Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
Laying around in the fluffy purple pajama pants Wooree lent me she began,”What would you write to yourself if you could send a letter to your 80 year old self? You know, if you were going to die?”
“From myself now?” I paused. It seemed like a question of what I would want to be reminded of about life now at the end of mine. Wooree seemed to be grappling with these topics since her mother passed away two years ago. She was on the brink of marriage with her boyfriend of 8 years, and yet she lay pensive about the end of life.
“At the end of my life I would want to remind myself about life now. About the people I care about, and the things that matter to me now. Because maybe I won’t remember that when I’m 80.”
Wooree has worked with our program as a buddy. I was staying with Wooree and her brother for the Lunar New Years home stay. Lunar New Years is a time in the year where family gets together and celebrates the new year. It’s a holiday full of tradition – bowing and money for children. Earlier that day we had visited her grandmother who is recovering from hip surgery in the hospital. They spent a good amount of time discussing her upcoming marriage with much urgency to do it soon so she could attend the wedding. Then we drove over an hour to her family’s cemetery on the side of a mountain where her mother and grandfather were buried. There her and her brother had laid out a picnic mat and food for the deceased. The wind was strong so I was laid out on the mat to hold it down while they paid their respects. Wooree had brought her mother’s favorite coffee from Starbucks for her and offered me a sip. I like her mother’s taste in coffee.
“If my mother were here I think she would say you were smart and beautiful, Alyson!” We would have stayed longer had it not been for the wind which threatened to blow everything from the mat to the shoes taken off to stand on the mat off the mountain.
As a child I remember my grandparents lighting incense to deceased relatives, but it was never relevant to my life – not in the way that this was relevant to Wooree and her brother. I could see the love they had for their mother, and the love they had been shown from her. The holiday was an endless food fest (which many celebrations tend to be) with cut fruit and prepared meals and good conversation. There were visits to see friends and so much cooking.
We went to see Kung Fu Panda 3 in theaters, and I got to try spicy squid stir fry and ask all the questions I wanted about the Korean language. I didn’t have to worry about anything. In many ways it seemed that their mother was still there with them sharing that love. I could see that love through the ways Wooree took care of me and her brother throughout the weekend.
With this Ash Wednesday it’s good to be reminded that life is unpredictable and short. When the day comes that I leave this world I hope I’ll have lived a life that reflects the love of those I love and have loved. I already know I’ll have many wonderful people to remember at the end.