Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Tribute To my Sister - Chauming

My sister, Chauming was born September 18, 1961 in California to Clarence and Barbara Allen McElhaney Sr. She was one of the most generous, loving, kind, intelligent people I have ever known in my life. She was educated in the Oakland Public Schools, graduating from Oakland  High School in 1979, but despite that she earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Nursing from California State University Hayward (now called Cal State East Bay) in 1984. Chaum was a registered nurse for many years. She endured many challenges and grew as a woman and professionally throughout her life. Much of her career was spent at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals working as a Maternity Nurse  or an Advice Nurse  and several other departments.  Chauming wasn’t just an intellectual. She was an artist and a musician and and a singer.
Unfortunately, after fighting pancreatic cancer for several months courageously with the support of family and friends, she died peacefully March 1st 2012. She leaves behind her parents, 4 brothers and their wives, three children – Shekhiynah, Pardes, and Gregory, and more family and friends that have been blessed beyond measure with having had known her and loved her and been loved by her.
There is so much that should be said. Chaum will never be forgotten. She has sown good seed in so many lives and God blessed her to be able to see and feel  the results of the service she had so fully rendered to others. There is not a single person that knew her that did not benefit from selflessness.  She was blessed during the last few months of her life with family and friends coming to see her, some from all over the country, so that they could tell her face-to-face how much she means to them. 
All of us who knew her have stories of her .  You can tell yours, here are some of mine. I couldn’t begin to express all that I am grateful for that God has given me through Charm, but there are a few that just come to my mind when I think of her.  I am her little brother and I love her very much. She was accused often of spoiling me. And she would admit that she did. I’ll be honest , she did. And I wouldn’t trade her  for anything. 
Chaum already had an older brother , Clarence Jr, and a younger brother, Vincent, and when Chaum was a young teenager she ached for a little sister, but instead she got two knuckle-headed brothers .  I was the first of these new brothers she was stuck with.  To make up for us not being a girls, my mother allowed Chaum to pick our first names.  She was so good at picking names.  She named me  “Marcus” and our youngest brother “Maurice”.  I love my name and I told her that as often as I could. When I was a baby , our mother found her crushing pomegranate seeds into paste so she could spoon feed it to me. When our mother asked her why she was doing it, Chaum replied, “But Mommy, he likes it.” Chaum always made me feel wanted and helped our parents in my upbringing.  My parents never made my older siblings take care of me or watch me when they didn’t want to.  She used to even take me with her when she went to get her hair done sometimes.  I didn’t mind because I was with her.  When my older siblings took me with them  to see the first Star Trek movie, it was Chaum’s lap I was sitting in. One of her first jobs while she was in High School  was working in a toy store at Eastmont Mall and she brought me home a new toy almost every day.  Another thing that comes to mind is when I was in the 2nd grade,  Chaum used to sometimes pick me up from school. One day another student stole my homework, erased my name and put his on it. I was punished for not doing my homework, but by the end of the day  they realized the mistake but didn’t do anything to correct it. I was very upset and when Chaum came to get me I told my big Sister. She had me wait in in her car, she went and…handled the situation. Did she spoil me? Yes.  Don’t be mad, just because she loved me.
Chaum also taught me so much. It was through her, I learned to read and not just learning the skill but learned to love to read and to learn.  She, like my other older siblings and parents,  used to read books to me. She once  read the entire first 2 books of the Bible to  me and Maurice over a few weeks time while we sat in her lap. I watched her and learned from her how important God is.  I saw God working through her life  and blessing her and guiding her. She was the first person I personally knew show interest in the original languages of the Bible and not  just English Translations.  I can literally remember Chaum typing her college papers on typewriter and working so hard. She even worked at a bank and other jobs while she was in college.  She and my elder brothers made college not only seem possible but inevitable. I could reason: Chaum made it , I can too. I hope she knew just how motivating and helpful that was to me.  Chaum would always encourage and show me so much love, even when I made mistakes and messed up.  I’ve seen her give to the poor  and help others in need when ever she had the opportunity. It’s this God-given gift for service that I believe drove her to become a nurse. She not only wanted to help others but she wanted to glorify God with her life. And she did.
