Life and Death in Christ

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Children are dressed in Easter colors. They are so cute, especially the four brothers ages from about three to seven. They are dressed up in white suits with matching shirts and ties. My delightful eyes follow them as they walk behind their parents looking for the seats. I doubt that they will have any success. I know the church is full. It is beyond full. There are many of us including me standing in the back who did not make it early enough to secure their seats. There is also another Mass going on in the smaller chapel to meet all the needs. So many came on this Easter day to receive the Communion. The beautiful statue of the risen Lord hovers over the crowd, but everyone attending this special Mass knows in their hearts that Our Lord is alive. He still shares His precious Body and Blood through the bread and wine filling us with His Spirit.

I barely made it to this Easter day Mass. The move almost consumed me. My parents rented a 16 foot truck with a dolly to transport their sedan from Tennessee to Maryland. The truck was loaded with their stuff, and some of my belongings and bikes. The road trip took us good 17 hours including the rest time. But with the Lord’s guidance, we have made it to Maryland in time for me to go to the Mass. It was a great gift of God because I was in great need of the Communion. It had been a very emotional, chaotic, and stressful week, but especially so on the final day in Tennessee.

Every day is Easter, and every Sunday reminds us of our risen Lord. He is alive, always in action, and my soul knows Him. My soul is always with Him through the good times and bad, and He did not fail me this past week. He helped me so greatly. On this final day of our move, I was riding in the back seat of my dad’s car. Everything went wrong, and we were already 12 hours behind the schedule. The new owners already started moving in and we still had the garage full of our stuff. The truck my dad planned to rent was not to be available for us until later that evening. Yet, we were still driving around town, trying to take care of things. I think we were driving to Comcast to return our modem. I felt so exhausted, frustrated, and out of control. We had so much to do when we were supposed to have left hours ago. On top of that, we still had my parent’s evening job of cleaning the building to do. It was his final day at work.

It was raining outside, a very moist day. The car windows fogged up, and as a way to cope with the anger and frustration building up inside me, I started doodling on the window. I was mad at the way my dad handled the move. I did not want to be there, feeling stuck in the chaotic situation he created. I suddenly started to doubt if their being with me in Maryland is going to be a healthy thing for me after all. Didn’t I run away to Hawaii because of this? Didn’t I leave all this behind when I left my country a decade ago? And how is it that I am here again, dealing with them, with their mess, the state of the chaos? My life gets so complicated around my parents. It always did. It feels so… very heavy to be around them. Sometimes, I just want to run away, far and away where no one can reach me, and I was entering into one of those moments very quickly. But soon, I knew my dark thoughts and negativity did not come from the Lord. It was my own weakness speaking. My cowardice was attacking me again. I love my parents. I am sure I, especially with my depression, have  been their burden and yet they loved me unconditionally. They are not my burden. They are gifts from God. The Lord loves them, and it is God’s desire for me to love them the way they should be loved. I quickly changed my thought pattern and pulled out my index finger and touched the cold, wet, misty window. I slowly and quietly wrote, “LORD HELP US.” 

It was my desperate cry. A very silent last call. I stared at the words I just wrote with a very calm face. But I knew my core was about to break into pieces. A few minutes later, I noticed something very interesting. The word US was changed into YS as the moist gathered under the word U to form a small drop of water that gravitated downward. It now read, “LORD HELP YS.” — YS, the initial of my name.

And I could not agree more. YS needs a big help. She needs help all the time. She’s so lost. She’s always lost. She’s a lost immigrant, with her immigrant parents who is lost even worse than her.

After the move, I finally met my first morning back in Maryland. I was back in the place where I felt safe. But we woke up to a call that came very early in the morning from my aunt in Korea. My grandmother is in critical condition and has been admitted to the hospital. She lost all her memories, and cannot recognize anyone. I immediately remembered the last time I saw her. It was in 2009, during my last trip to Korea. Has it been 4 years already? Since then, my parents have left Korea, and she lived the last three years without her oldest, and most trusted son, my dad. I know what caused her mental breakdown. I know my parents’ move out of the country was a big shock for her. I know because it was for me when I left my country.

Once you start to dwell, there is so much to dwell on. You can keep digging and digging, until you dig your own personal hell. I have done it many times before. And here I go again. Have I lost her? Is she still the same person, the same grandma if she cannot remember me? She will see my dad again, but would she know that her beloved oldest son is finally back at her side to give her the long desired embrace?

There are so many sad questions to ask. But the thought that all our lives and deaths happen in Christ erases all the sad and sentimental scenarios. We can rejoice because our Lord Jesus is alive. Even now, I rejoice because in Christ, living is dying and dying is living. How grateful that I have grandmothers, parents, and sisters who are the followers of Christ? Whatever happens here on earth, I know we are always together in Jesus. He has risen to raise us from death and death shall not part us.

I wrote the healing prayer for my grandma after the Mass in the book of prayer. I cried as I was writing my heart’s desire of wanting to have my grandma here with us awhile longer. In a way, I almost feel responsible for her sickness. After all, I gave my parents the cause of moving out of Korea. I have left my parents across the ocean, where they would follow a decade later.

Even though I cannot sit beside my grandma holding her hands, I know in spirit we are together. I am not witnessing the degression of her mental health, or her failing body. What I am witnessing is her wounded life being transformed into a new creation. I don’t know what we are facing ahead. But whatever it is, I know all things are unfolding according to God’s good will, and we are always flowing into the direction of His amazing grace. Jesus prays and cries here with me even now. He is so alive. And He is about to do something about my grandma. About my parents. About me. About all of us. About the world. He has great concern for us all.

So in the midst of the loss of my grandmother’s memories of me, I have reasons to celebrate. My grandma is free from her mental and emotional pain triggered by her memories. Her sad memories of loss, pain, and grief will not touch her anymore. She is safe in the Lord; In the Lord who is alive, and living, who gives life to all those who seek, to those who are His. Death, illness, and memory loss all lose their meaning in Christ. There is only hope in this life and death lived in our risen savior.

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