In this special Mother’s Day story, City Harvest Church member Grace Wu shares how God is with her each step of her journey as a widow and a single mom.
They were sitting in a restaurant at the Singapore Botanic Gardens when Grace Wu broke the devastating news to her 8-year-old son.
To cushion the blow, she had bought him fish and chips. As he ate, Grace asked, “Elliott, do you believe in God?”
He replied yes, and recounted an incident when God came through for him: his dad had ordered a Lego set for him but the delivery was delayed. Elliott was anxious, so his dad told him to pray. Father and son prayed together and the next day, the Lego arrived. To Elliott, that was proof that God is real.
With that assurance, Grace gently told Elliott that his dad had passed away.
AN UNEXPECTED LOSS
That was the first thing City Harvest Church member Grace, now 51, had to do as a single parent. That day in 2016, her husband Thomas passed away from a fatal asthma attack, and Grace became the sole breadwinner in the family who also had to play the roles of both mom and dad to their only child.
For most of their lives, Thomas and Grace serve the Lord together in ministry. They conducted outreaches to university students and served in Royal Rangers, a Christian mentoring programme for boys. Thomas, a pharmacist, was a hands-on father who passed on his love for music to Elliott. The family would often travel overseas on holidays together.
Thomas’ demise was totally unexpected. One day while Grace and Elliott were out at badminton training, she received a call from her husband telling her he had suffered an asthma attack and would call for an ambulance. She was unable to reach him thereafter.
Eventually she found out that the ambulance had taken him to Changi General Hospital, but by the time she reached the hospital, Thomas was in a coma. The doctors explained that his brain had been deprived of oxygen for half an hour.
For the next 10 days, Grace and her loved ones prayed and confessed that Thomas would be miraculously healed, but it was not to be. Overcoming the shock of Thomas’ sudden departure was hard for Grace. “When I first lost my husband, I had a lot of questions for God,” she admits. She had great faith for his healing, but God did not her answer her prayers.
Eventually, it was that same faith she had in God that helped her overcome that tough season. “There were three things that I held on, and still do, to which helped me: one, God is in control. Two, God loves me and Elliott very much, and three, God has a wonderful plan for us,” she shares.
Grace recounted a time when God showed up for Elliott and convinced both mother and son of His love for them. “My son is able to cope (with his father’s death) because he knows that he’s going to meet his dad again one day,” Grace started. Elliott would even ask her questions such as what form he would take when he met his dad in Heaven, would he still be an 8-year-old or would he be an adult?
One night, Elliott had a dream that he went to heaven. He asked God where his father was and the “God” in his dream told him his dad was not there. He woke up crying, traumatised by the dream. Discerning that the dream was from the devil, Grace tried to assure Elliott by showing him scriptures about eternal life.
Despite her efforts, she could sense that Elliott’s faith was shaken and she prayed that God would speak to her son personally. And He did. A short while later, when Elliott attended a Bible Boot Camp organised by HarvestKidz, City Harvest Church’s children ministry, he fell under the power of God and God told him that his earthly father was in heaven with Him.
“I thank God for that because no matter what Mommy said, it didn’t hit the heart,” Grace says. “But after that incident, he was assured that his dad was with God, and that he would see his father again one day.”
SURROUNDING THEMSELVES WITH A COMMUNITY
Parenting is tough. Even with two parents full performing their roles, it still takes a village to raise a kid. Grace understood this well and the first thing she did as a single parent was to build her own support system.
Realistically, she knew that there were limits to what she could do for Elliott as a mother. While she could do the activities that his dad would have done with him, there were other needs that only a father could satisfy.
Both Grace and Thomas only had sisters for siblings—Elliott has no uncles. Grace then decided Elliott that so should have a godfather to turn to when the need arise. Godparents Foo Yong Howe and his wife Shirley, who have been Grace and Thomas’ close friends since they were youths, play a large role in Elliott’s life today.
The next thing Grace needed was someone to look after Elliott while she worked. To facilitate that, she sold her home and moved nearer to her parents. Her father would fetch Elliott home after school and her mother would take care of him until Grace got off work.
“I feel that for single parents, you need a community,” Grace states. “I learned from the start that I can’t do it alone, so I surrounded myself with friends and told them to please be there for me.”
The people that she is most thankful for are her parents and a group of close friends. They have been her support, her counsel and sometimes, nothing more than a listening ear.
While she admits that it takes a lot of humility to ask for help, Grace has also found that people are usually more than happy to lend a hand. “We’re Christians, I think we can trust that our brothers and sisters in Christ for their help. I’ve never met any friend who knows of my condition and has said no to helping me.”
She adds, “People don’t know how to help you unless you ask. So, I’m very open when it comes to my friends. For example, I would call his godparent to have Elliott over when I had to go for business trips, or I would call my friends and ask them to go on holiday with me.”
FACING HER GIANTS
Among all the challenges of being a single mother, Grace, who is a sales director, has come to realise that the toughest thing to do was to manage herself. “Someone told me that if Mommy is okay, her children will be okay. If the mom collapses, the children will not do well too. So, I shoulder the responsibility of ‘being okay’. Even when I’m not okay, Elliott doesn’t get to see that,” Grace shares.
Having said that, she does not only present the rosy side of life to her son. “I’ll tell him that we don’t have perfect things, but we have to make the best of everything we have, by God’s grace,” she says. The key is to be able to overcome any circumstances.
Another constant worry for Grace are finances. While they are comfortable now, she is acutely aware that she would be in her 60s when Elliott reaches 25 years of age. But God has assured her that He will take care of the widows. She has received unexpected promotions at work and God has provided for her and Elliott time and again.
“This year I’m in SOT,” she announces with a smile. She made the decision to enrol into CHC’s Bible school this year despite knowing that she might have to give up her job. Yet God protected her: her company allowed her to go on a six-month sabbatical. On top of that, they convinced her to commit to working a few hours every work so she could still receive a percentage of her salary during the six months. Grace knows that all this has been possible only because of God.
While she has come a long way since the day her husband passed on, Grace knows that she has only reached the halfway mark of her journey. With Elliott already a teenager, she knows she will soon need to find her own footing again as her life stage changes.
“When Thomas died, I coped by keeping myself busy,” she says in honesty. “My only motivation is my son: my schedule surrounds him and I spend all my time with him.”
Elliott is now 15 and Grace recognises that it is time for him to grow into a man and venture out and live his own life. “When he was 8, it was hard for me to be a single mom. Now, it’s hard for me to let go,” she says, adding that Elliott does not want her to be alone. “But I don’t want him to feel like that; I want him to feel that he can have a life of his own and Mom will be all right.”
This was one of the reasons she entered SOT. “I’m really seeking God for the second half of our journey, and I believe God will speak to me,” she says. “This is harder because I am alone without a husband, but I need to find God’s purpose for me in the second half of my life.”
This Mother’s Day, Grace would like to encourage all her fellow mothers to enjoy themselves. “Enjoy yourself as a woman. Once you enjoy who you are, you will enjoy your children and this journey of motherhood.”