A Belated Eulogy

On June 12, 14 years will have passed since my mother died.

On my birthday this year, April 16, another tragedy occurred in my current home, South Korea. The Sewol ferry accident that resulted in the loss of so many lives, many of them teenage children, would be a tough pill to swallow anywhere. In a country as small as this, it knocked the wind out of an entire nation.

For 14 years, I have been hesitant to write publicly about my mother’s death for fear of the same. But, a lot has changed since 2000. Fourteen Mother’s Days have come and gone. This Mother’s Day, hug your moms if you can.

We’ve all lost someone. No one’s someones are any less important.

A Belated Eulogy

In seven years I’ll be without you as long as I had you.
I cannot lift you from 14 years of dust that falls through my fingers.
hat good would I be to everyone I’ve loved before and since
if I tried?

In 14 years cells dance, separate and die. Ideas die and are born. Things change.

I could not have told you where Korea was on a map if you asked in your moment of clarity one early June afternoon,
when I was wasting my life as yours wasted away.

I could not tell you what kimchi tasted like.
I could not tell you what a fresh coconut tasted like.
I could not say what it felt like to jump off the side of a mountain.
I could not even say what it was like to kiss someone I actually loved.
Not yet. Things change.

But I still ask if any good can come from eulogizing you in front of strangers and current loves? Is this too personal?

Loss is always personal for somebody.
No one’s someones are any less important.
I have tried to keep that perspective as long as I have lost you.

But, t
ime has a way of dulling and diluting loss.

When I was 21, I ran to my room and curled in a ball on my bed.
After your funeral I slipped behind the shed and tried to cry.
The song was fresh, but I couldn’t find my voice.
Fourteen years later, that same song’s soft volume soared.
On April 16, my birthday, mothers, fathers,
sisters and brothers wailed over the edge
of the same sea I had tried to cross just weeks before.
Their song had a familiar taste to my own,
with voices that carried across a country.

Things change but the song. It always sounds the same.

Today, I see American mamas visit their kids in Korea. I’m not jealous.
But, I can’t not wonder if you would have, too.
So much I don’t know or neglected to ask when there was still time.
There always felt like there would always be time.

Yet, in seven years I’ll be without you as long as I had you.
If anything good could come from it, I would drink deep.
We all became a little closer.
Dad learned to be a little more open.
I learned to say “I love you” while there was still time.

Sometimes, on the other side of tragedy,
we find better versions of ourselves.

In 14 years cells dance, separate and die. Ideas die and are born. Things change.

Tonight I may dream of you, as I have less and less over 5,000 nights.
What once felt like a punch to the gut will be
a shoulder for my heavy head.
You’ll just be there. But, there is no “just” to your presence in dreams.
Fourteen years have taught me that.
It’s a song everyone can learn to sing.



4 thoughts on “A Belated Eulogy

  1. I’m proud to say your my son,I miss your Mom in every way,I know what it is ,to lose a best friend,a soul mate all in one.
    There’s a whole in my heart that won’t heal,no matter how hard I try,it keeps crying out,Where are you,I miss you,I need you
    and so it goes till that great day when all of us are together again.
    John I know your mom loved you very much,as well as Donna,Danny,DW, I also know she loved Amanda and Holly and wanted
    to see them grow up,get married and have children,that’s what she wanted for all of you.
    Love you very much,from your Mom and your Dad

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