Eulogy for Henry Cho (January 28, 1981 - May 21, 2011)
by Young Cho
Henry was my one and only baby brother that came to this world when I was 7 years old. When he came, my world changed completely. I had to share everything, from toys, food, bed, and even my parents. But I was more than willing to do everything for him because I loved him the moment I saw him coming from the hospital. He and I were very close because we only had each other as siblings. When we immigrated to the United States in 1985, we became even closer because we couldn't talk to other kids until many years later.
We went through a lot together in the last 30 years. There were good times and bad times which, now when I think back, all are precious memories. When I pause to recall the past, the flood of memories rush through my mind; all the little secrets that we knew about each other and the little things we used to do – how we would push each other's buttons to cheer or anger the other, how much fun we used to have playing around, how he used to run to me when he got scared of something and I would try to protect him, and how he always had my back.
If I attempted to tell you all of these things about him, it will take too long. So, I thought I would tell you two things that I believe are the most important things about Henry: (1) his God given talent in this life and (2) his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Henry had an extraordinary gift as a salesman. A year after I moved to Austin, Texas in 1998, Henry came to live with me for a year. He was only 18 and he wanted to take a year off from his university to get some work experience. A few weeks after he arrived, he began to look for a job. Despite his diligence, he could not find any because of his age and limited experience. One day, I asked him if I could help him. When he dared me to try, I immediately called a local GNC and asked about a job; and oddly enough they had an opening that needed to be filled immediately. When I told him about the interview, he went and came back with a job as an assistant manager.
It turned out that he was so good at what he was doing at GNC that the corporate office decided to give him a store to manage within a few months of his employment. I remember him telling me in pride that he was one of the youngest store managers for GNC in Austin. However, this celebration subsided fairly quickly when he realized that the store that he was assigned to was known by others to be one of the worst stores in Austin area, with the least number of customers and sales. Although he was discouraged at first, within few weeks, he started to change the sales trend of the store and ended up breaking almost all the records for his district in Austin. I recently found something that he wrote in his computer about this. He wrote, “My average sales per person was almost double compared to the 2nd ranked store. Eventually, because of my sales performance, the district manager made me a manager trainer in just 9 months into my job. Not only did I become the fastest trainer but I was also the youngest trainer. I remember my first trainee very vividly. He was a retired sheriff from Arkansas and he was about 40 years older than me. I did not know whether to call him by his first name or Sir. Anyhow, I did well at GNC but it was time to leave Texas and return to school.”
After we left Texas, I went to UCLA while he went back to UC Santa Cruz. After 4 years, he received his Bachelors of Art degree in Business Management Economics. Then he decided to go back to sales industry. One of his major sales employment was at Galpin Motors. He wrote, “While I worked there, I became the #2 salesman in the nation for most Mazdas sold. The average car salesman at Galpin sold around 10-12 cars a month and their pay would have been roughly 55-60k annually. I sold an average of 20-22 cars a month. At 24 years old, I made more money in one month that some people made in one year. My best month was on May of 2005. I sold 32 cars and made so much that I felt like Scarface. After about a year and half selling cars, I became the plan "B". What I did was very simple. When someone could not close a deal, I would go in and close the deal for them.”
Like any good salesman, he took every spare time he had to learn about the products that he was to sell. But unlike others, the main reason he was so good at what he did was his unique ability to empathize with his customers. He really wanted to help others by carefully and patiently listening to their needs and being as honest as possible. Again, he wrote in his document, “my secret strategy in sales is called listening. I always asked questions and listened carefully. I generally did this during my building rapport phase while I was selling. By listening to people I got general idea of what they wanted and what they needed. Before I got hired at Galpin, the last request the general manager had for me do in his interview was to sell his Cartier pen to him. I remember holding the pen with two hands like a watch salesman. I told him how beautiful the pen was, using every synonym that I could think of for the word pretty, and I also emphasized that it writes with grace and perfection. I also gave him the feeling of urgency. Why he had to buy now and why he can't wait longer. He shook his head and asked "Why do I need this Henry?" He told me that a person comes into a retail store to purchase a commodity or service but stores usually have more than one commodity or service. So what do you do? You ask "why?" and you listen carefully. He told me that it’s harder to push something onto someone, when simply all you have to do is ask what they need and deliver it to them. It was like an epiphany when I heard that for the first time.”
