On Thursday morning, November 20, the PUC campus gathered for a memorial service celebrating the lives of four students who died in a tragic accident on Saturday night. There were many hugs, quiet greetings, tears, and N4 ribbons displayed on sleeves. An estimated 2,000 people were in the sanctuary, and well over a hundred who couldn't be present watched the service live online.
The lives of Luke Nishikawa, Boaz Pak, Chong Shin and Simon Son were both grieved and celebrated through music, sharing and memories, and quiet. When PUC president Richard Osborn shared how he imagined what heaven would be like for these four, he called it "A celebration — that will begin today, even as we cry."
Four friends of the students presented words in honor of each student, heartfelt memories of joy and laughter, jokes, deep conversations and lessons learned. Justin Kim shared in honor of Luke, a close friend of his. He honored Luke, whose goal had been to teach history at HMA, by giving a "class presentation" about the things he learned from Luke. "Luke taught me about strength, purpose, and persistence," he said. "With the strength passed on to me by my friend, I will stand a little taller."
Alex Lee shared memories of Boaz, whom he'd known for 10 years. "The thing I admired most was his dedication to family, friends, and church," Alex told those gathered. "He lived a life that deserves celebration."
Jeffrey Cho, a friend of Chong's, shared a few favorite memories, from a late-night trip to Denny's in which Chong's friends randomly discovered that he really liked hamsters to a spontaneous discussion in the library about church, what it is, what it means, and what it could be. "He knew what he believed in," Cho recounted, "and he stuck to it no matter what."
"[Simon] made an impact on everyone's lives," said Esther Tak, who counted Simon her best friend. "His laugh was so contagious you couldn't help but laugh… even if the joke wasn't funny!" Simon left a big group of people who loved him, she said, and left them with much to remember. "He taught me how to be the better person in every situation, and always look up to God."
Campus chaplain Roy Ice shared the homily, encouraging us that God can change our "why?" to a "when" — the "when" tears are wiped away, death is no more, and God makes everything new.
Finally, Luke's father, Pastor Koji Nishikawa, shared words from others who had lost children — others he could now understand. A father of a classmate, he recounted, told them, "Young people, you don't know how much your parents love you." So, Pastor Nishikawa said, "I want to say to you today: We love you so much."After the program, pews were slow to empty. Outside the church doors, instead of hurrying to classes and the cafeteria and carrying on enthusiastic conversations, people simply stood quietly around the front of the church. Everybody seemed to just be absorbing things. The grief of the families and friends was real and apparent, making it impossible even for those who didn't know them to avoid being touched.