My mom went in for a bone marrow biopsy on January 14th. She passed away at 1:05AM on April 15th at 59 years old. During those three short months, she stayed so strong even though I know how hard it was on her to fight her lymphoma. My dad, my brother, Chris, me, countless family and friends and even strangers offered up prayers hoping that she would be spared. We sought the best medical help she could get, the best drugs, the best clinical trials. In the end though, the cancer was just too strong and too quick. We could never get ahead of it.
During those three months, a lot of things in my life have been neglected, including this blog. Although it was difficult to go down to Dallas to help my mom, dad, and brother, I also feel like it was such a blessing to get those dedicated days with my mom, where without any distractions of my day-to-day life, I could just focus on her. Those days, although unbearably painful at times, will remain precious to me. During my absences, we’ve had an army of friends and family help at every turn. I will never forget all the friends who offered up an ear to listen, shoulders to cry on, carpools, child care, meals, simple notes of encouragement, and prayers.
It’s only been a week since she passed but it feels like a million years. Her funeral was last Friday and I had the honor of giving her eulogy. This is what I wrote:
My mom started golfing about 12 years ago. She would go out by herself to a little 9 hole course and without lessons, just figure it out by herself and play. Out in nature, she not only found a new hobby but a new love that she cultivated for the rest of her life. Sometimes she’d play with my dad but more often then not, she’d join into a group of strangers and play along. She didn’t need a fancy course, just somewhere pretty and comfortable. Eventually, she joined a golf group with her friends and I knew I couldn’t call her on her Tuesday golf days lest I catch her mid-swing. As her skill increased, friends and strangers alike were amazed that this little Korean lady could hit the ball, not far, but straight and true. While others watched their shots shoot this way and that and get lost in the rough, my mom would patiently, calmly, and methodically make it onto the green and with precision, sink the ball with her putting.
When I was thinking about what to say about my mom today, it occurred to me that her golf game was almost a metaphor for her life. She was born in a small town in Korea on a farm, the oldest daughter of 7 children. At heart, she was a country girl and took joy in the simple things in life whether it was drinking a beer with my dad while watching the sun set or seeing the flowers bloom in her garden. Even her last text to me was a picture of some camellias in our yard she had been waiting to open. She didn’t need fancy things- just whatever was simple and comfortable.
She was patient and calm as mother. Now that I have kids of my own, I can fully appreciate how extraordinary she was. She never yelled at us- a gift I have NOT inherited to the dismay of my children. Instead, she always had a gentle smile and easy going way with us.
As a wife, she and my dad shared so many common interests beyond golf. Not only a love of nature which translated into many camping trips and cross country road trips to national parks, but an adventurous spirit. The same spirit that led her to hit the links by herself to try something new led her here to build a life in America with my dad. She was always up for new experiences and trips, eager to add to her memories.
As a grandmother, she had such a fun loving spirit with her two granddaughters, Sarah and Katie, and was up for anything they were – be it swinging at the park, playing play-doh for hours on end, or jumping into the pool on a hot summers day. She was so devoted to them- even coming to visit us in Minnesota in the dead of winter- truly a sign of love. They adored her in return and as they said of her- we love Halmoni because she never says no.
The only thing that rivaled her skills on the golf course were her skills in the kitchen. She was such a good cook- making everything from scratch and from memory. I think my dad, brother and I will spend the rest of our lives trying to replicate her kimchi.
Like her shots that were straight and true, so was she. She knew what her priorities were and didn’t get distracted by life’s dramas. Even when things in her life got rough, she kept her head down and worked hard and steadily to get to where she wanted to be. She focused on being a good person, a good mother, a good grandmother, and a good wife. Nothing was more important than her family and she showed that everyday through her actions and words. I will miss her so much. She was not only my mother but my role model and friend. Her life was too short but straight and true till the very end.
I don’t know when my life will return to “normal,” but when it does, I will continue to write. I will write because it brings me joy, and if we need anything else in this world, it is joy. God bless…