“On a rainy day…about things long lost in my empty heart; At the harbor late at night…about places that won’t return to my empty heart,” thus cries Choi Baek-ho, in his song “About Romance.” Choi is Korea’s legendary artist who is quite popular among middle-aged men, and it’s not hard to understand why. His voice and emotions touch the hidden, unspoken issues of loneliness and isolation affecting so many people in their middle years.

The first time I heard “About Romance” was about 10 years ago through a church member. He then was in his mid-70s, but young at heart. I still vividly remember the way he sang and loosely danced to the rhythm. There was always a uniquely fun and cheerful side about him, but his life was far from a bed of roses. He was at the brink of death, not once but a few times, during the Korean War; and he underwent a serious business failure in his later years. Because I know his life story, something in me cried with him when he sang, “things long lost…”

A retired pastor in his 80s gave me a call a few days ago. After wishing me ‘Merry Christmas,’ the first thing he said was, “My close friends are passing away. When my time comes, I trust you’ll do my funeral?” I answered him, “Pastor, let’s try to live in the moment. Stay healthy so that you and I can go fishing together when the pandemic is over.” And I added, “We still got so much to be thankful about. You speak excellent English; you still are being asked to preach two to three times a month. You raise your own garden. You are one blessed retired pastor! I aspire to be like you someday.” His conclusion was, “You take good care of yourself. I was thinking about your late father who went to heaven too early. God bless you with long life and long years in ministry.”

A lot has been lost amid the pandemic this year. This year has pushed us to be more thankful for the things we had taken for granted, as well as for the things that still remain. The pain of loss is real, and the grief is a testimony to how much we have loved. We will all leave someday empty-handed, but the time we spent loving will never go to waste. And our final consolation is that God’s perfect love came down to forever recover all that is lost in us. To live by faith, I believe, is to live by the power of this restoring love.

I look back at how much time I spent in search of misplaced items this year. I’ve been frequently dropping my hearing aids while taking off my mask and it just has been a big hassle every time. As for the misplaced glasses, I finally found them with a broken frame. Searching for lost keys has become another part of the routine. My back has been hurting since the heavy snow day shoveling earlier this month, and this week, my knees started to ache. Thinking about this whole situation, I just burst out laughing. While laughing I realized that God always stretched out his hands when I was in need. Most of all, God always came to find me when I could not recover myself.

At the turn of the year, I am just grateful that I am here. In whatever shape and form that I’m still standing, being here right now is a blessing and sign of God’s unfailing grace. Thank you, everyone, for being and walking with me through the year 2020.