Thank you all for being here.
It’s impossible to capture all that my mother meant to me in a few minutes and I’m certain that all of us have wonderful stories to share about her. I’m looking forward to hearing them all. I wanted to share with you little snippets of what I will personally remember most about my mom.
My mom was smart – like really smart but I think she did a good job of hiding it; perhaps something that a lot of women from her generation did. She had a really good sense of people and for business. She had so many talents, but I don’t think she really understood how good she was at everything.
Back in the day, my mom was a gracious host and loved having family and friends over to celebrate with food and fun. She was a great cook and I still remember her Christmas parties and how much she enjoyed the family being together, eating, singing, and playing games like Yun nori. My mom was so beautiful – I remember that one of my greatest joys as a child was watching her put on her makeup and do her hair before a night out with my dad. She was a singer as many of you know and always loved music. She was also a wonderful dancer and was such a fun person to be around.
My mom was a genuinely cheerful person by nature. She loved the mornings and would be up at the crack of dawn cooking and walking.
She had a green thumb and somehow no matter how bad a plant was doing; she was always somehow able to bring it back to life. She always told me that people are like plants, no matter how much they’ve deteriorated, with a little love and care they can come back. In her special way, she like with her plants revived me and brought me back to life many times during my life. If I was going through difficult times, she always welcomed me back home without a second thought. I mean don’t get me wrong she would nag me and tell me all the things that I was doing wrong the entire time but would still dutifully feed me good food, shelter me and we’d go on long walks together and philosophize about life. At one point she joked that I came back home so often that she would have to move to a smaller house so that I would stop coming home.
My mom noticed and observed everything which could be a double-edged sword; she could sense if you were happy or sad so we all became expert at hiding anything that would make her worry. She would notice what food you enjoyed eating and then would make it especially for you the next time you came to visit. Sometimes she would even give you her portion of the same food pretending that she was full.
She was incredibly diligent and hard working and taught us by modelling the importance of duty; I think in different ways all 3 of us, her kids; Alex, Kim and I absorbed and adopted her work ethic and sense of duty as even now if required, even though the three of us couldn’t be more different, we come together as a family when required and work together to achieve a common goal.
She and my dad had extremely high expectations of us and I’m certain if you were to ask my brother and sister, we would all agree that sometimes those expectations felt too lofty and unachievable, but I don’t think any of us ever stopped striving for and secretly wanting my mom’s approval. There was nothing like the feeling of my mom being proud of you.
My mom was so incredibly generous and gracious. She never went to anyone’s home empty handed; she spent so little on herself but would always give the most generous gifts. As kids we never went without – I don’t ever remember a trip or an experience that my parents ever said no to – somehow, they would find the money to send us wherever we wanted to go or get us braces, etc. I grew up never thinking about money because I was always made to feel there was enough for whatever I wanted. I know now that she went without to make sure that we had those experiences.
My mom was also tenacious. She never gave up if she wanted something. As much as she constantly pushed us to be better, she also pushed just as much for you.
Although she didn’t own her own new car until later in life, I remember when I was in my early twenties her insisting that my dad put a down payment on my first new car because she didn’t like seeing me driving around in her second-hand car. Whenever I wanted something whether it be related to food, a car, a home, an education, or my career, she always pushed me to go for the better thing slightly out of my reach. She wanted me to dream bigger.
My mom was a devoted wife. When my dad was sick for 5 years, although I lived with them at the time, she made sure that nothing changed for me as she took on all the duties of taking care of him herself. When he was hospitalized, she would wake up early to prepare him breakfast/lunch and deliver it to the hospital, do a full day of work, come home, and make him dinner, deliver it to the hospital and come home late at night to do it all over again the next day. All of this because he didn’t like the hospital food. I don’t remember her ever complaining. She was such a caring and generous boss that her employees at the store refused to take extra pay for the extra hours they worked when my dad was sick. I think that really says something about them but also about her.
My mom was fiercely loyal – I respected her so much for this. No matter what people did or how they disappointed her in her life, she always accepted and forgave them. Even when everyone else had turned their backs on said person, she would always find a redeeming quality, have a kind word to say, be wishing them well and make sure they felt included. Her ability to forgive and forget is something that I will always aspire to. She would tell me often not to hate people and just to accept that it was their destiny to be how they were.
We had some deep discussions in the last couple of months of her life and one was around purpose. We both agreed that the purpose of life was simply to love; and that nothing else meant anything without it.
People express love in different ways but my mom showed it through her duty, her tenacity, her acceptance and forgiveness, always wanting the family to get along and be together, her generosity, her cheerfulness, never turning away from someone in need and her fierce loyalty. When she thought about loyalty towards the end of her life, she thought of her older sister who we call kunomah and it was her wish that she would get to spend her last days with the person in her life who had been most loyal to her. She kept saying that she’d had a good life and wasn’t sad to leave us (her kids behind); but was most sad about leaving her older sister and said through all their 85 years together they never fought once which for anyone who has a sister knows is pretty remarkable.
I am comforted when I look at my brother and see in him my mom’s joy of life, graciousness and wanting everyone to feel included, I look at my sister and see my mom’s sweet nature and love of family and acceptance of people and I look at myself and see my mom’s tenacity, impatience and fierce loyalty and realize that she is not truly gone as she lives on through us and all the other people that she has touched.
Our hearts are open today as they typically are at events like these where we remember someone who we have lost; where we suddenly understand clearly for a day or two what truly matters in life. My mom’s hope would be that we continue to love each other and keep our hearts open to receiving love too; not just today but as a practice everyday. My hope is that we honour my mom’s incredible life and legacy of love and continue her journey for her by doing just that. Thank you.