Footprints in the Sand - Thank you Peter Wong
Friday, August 19 2011 @ 08:19 AM
Peter Wong, a wonderful father, grandfather, husband, lawyer, engineer, and friend, founded MicahsCall.
Last night, as we held Peter's hands, we talked about footprints in the sand. Peter wanted us to know that in life, we might never know the impact of something we did or said, that only God might know. If we tried to measure our success by what was clearly visible, we might always feel like our lives fell short. This from a man who was surrounded by the most beautiful family one could imagine, a rainbow of diversity creatively connecting all the different continents of our planet into one household filled with light shining so brightly with love that, at times, it overpowered the sadness and anxiety we were all feeling.
"Did Grandpa take the medication yet?" One of the grandsons kept asking anxiously. Until now, any medication Peter took was to try to fight the cancer. This medication is intended to make Peter comfortable, take away any pain. Peter's prostate cancer, which he'd been valiantly fighting for three years, has spread to too many places. Peter has always loved to wrestle... no, not real down on the floor wrestling, but spiritually and philosophically. Pete's a man of very strong opinions, ones he comes to after a lot of wrestling. Whether he's wrestling with God, as has been the case in the last few months as he contemplated the Book of Job, or wrestling with family, friends and colleagues who are polar opposites on political, social, economical, or spiritual/religious perspectives, Peter is always up for a good discussion.
He's also a man who likes to take charge of situations, be in control. As much as one can be when battling cancer, Peter has been the captain of this ship for the last three years. While he's always known God was in charge, he's now handing the wheel over to God, on some things...
When we arrived last evening Peter's wife Evelyn made sure we had the order of worship Peter had meticulously planned for his memorial service. This was pure Peter! "Improvise if you have to." Peter told us. We talked the entire thing through, with Peter explaining why he had chosen each element. "Make sure you have a good budget for food!" He added, after we had thoroughly gone over things. Evelyn told Peter that she'd take care of all that. In a rare instance of ceding control, Peter nodded and said OK. "I just don't want any sit down dinner! Do a buffet." He couldn't help himself!
"What about MicahsCall?" Derrick asked. "What do you want us to do?"
"Get people to post!" Peter answered.
MicahsCall is just one of the many footprints Peter has made. When First Presbyterian Church Palo Alto decided after many years to stop having a weekly circle at the end of worship service, where people would share prayers of concern and joy as well as calls to action, Peter asked some friends if they thought we might be able to create a virtual circle, and the idea for MicahsCall was born. People could gather in this circle and share their prayers, calls to action, and call each other to wrestle with thorny issues like same-gender marriage, immigration, hunger, homelessness, economics, and other topics. Peter came to us with the idea because he knew we were tech geeks, who were also deeply committed to peacemaking and social justice. Together with a great volunteer leadership team, we built this platform.
Our team would gather around a table for lunch every few months, pushing the idea further and building it up. We spent a good chunk of those gatherings talking together, supporting each other, and praying, our own little circle. We all started to gain some momentum for MicahsCall, especially with Peter publishing his book, Let's Dialogue with the Christian Right. But then... Peter's cancer, big changes in careers, taking care of sick and dying parents, handling very difficult family issues, and other every-day life situations took much of our focus away. The footprints are here though, and we'll keep working to have those footprints continue down the beach.
What can you do? Join MicahsCall and post!
"Did Grandpa take the medication yet?"
A wonderful hospice team is supporting Peter and his family as Peter moves from wrestling against cancer to allowing himself to be comfortable. Peter has spent his life working to make sure his family, friends, and co-workers, were taken care of, treated fairly, comfortable... His own comfort always came last. Last night, before we left his room, he wanted to know what was happening with my father, who is in hospice, and Derrick's mother, who is about to leave her home of 50 years in Santa Barbara to move to a retirement community in Palo Alto. And... "What about Operation Marriage?" he asked. We hope that will be a pretty big footprint, much in thanks to Peter and Evelyn's encouragement and MicahsCall helping to raise money.