Although he enjoyed his jobs, he eventually decided to help my parents with their health food and acupuncture clinic business. Thanks to him, my parents were able to take scheduled breaks during the week. Not only that, the retail aspect of the store started to improve significantly. Before long, many customers were asking for Henry and no one else. Henry kept considering back and forth about continuing to work and eventually taking over the business; but he could not be certain. During the road trip that he decided to take in May of 2011, he must’ve had a lot of time to think about himself and his future. He called my parents every day to tell them he loved them and how God is helping him through the trip. A few days before the accident, he told my parents that when he comes back from the trip, he will help them make some changes to how the store operates and make it run much better. It was something that my parents were very glad to hear from him.
He was a great salesman. But today, what gives us the most comfort is the fact that he had recently told my parents that he wanted to use this gift to become the salesman of the Gospel for the Lord Jesus Christ. Only thing is that he would charge his customers nothing for what he was selling, eternal life in heaven. He was a great salesman.
To continue on this note, I would like to tell you about his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe his faith only truly began when he came to live with me in Austin, Texas. In Austin, he came with me to a small non-denominational Christian gathering referred to as “Austin Bible Chapel.” There he heard a clear Gospel message about the Lord Jesus Christ. A simple scriptural message that proclaim all of us have sinned and are headed toward eternal damnation in hell. And that it is impossible for anyone of us to escape this horrible destiny by him or herself or through any other people in this world. But the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the son of God, came to Earth to die on our behalf to pay for our sin so that anyone that believes and follow him would be saved and would enter Heaven to be with the Lord. And that the Lord Jesus Christ gave us the proof of what He said and did by coming back to life from death. Something that only God could do. When Henry heard this, he understood and he believed the Gospel then made his profession of salvation.
Ever since that moment his inner man wanted to live for the Lord. But like many believers, flesh kept frustrating him from serving the Lord the way he really wanted to. I am unsure of all of the things that happened when he went back to UC Santa Cruz, but he often expressed his frustration toward all of the things that were happening there. While he was in Santa Cruz, he sought to go to a similar church called Grace Bible Chapel in San Jose. Even though it was more than an hour away from Santa Cruz through a dangerous mountain road, he persisted to go. But, even then, he kept getting sucked into things that he really didn’t want to. At one point, he told me that he understood exactly what apostle Paul must’ve gone through when he wrote in the scriptures, “Romans 7:14-25 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. (15) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (16) And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. (17) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (18) For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (19) For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (20) Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (21) So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (22) For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; (23) but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (25) Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
Things got a little bit better immediately after he came back home after the graduation, but for the next 6 years his spiritual state deteriorated as it fluctuated up and down. At some points he would make up his mind to serve the Lord; but just as he made these decisions, the world, the flesh, and the devil would attack and torment him. Unfortunately these fluctuations prevented him from bearing much spiritual fruits to a point where it was difficult to tell whether he was truly saved or not. But since his profession in Austin, he continued to go to a church. But less than a year ago, he suddenly stopped going to church altogether. When I asked him about why he wasn’t going to church, he kept telling me that he was thinking about coming to the church that I go to. The last time I talked to him about it, he told me that he is planning to go once he moved into his apartment; he moved out from my parents’ house about 6 months ago, but he never came to our church. But we kept praying that he will come to our church one of these days.
On May 10th, I got a call from my parents that Henry left the store and wanted to do something else. They wanted me to call him and find out what he was planning to do. I called him several times but I couldn’t reach him. Then in the early morning of May 12th, he came to our house and told us that he was planning to embark on a 1 month trip all across the United States. He told us that he rented a great car at a great price and wanted to leave right then. When I asked him about the money, he told me that he recently got a tax return and was ready to sleep in the car during the trip. I tried to convince him to save up some more money and plan the trip better, but he said that he had to go then or otherwise, he would end up not taking the trip. I asked him about my parents and he told me that he spoke to my parents about it and they thought it was a good idea. At that time, I, too, thought it was a good idea because of my own traveling experience.
