slice of life challenge day #7: an incredible woman

slice of life 2014

I come from a family of writers. My mom loves to write, especially poetry and short stories. Both of my brothers are very talented writers, it comes to them very naturally. There have been a few times where I’ve asked them to edit my writing, and I remember feeling quite intimidated by what they would think of my writing. However, they always gave me really honest and good feedback.

I was really glad to hear that my brother Andrew would be able to attend my grandmother’s funeral in NY and give a eulogy. As I read through his initial draft of the eulogy, I kept crying as it brought back memories about all that my grandmother did and meant to me. My words to express how I feel and remember my grandmother are still being formed and not ready to come out quite. I hope that I can share my words with you all soon…

Today, I wanted to share this beautiful and powerfully written eulogy by my brother Andrew.

Eulogy for Halmuni (Grandma)

Read on 3/4/2014 at her funeral

By Andrew Kim

My grandmother is an incredible woman. Born before the First World War, she grew up in rural Korea during a time when girls were not allowed to receive a formal education and she passed away having seen Korea’s first woman President. All this to say, she lived through an incredible time of difficulty and transition. And through it, she remained steadfast- unwavering in the face of myriad challenges and change.

When the Second World War ended, she fled to the South with her children in tow. They left everything behind and made a perilous, night-time escape across the border. They made it to my grandfather who was already in Seoul at the time. Their lives were hectic as the Korean War raged on and as another son, my dad, and another daughter were born. Every day brought new challenges. My grandfather passed away when my grandmother was just 49 years old, leaving her behind with their seven children in post-war South Korea.

I wasn’t there, of course, but I can imagine how my grandmother responded. Backed up against a wall, future uncertain, and I imagine, rather I know she was strong, gloves up, full of grit, ready to face this hardship with calm, but also with fire in her soul. I know because her life is evident in the lives of her children- they have inherited this grit, this fire; they too have risen from hardship, they too have persevered.

She moved to America when she was almost 70 years old to help out with her children and grandchildren. She was uneducated, she was a widow, and in a country not her own. Yet she flourished.

When my grandmother was 75 years old, my 5 foot tall, 95 pound mother gave birth to twins. After which, with my mother recovering, she took up the unenviable task of taking care of me and my brother. She helped raise us- doing it with grace, with poise and with a smile despite our best intentions.

Halmuni, you couldn’t speak English, yet somehow I remember you talking to all the American grandmothers at the track you walked on everyday. I remember the huge garden you built and meticulously manicured in our backyard. I remember your army of handcrafted cranes brought to life from scraps of old newspaper. I remember at 100 years of age you flew from New York to the scorching Memphis summer to be a part of my wedding.

Halmuni, you came from a generation so vastly different than mine. You were selfless. You were never flashy. You never ever talked about yourself. You only cared that everyone else was taken care of first. You were the first Christian in our family and have planted an amazing legacy of faith. You always read your bible, each new version with larger print than the previous one. You were steadfast and never backed down from hardship.

On your final day in this world, you ate jajangmyun (black noodles) and soondubu (tofu stew) and you smiled and laughed. When the end neared my parents brought you to the ER. There you told my dad that it was time to go, that you didn’t want anything else done. You left this world unafraid of death, knowing you were going somewhere much sweeter. I think saying bye was your most selfish act. Even though you were 101 years old, I wish you would’ve stayed longer.

Halmuni, I love you and miss you.

7 thoughts on “slice of life challenge day #7: an incredible woman

  1. aggiekesler says:

    This piece was beautifully written, and it tells the story of your grandmother so well. I feel like I know her know- kind, selfless, loving, caring, Christian, an amazing mother and grandmother. Thank you for sharing Jee Young, and I hope that you are starting to find peace.

  2. jaclynfre says:

    Thank you for sharing this!! My grandmother passed away so close to yours and I’m also thinking of how to remember her in writing. This is an amazing account of your halmuni’s life is also an account of Korea’s transformation over the past few years. When I visit the Folk Village in Korea, it feels like visiting Williamsburg in the US, a period long gone and remembered with adorable gravitas. Yet, I have visited that Korean Village with people in their 60s and they remember growing up in this very same way that is displayed in museum-like re-enactment. Your grandmother’s legacy is alive in all that you do, Jee Young. What a beautiful testimony all around.

  3. mgminer says:

    I did not know your grandmother, but I feel her strength through this beautiful piece of writing. It is so hard to put the meaning of a life into words, but the effort is so worth it. I loved the part about her walking around the track every day! Maybe that’s the secret of living to 101!

  4. radnair says:

    My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.
    My grandma too lived with dignity, a life of incredible hardships. Through your words, I remember her today. Thank you for sharing this in your saddest moments. You touched my heart. May her soul rest in peace.

    The line made me smile… “you couldn’t speak English, yet somehow I remember you talking to all the American grandmothers at the track you walked on everyday.” Friendship speaks a language of its own.

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