Even on a night like last night, Peter was thinking of others first. In the last few decades that passion and compassion drove him to apply his wrestling to the troubles facing our world. Inspired by people like Robert McAfee Brown, Sydney Brown, Sarah and Dick Johnson, and George Wilson, Peter became a fierce advocate for social justice for all people. A voracious reader and prolific writer, Peter turned his lawyer's analytic mind towards examining and countering arguments others might use to support policies that harm people, especially those who are powerless and often voiceless.
Who will speak for the poor? "If not us, who?" Peter asked last night.
Then, Peter was ready to be surrounded by his family. Before bedtime on Thursday August 18th, he gathered his wife, children, and grandchildren around him. Earlier he had given each a special blessing, a special message each should carry going forward. Now, finally, Peter, having comforted them, was ready to be comforted himself.
There's lots of wrestling left to be done for what has lately become a favorite quote of mine. We need to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Peter has shown us the way, with his footprints in the sand. Now it is our turn to add our feet to the journey. We may never know in this life what the impact is of what we say or do, but while we can, we'd better keep walking. Peter has shown the way.
Rest now Peter, the next footsteps you see will be us, carrying you in our hearts.
Evelyn, Peter's wonderful wife, just called. In the wee hours of Friday, August 19th, Peter's footprints moved from the sandy beaches we mortals frequent to God's beautiful shores. We'll miss you Peter, but we'll see your footprints in every step we take here on earth. We will have a celebration of Peter's life on Saturday August 27th at 10am at the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto (1140 Cowper Street - Palo Alto, CA). Following the service there will be a buffet lunch. Not a sit down meal. A buffet.
Peter Wong's Biography - As Shared for the Celebration of His Life on August 26th
Peter Jeung Wong
Peter was born to Pauline and Richard Wong on December 10, 1940. Peter was the middle child, his older brother Wing Wong was 7 years his elder and Mei Mei Fong, his sister, was 7 years younger. Peter grew up in an economically disadvantaged area of Los Angeles and was pushed by his parents to excel in academics. During his childhood Peter worked in his parents' grocery store after school and on the weekends. He quickly learned that he did not want to work in a grocery store when he grew up and studied diligently.
Peter attended UC Berkeley and received an electrical engineering bachelor's degree with Phi Beta Kappa honors. During his second year at UC Berkeley he met Evelyn Tom. They dated during Peter's remaining undergraduate years. After graduation, Peter was accepted on full scholarship into Stanford's PhD program in electrical engineering. He declined and stayed at UC Berkeley one more year to stay with Evelyn while she finished her last undergraduate year. Peter earned his master's degree in electrical engineering and during that summer of 1964 he married Evelyn. Fortunately, Stanford accepted Peter the following year and he began the PhD program in the fall of 1964. Evelyn worked as teacher and supported Peter through his graduate studies.
After completing his PhD program Kristin was born in 1968. Twenty-three months later Alison was born in 1970. Peter worked at SRI International, moved to Menlo Park, and biked to work. Peter was a dedicated father who spent time coaching his daughter's soccer and softball teams, teaching Sunday school, and attended important events in his daughters' childhood. Peter's career also included working as a consultant at Tymeshare, Boole & Babbage, and Coopers & Lybrand designing artificial intelligence and rule based systems.
When Kristin applied for law school in 1990, Peter decided he wanted to do the same. He attended Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley and lived on campus for three years, traveling home to Menlo Park on the weekends to be with Evelyn. Peter practiced law from 1993 until 2006. Peter and Evelyn traveled extensively in their free time and Peter developed an appreciation for a global community and tolerance for other cultures. But Peter's real passion was one of service. He became convinced that the power of the internet could bring people together to work for the common good of all people. Peter co-founded Micah's Call in 2006 and dedicated his free time to researching and writing on social justice issues. In 2008 he published "Let's Dialogue with the Christian Right."
Peter also spent much of his time with his beloved grandchildren, taking them to kung fu class, dance class, and their sporting activities. His true joy in life was his wife, children, and grandchildren.
Surrounded by family, Peter passed peacefully in his sleep on August 19, 2011.
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