorium was almost filled to the brink. There were friends and relatives from all over - those who know him professionally, many from other churches, from The Giddeons (where he used to serve) etc.. From the few sharing we heard that gave a different side and perspective of Robert, one thing was sure. That Robert has indeed impacted many people, many lives in ways even beyond his own imagination. He has truly left a legacy.
As I walked past his casket to pay my last respect and bid farewell, I tried to hold back my tears. I was saddened.. but inside I thank and praise God that He loved Robert so much that now Robert is no longer suffering or in pain living in this corrupted world. His soul is in a far far better place with our Lord. And one day, when everything has come to an end, I know I will see him and other brothers and sisters in that place..
My tribute for Robert Lam is summed up in these scripture verses which Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:6-8
6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Farewell my brother. You'll be missed.