Funeral Service – Life of Teresa Part 2

Teresa never denied a calling in Church. She believed in the authority of the Priesthood conferred by God and knew she would insult God if she would reject a calling brought to her attention. In her journal she states:

„My wish to serve is so strong that I never feared to accept any calling. I wish to draw nearer to God and to gain further knowledge through what I am doing.“

This attitude enabled her to achieve excellent results in the assignments given to her. Shortly after her baptism for instance she was called to be choir leader but had no experience neither in conducting nor with music in general. So she sat down, prayed and got down to work. She truly was hungry for knowledge and read and learnt a lot. The foundation for this attitude was laid in those days, and she kept this hunger for knowledge and her eagerness to learn for a lifetime. As choir leader she became very successful with her little ward choir. With this choir she once even participated in a choir contest eventually won by her.

Teresa has embraced the Gospel completely and utterly and unconditionally with every fibre of her being. As logic consequence, she therefore prepared for fulfilling a mission. When she turned 21 years old she was at first called to serve in the Taipei Mission for five months from where she was sent to serve another regular mission of 18 months in the Taichung Mission. This means altogether she served her mission for almost two years. Up until then her mission time was the happiest time in her life, and she frequently would share with me special experiences she had. When we both travelled in Taiwan we would also visit some of her former places of activity where lots of good memories were brought to life again.

After her return from Mission life was difficult. Teresa accepted a job in a restaurant where she was responsible for accounting and also was serving as waitress. She worked hard in order to make her living. If I remember well she was supposed to have only two days off every month, but she insisted to be free on Sunday in order to be able to attend Church meetings. On all other days she needed to work from early morning until late at night.

I met Teresa short time before her 25th birthday, two years after she had returned from her mission. We met in the restaurant in opposite of my place of work, the newly erected National Theatre in the centre of Taipei right next to the Chiang-Kai-Shek Memorial Park. When I tried to date her she told me she did not have much time and it would only be possible on Sunday. She invited me to come to Church with her and then have a walk in a park nearby. That is what we did, and soon we developed great trust which encouraged me to invite her to come to Germany in order to show her my native country and to introduce her to my mother.

Five months after we met for the first time – on February 12, 1988 – we got married and moved to Germany. At that time not as many foreigners as nowadays were living in Germany, and for a long time Teresa did not seem to feel well and accepted. Time after time she would tell me how homesick she was, however, she found joy and strength in the Gospel and increasingly in the music as well.

She had a beautiful voice by nature and started taking singing lessons. A little while later she also took piano lessons. Soon after she acquired a broad repertoire of art songs and opera arias. If you want to study singing in Germany you must not be older than 25 years when you apply for the admission examination. Therefore it was necessary for Teresa to take private singing and piano lessons. She loved singing very much and her voice developed quickly. She was a high soprano being able to reach the high E flat. Moreover, she had a flexible voice like a coloratura soprano, but with a more beautiful and round timbre, and she was able to perform even dramatic parts powerfully without sounding penetrating or sharp. Her singing voice was blessed with a high recognition value, but at the same time it was versatile as well. Moreover, she took dancing lessons with a chinese dance instructor who introduced her to the art of peacock dance. With this she also attained a very high level during her first years in Germany, and she danced in public on a number of occasions.

Teresa’s culinary art was legendary. The skills she was taught by her mother enabled her to improvise and vary at will without using a recipe book. She would not only cook dishes from her home country for numerous excited missionaries who went in and out of our home, but also dishes from Germany and other countries or she would simply invent new ones. All this she did at breathtaking speed.

 I sometimes believe she could have found worldwide acclaim on each of the beforementioned fields if she would have expended the necessary effort and would have subjected all her objectives to but one ambition. The question may arise why she did not do it. I would like to expand on this a little later.

 After having overcome the initial difficulties Teresa picked up a very good German with a remarkable accent-free pronunciation. Also the rolling R – for sure desperately necessary in artistic singing – was no problem for her. She once told me she needed to practice for a very long time in order to have mastery of the rolling R. But when she had the chance to practice and to learn she was completely in her element.

Once before in Munich Teresa very succesfully served as escort interpreter for Siemens. In this role she was looking after Chinese delegations, escorted them on guided tours and in restaurants and took care for them. She often developed deep affection for the reference persons she was dealing with. For instance it was common in those days that smoking was allowed in restaurants. Since most Chinese are heavy smokers, the official banquets frequently took place in a very smoky atmosphere. Teresa valiantly endured this, however, she always very kindly would point out to her leader it would seriously affect his health if he continued with smoking so heavily.