Starting in 1986, Chauming moved to Southern California. I remember the year, because Chaum left home the day after my 11th Birthday party.  I thought I was going to be sick. But as always she went out her way to show me how much she loved me.   She not only stayed for the party but helped our Mom and  played games and entertained the guests.  Chaum continued her career down there in Southern California.  I confess I was a child during most of that time and I don’t  know everything that happened  I do remember she’d call home to talk to me and she did come home to visit from time-to-time. The one thing that comes to mind that I know that happened to her once was a patient, whom was racist, was in distress but would not let Chaum touch him. ME, I would’ve probably let him die.  I think most people would have.  But Chaum was better than most of us.  She got other nurses and doctors to help and just stood by in case she was needed.
In 1990, Chauming returned to Oakland.  She faced one of the greatest challenges of her life. God saw her through a health scare. She was diagnosed with a hyper thyroid and the medical field told her that she had to undergo radiation therapy or she would die. She realized that God had directed her to use a holistic treatment and diet change. She recovered. I saw the power God. We all did. Chaum used that experience along with medical training and experience to help everyone who would listen to her and what she learned about eating and living more healthy.
In 1997, Chaum became a mother for the first time. Her three children were not just a blessing to her but to everyone who knows them.  They are just like their mother: intelligent, awesome, and beautiful.  There is so much that can be said, I can’t tell it all but I want to make it clear that Chaum’s life from beginning to end, is nothing but a gift from God. In Vietmanese “Chauming” means “precious” and she was precious to everyone who’s life she touched. If you thought Chaum spoiled me when I was child you should know some of the things she did that blessed me even after I grew up. One of Chaum’s customs was to run interference for anyone she knew needed an advocate in a medical setting. For example she came all the way from Oakland to Vallejo so she could be present at the births of both of my children being familiar with Kaiser maternity policies. She could ask the questions I couldn’t and made sure my Wife, Mitsouky, and our babies got the best care possible.  She didn’t just do that me . She was there at many a cousin’s birth, or her neices or nephews.  She was always quick to point out when someone was not getting the care they deserved as a patient – strangers included. 
In Chaum’s final days, she experienced so much pain and suffering, but despite that she kept being more concerned for her parents, children,  siblings, family, and friends. She made sure we were okay. I can’t express how much I appreciate all the people – her friends and family – who helped my parents care for Chaum.  People helped her  by bringing food for her and family, cleaning the house,  sitting with her, gave her  medication,  and so many other things. God blessed her so much that I am certain that she knew she was loved just as much we all know she loved us. She would lay in bed and use everything she had to try to get well. She did the best she could and prayed. But she had the correct attitude: She  knew our God was able to heal her, but she would serve him even if he does not. She taught me throughout my life to trust God no matter what happens. She not only taught me that in word, she modeled that for me in deed.  She desired to hear a song often during those days: It Is Well With My Soul. That was her testimony. When all things were shaken.  When she was at death’s door – that was her testimony. She died peacefully in our mother's arms with this song playing in the background.

What will we say to this? The most important thing to Chaum in life was to lead people to Christ. There are many people God used to bring me to Himself. Chaum is one of those.  She trusted God and watching God take of Her, taught me to desire the same kind of relationship with God from a young age.  This faith, these facts, help me and comfort me even in this time. A time in which I had hoped to never really see, a world without Chauming in it.  I can hold to the same hope she held to. Scripture comforts me and sustains me as it did her.

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18


 23 “Oh, that my words were recorded,
   that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
   or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
   and that in the end he will stand on the earth

 26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
   yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
   with my own eyes—I, and not another.
   How my heart yearns within me! – Job 19:23-27


  1. I am deeply sorry for yours and mitsouky lost, and not just to you both but to all whom she encountered, including myself. Charm was and is a great beautiful mother, sibiling, sister and friend. I believe she is with the lord.....I didnt even know all she was a part, encouraged and keep upholding what she wanted for you in Christ Jesus..

  2. What a beautiful tribute. You certainly captured the nuturer that she was for all of us. She was a special mentor to me in my nursing career and encouraged me when times were tough. I will miss her.
    - Cousin Nikki