Monday, May 19, 2014

four years too late

One of my young Korean cousins wrote me an email the other day. In it, he expressed his condolences regarding the loss of my mother. I guess word doesn't spread too quickly on this side of the family; Mom's been dead since January of 2010.

Communicating with my Korean relatives during Mom's illness was difficult. Constant international calling would have cost a lot, and most of my older relatives didn't use email. I ended up having to type out and print a four-page snail-mail letter to one of Mom's cousins (she has four, who live in and around Seoul); the letter described the gravity of Mom's situation and noted there was no cure for glioblastoma multiforme. The heavy implication was that, if they wanted to say their goodbyes, it'd be nice if they could come to the States. There was no response to this long letter, which had also mentioned that the relatives could follow Mom's condition on my blog—written in English, true, but my own cousins should have known enough English to get at least the gist of what I'd been writing.

I got a call from one of Mom's cousins about three weeks after she had passed away. He wanted to know how things were going. I mentioned Mom's jangyae-shik (memorial), and he shouted, "WHAT?!"—indicating, to my frustration, that he hadn't followed the blog at all, and didn't even know that mom had died. Had he not read my snail-mail letter, either? Did he not realize that "no cure" really means no cure? People live in denial, especially when it comes to terminal illness. They paper over the truth; they sugar-coat the harsh reality. They refuse to deal. Perhaps my mother's cousin just didn't want to follow the implications of what I'd written. After all, it's only brain cancer, right? We can beat that!

So that's what communicating with my Korean relatives has been like. Now there's this email, four years too late. I don't feel too motivated to reply to it.


1 comment:

John said...

I'd chalk this up as "better late than never." At least he made the effort. Your mom's family reaction (or lack thereof) is inexplicable though.