He told me that he just came by to say good byes to me, Tracy, and my kids. Before he could leave, I asked him if he had eaten any breakfast. When he said he didn’t, I told him to eat breakfast with us. He said that he was in hurry and that he was already too late. But I said to him as a joke that this might be the last time we will get to eat together. Then he told me not to say that and agreed to eat with us. We had some chicken and eggs and he ate with my family. It was good to have him sit down with us and eat together. Once he was done, he said his last goodbyes and left to put things in order in his apartment. He wrote in his journal, “I needed to wash my dishes and clean out the fridge. I also needed to get my clothes from my parents’ house and also get my vitamins. Thank God for mom because she completed my laundry the night before. All tasks were completed around 8 am.”
On the following evening, he called me on the phone to tell me that the trip was terrible. He said he felt very lonely and that he didn’t think this trip was a good idea. So, I told him what I did when I went on backpacking trip across Europe. I told him how I woke up and read Bible and prayed to God before doing anything. I told him how God showed me so many things throughout the day that I had to spend up to 2 hours writing all about the day every night. I also suggested that it would be great to go back and read them later in life or let our kids read them. He thought it was a great idea and that he will start doing that. Then he said something that I will treasure forever. He said, “I felt so bad and lonely, but now that I spoke with you, I feel so much better.” He also said, “you know, I tell you one thing that I realized during this trip. I realize that family is so important. Family is so important.” These words still ring in my ears. I know that this is something that he learned at that time, but, now that he is gone to be with the Lord, I realize that it was his last message for all of us. Family is so important.
While he was yet missing, I went on his computer to see if there were any clues as to where he may have gone. Right away, I found his journal that he had kept since that first day when I suggested him to keep. I wasn’t sure if he would keep the journal, but he really did. In addition to what he had told my parents about how God was with him during the trip, the content of his very private journal revealed his true faith in God. The beginning of the journal was, indeed, dark and full of frustration as he told me over the phone. But by the third day, the journal entry started to look brighter and less offensive. I remember him calling me to tell me how he thought some of the things that he saw were so beautiful and that he wanted to show my parents. By the 7th day, 2 days before he died, he wrote in his journal, “I also noticed that God has flipped things around for me, making bad situations into good ones.” With this simple trust in God, he wrote about how wonderful the trip was turning out to be when he arrived at my cousin’s house the following day. And he indeed was having a time of his life when he came to my cousin’s lakefront house.
According to his journal, he was going to fish all day on that Saturday, May 21st. Something he really enjoyed doing. The last thing he wrote in his journal was him truly thanking God for suppressing his severe allergy toward cats that were making themselves very comfortable in where he was sleeping; allergy that he always had ever since he was little.
Through these things that he did, he left evidences that give us ever strong confidence that his profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was true. And because of this, my family knows that he is safely with God in Heaven today. And more importantly, we will meet him again in the future. For some reason, in the vary hour that I found out that he was missing, I kept thinking of these verses in the scriptures.
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; (26) and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Henry did believe and trust the sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ. And because of that faith, I know that he is in Heaven with overwhelming joy and amazement as he is patiently waiting to be with us again in the future. We thank God for Henry; for allow him to be a great little brother to me for all those years, a son who was always very protective of our parents, a wonderful uncle who would sacrifice anything for my children, an encouraging brother-in-law to my wife, a quiet cousin who was willing to help out in whatever, whenever, and wherever, a loyal friend who would listen to your needs, an honest salesman with a big heart, and a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank God that Henry is with Him in Heaven. But until we meet again, we will miss him so much.
To our family, it is very clear that the Lord was merciful to us to arrange his departure from this world in such a way that we are confident that Henry is safe with Him; now more than ever.
The ultimate goal of our lives on Earth is to be saved and to glorify our God through our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ. We know he believed this and we are confident that he has accomplished both.
It is our hope that all who were touched by Henry will seek to do the same.
Thank you all for extending your support and prayers for our family during this difficult time.
NEW - A song Henry recorded back in 2007