She once told me a few years later she met him again on the street. He apparently suffered from larynx cancer and great parts of his head were deformed by the disease and also by surgery such that she hardly could recognize her former boss. They briefly talked on the street and he regretted he did not listen to Teresa’s counsel back then. Soon after she had to cope with the news about his passing away and she wept bitterly for him since she sincerely liked him.

Teresa was a born teacher and she understood children very well. The reason for this could be that she managed to keep a childlike and cheerful disposition in the best sense. She was able to see the world through they eyes of a child, she laughed a lot, and sometimes it would happen that she answered the phone and the person on the other end of the line would ask her to call her Dad to the phone. I sometimes would tease her with that.

It was a piece of luck for her that one day she got the offer to teach in a private music school in Aichach since she did not have any formal education. Instead, she acquainted all of her skills in private music lessons. A Russian friend quit her job as piano teacher at the School and she asked Teresa to continue teaching instead of her. So Teresa introduced herself at the music school and got the job as piano teacher and vocal Coach.

Many times I witnessed how well Teresa responded to her students. She purchased loads of sheet music and other material in order to make learning an interesting experience and she had the gift to adjust herself to the needs of every student. Teresa always thought that good music can heal wounded souls, and she planted her sincere and heartfelt love for music into the hearts of her students. She completely lost herself in this assignment.

A recent anecdote may provide evidence for that. When on January 2nd 2014 Teresa had the intake interview with the head physician of the cancer clinic he told her she needed to stay at least five consecutive weeks for therapy, maybe even longer. Teresa replied this would in no way be possible. She would need to be back within two weeks at the latest in order to go on teaching her students. She overran for one week already and she would have problems to catch up on the lost lessons.

Moreover, she said, she could not disappoint her boss. The senior physician was very much surprised to hear this, and when two weeks later it became obvious to Teresa she would have to remain in the hospital she was deeply saddened and hesitated to call her boss in order to tell him she would be absent for such  a long time.

Following we hear a very intimate song performed by Teresa 2005 in a recital in the kleiner goldener Saal in Augsburg which perfectly shows her longing for simple Beauty.

 Click here in order to have access to the MP3 files of the funeral service with the song Amarilli mia bella.

Funeral Service – Life of Teresa Part 1

My heart is about to break. My beloved Teresa has left me into a better world where she will find the peace she never had been granted and she probably never even wanted while on earth, for she was a restless worker, always eager to intuit what others might need. I can hardly believe that I, her husband, am organizing a funeral service in honour of her. I am sifting lots of material, read her journals, hear her music. In some strange way it seems unreal to me, and the last three weeks have been like an entire nightmare I would like to wake up from. However, I am aware this is not possible. But I know for sure that everything what has happened in the last weeks and months is following a supreme plan, and I hope to be able to decode this plan one day such that my pain may turn into comforting memories and peace may enter my heart.

Teresa’s family stems from the heart of China, from the City of Wuhan in the Hubei province. The two oldest sons were born in China. Times were troubled, and the communists, having gained strength after the completion of what was called the long march, made life difficult for the governing party, the Guomindang. In 1949 the civil war ended in favor of the communists, and Chiang-Kai-Shek and his followers eventually withdrew to the island of Taiwan. Teresa’s family decided to leave China as well, and so father, mother and their two sons left in 1950, heading toTaiwan  for an uncertain future.

Teresa was born on September 29, 1962, as eigth of nine children in Taipei, Taiwan. She used to tell me she has had a happy childhood although her family quite often was lacking simple necessities. Her experiences in her childhood made her believe that children do not need many material goods or toys in order to be happy. She was a tall girl and liked to frolic around outdoors with her playmates. Teresa had seven brothers and one sister. Her father was struggling with severe health problems. He passed away at an early age and her mother was working hard in order to provide for the needs of the family. Due to health problems, Teresa’s older sister was not able to help with the chores, so Teresa assumed the task to support her mother with the many and varied household chores. In so doing she learned a lot of the skills we later would appreciate so much.

Teresa always had been interested in many aspects of the arts and was blessed with corresponding talents, however the situation at home made it advisable for her to pursue a more practical education. Therefore she became an accountant, which maybe was not exactly the vocation of her dreams, but good enough for her in order to receive a modest income as a young adult. As it is common in Taiwan, in her youth Teresa adhered to the buddhist faith. She was taught by a female master and received an initiation ritual in the buddhist temple. However, a lot of her questions remained unanswered and so one day she decided to find a protestant faith community in order to hear what the Christians have to say about the crucial questions of life. When she was taught about Jesus Christ she felt very impressed and she learned that someone who wants to inherit the kingdom of heaven needs to be baptized in Christ’s name.

