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.

My Grandmother

My grandmother is a 100 years old.  My grandmother has an incredible story. (I hope to write a book about it one day.) Not only did she give birth to 7 kids, but she fled North Korea before the start of the Korean War while pregnant with my dad, and lost her husband not long after her last child was born. Many years later, with over 20 grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, she moved to New York for a very important reason. She came to help take care of her youngest grandchildren.

I remember seeing her in our dining room, sitting next to the window, with her glasses on and reading the Korean Bible. Even though she barely went to school beyond 6th grade, she reads and writes in Korean. She often says how she knows nothing because she didn’t get to finish her schooling. Yet, I think that she knows much more than me.

I remember seeing her out in the garden early in the morning to water her vegetables and flowers. Every day, she would go outside, watering the seeds and watching them sprout. In the summer evening, she would pick the fresh lettuce and peppers so we could eat them with our meal.

I remember when she would yell and run after the groundhogs that terrorized our garden. Sometimes she took a stick with her to try to scare them away. Yet, they kept coming back, fatter and sneakier. They must have had a bigger family to feed.

I remember when she would make us hot rice and then put soy sauce and butter on it. The hot rice with the mixture of the sweet and savory sauce was a treat. It sounds so simple, but at times I long for it. I know it wouldn’t be the same if I made it. It tastes best right after school, made with the hands of a loving grandmother.

I remember getting annoyed when she would give me the bigger piece of meat and take the smaller piece for herself. She always wanted to give my brothers and me more of her food. I wished at times she wouldn’t put us before her. She was the one that should be getting the best piece of meat, not us. We didn’t deserve it.

My grandmother is the only grandparent I ever got to know. I’m so blessed that she lived with my family growing up in New York. She came to New York to help take care of my brothers when they were born. They are twins and help was definitely needed. Without her help, I’m not sure how my mom would have survived! I can’t wait to see her again in New York this summer.

My grandmother was at the hospital in London when I was born!

My grandmother’s special birthday celebration a few years ago!