(grandma on the right, with all of her ten grandchildren)
My grandmother was born in the 1920s to a colonized South Korea, where she not only lived through the Independence Movement (독립운동), during which she lost one of her sisters, but also survived the Korean war in the early 50s, when my mother was born as the third child and first daughter, eventually one of six children.
In the era and culture of male domination, where female submission was an unquestionable norm, my grandmother was something out of the ordinary, an independent soul, an educated woman, changing the world one child at a time. She and my grandfather ran an orphanage for children of war and a rehabilitation center for the wounded and the handicapped - still alive today in South Korea. A woman of faith and conviction, she didn’t hesitate to continue the work on her own when she was prematurely widowed in the 70s. She remained active and influential in her community right until the end of her life.
She was a rather exact example of human humility and generosity. She was also the picture of health, a gentle yet fiery woman full of ardor, out-walking even her great-grandchildren. One of her prayers included aging with grace, where no children of hers would be burdened by her advanced age, that she would remain robust until a quiet death. Her prayers were answered. She fell suddenly but stayed alive until her children and grandchildren flew in from all over the world to gather for her last breath, which was taken in her own bed. She passed away peacefully on March 18th, 2012, surrounded by all of her children.
The sense of loss has been overwhelming at times, but the past few weeks have been more about the celebration of her amazing life and the gift of love and family she has given us. I have the privilege to call her my role model, whose firm philosophy and proactive causes have inspired and changed countless lives. I’m grateful to be a part of this family history, connected to one of the most inspirational women I’ve ever known.