Now she asked herself the question what would happen to the numerous people living in China who maybe never in their lives  would get the chance to be converted to Jesus Christ and be baptized. The very same question she asked the head of this Christian congregation. The answer she received was a shock to her. The head of the congregation told her that those who get baptized are chosen and greatly blessed. Those who do not get baptized  for whatever reason will be cast into hell forever. Since Teresa had an inherent sense for justice, she hurled her reply at this minister:

„I cannot believe in a God who allows such things to happen!“

Soon after she was invited by a friend to visit a congregation of her faith. Although always open minded for everything, Teresa could hardly imagine there might be Christian congregations having a different opinion on the aforementioned matter of such importance to her. However, something inside her told her she should join her friend by all means, so she did her this favour and came along.

 The congregation she joined appeared to be a Stake Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was pleased to hear the words spoken on that occasion and she learnt that every man who lives or has lived on this earth will get the opportunity one day to take the name of Jesus Christ upon him and be baptized. When the teaching was mentioned that the living can be baptized vicariously for the deceased in a temple consecrated to the Lord she felt great joy and knew she had found her spiritual home.

Teresa joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 24, 1981, at the age of 18.

 Prior to this her mother fell seriously ill with cancer. During her time in hospital Teresa visited her frequently and took care of her with great devotion. She always used to greatly honour her parents, and she loved her mother above all. Teresa wrote down a special experience she had with her mother shortly before her passing away. We will dwell on this a little later.

 The hymn that follows was recorded by Teresa for practice. In this way she wanted to make a tool available to the wards in order for the children to be able to better practice the Primary songs.

 Click here for the MP3 recordings of the funeral service with the song When I Am Baptized.

Teresa in China on Sabbath

Teresa has been to China a couple of times in order to work on her family history. Her family stems from Wuhan in the province of Hubei. Although Wuhan is a quite big city with several millions of inhabitants, at the time of her stay there were no local Latter-day Saint worship services. On a Saturday she called me and said she would not want to accept sitting in the hotel inactively on Sunday. Instead she was planning to buy a flight ticket and to travel by air to Beijing on early Sunday morning in order to visit the meetings of the local ward over there. Then in the afternoon she wanted to return to Wuhan. She was very determined to put that plan into action and indeed managed to attend the sacrament meeting on Sunday in Beijing. She almost arrived too late though, since the taxi driver did not find the proper place right away. She entered the chapel while the congregation was singing the opening hymn, filled with deep gratitude that she was able to renew her covenant with the Lord again. She felt this was so important to her that she gladly accepted an air passage of more than 600 miles.

Teresa as glider passenger

At the time I met Teresa I was still an active glider pilot. One day, probably shortly after we got married, I invited her to come with me to the airfield and accompany me on a trip in a glider. It has been her first experience of this kind. We took off using winch launch and Teresa sat behind me. Since I knew that passengers in gliders frequently get sick, I gave her a chewing gum against travel sickness prior to takeoff and hoped she would cope her first flight with me without problems. However, a few minutes after takeoff, while I was busy with gaining altitude, I asked her how she felt but did not get any answer. Quite astonished, I turned around and realized that she seemed to have fainted and did not show any sign of life. Seized with panic, I pulled the brake flaps, and hurried back to the airfield as quickly as possible in order to land. Prior to my landing, I had notified the others by radio that there is an emergency. As fast as we could, we pulled Teresa out of the plane and placed her under the wing in order for her to rest in the shadow. A young medical student came and provided first aid, so Teresa fortunately regained consciousness and eventually recovered soon.

She said that shortly after takeoff she felt paralysed and was neither able to move nor to talk, although she was able to hear. The active substance in the chewing gum seemed to have triggered an allergic reaction leading to these extremely disturbing symptoms. Later in her life it became obvious she also was allergic to aspirin. Henceforth I gladly refrained from taking her along in a glider after having made this dramatic experience.

At that time I was not a member of the Church yet. The young medical student who helped Teresa so willingly and quickly was killed in a tragic glider accident a couple of weeks later. This filled me with deep grief, and while I was attending the funeral service many thoughts came to my mind. Today I am convinced that this experience was crucial to me for further investigating the gospel when I got the chance and eventually to get baptized in July 1988.

Teresa’s health was frail and vulnerable. Sad to say, this was still to become obvious on other occasions.