Five Years Asleep

February 28, 2018 - 5 Responses

This morning, I had one of those moments when the bible passage I was reading was eerily apropos. I kid you not; this was the passage:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” — 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

It’s the fifth anniversary of So Young’s passing, and this passage is completely “her.” She was preoccupied with the second coming of Christ more than anyone I’ve known. She was delighted at the prospect. She hoped she would either die before she got old or be taken away in the rapture. She was one of those “Amen Come Lord Jesus” Christians that my pastor preached about last Sunday (in another eerie cooincidence, by the way, considering today’s bible reading and this anniversary). So Young saw the rapture as all Christians should see it, not necessarily as most of us do: The delightful hope of all wrong things being made right.

Including So Young not being here.

So thank you, whoever led me to that passage this morning. We are all still grieving, but we wait — encouraged by this hope.

So Young Sunrise


Remembering So Young: Four Years

February 28, 2017 - 2 Responses

This year, So Young will miss the first time that the Gage household will be occupied by three teenagers simultaneously. She’ll miss Lindsay’s sweet 16 and Audrey turning 13. She’ll miss Shannon graduating from high school and Audrey from elementary school. In the fall, she’ll miss Shannon going to college, Lindsay starting her junior year, and Audrey starting middle school. She’ll miss countless other milestones, and she’ll be missed as each one passes.


February 27, 2017


So much has changed since February 28, 2013. A new marriage, a new mom, a new house, new jobs, new friends, a new school… So Young’s loss is a constancy for all of us — one that didn’t make much sense at the time and still doesn’t, one that changed everything then and affects everything now. But our sense of who So Young (“Mommy,” “Ruby”) was as a person is just as much a constancy — and a challenge.

So Young was far from perfect. I know this, because I was married to her. (Note that she would say without hesitation that I am much more imperfect!) But her faith was one of the simplest and purest faiths I’ve seen. The innocence and certainty of her relationship with Christ, the realness of her experience of his love, healing, and forgiveness… I hope that those aspects of who So Young was will continue to haunt us just as much as her absence.

So when we remember her, let’s not just remember the way that she died or the fact that she isn’t here (but is somewhere else) or even the life she lived. Let’s remember who she was. Mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister So Young. Remembering you until we see you again.


October 30, 2009


February 23, 2016 - 20 Responses

Short version: Will you take a minute, either on Facebook or this blog, to post a memory about So Young, even if it’s just a memory about a character or personality trait or quirk?

Long version: I’ve been poking around the blog over the past few weeks, reading old posts and thinking about what I’ll write about this coming Sunday, February 28, which will be the three-year anniversary since So Young passed away. The blog can be pretty sad and hard to read, because it ends a certain way. But the overall theme is a joyful one — the hope we have in God and that God loves us.

Tonight I read the “Remembrances” page, and it really touched me ( I was struck by the number of people whose lives were touched by her. I thought it might be good to try that idea again. This is a great way to remember her.

If you have a moment and can think of something to write, will you post a memory of So Young that you have?

Here’s mine.

I remember So Young playing the guitar in the living room. She would sit on the floor with sheet music spread around her, strumming either the purple electric/acoustic I gave her or the old guitar that she got from her brother Josh. She would sing as  she played. It was one of the ways she would worship God.  One of her favorite songs — and one of my favorites to hear — was “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”  That was a common theme among her favorites: God’s love for us.


Two Years

March 2, 2015 - 6 Responses

How much is she missed?

How often have we wondered what it would be like if she was here? Would she have run in this ice-cold weather, as crazy as she was? What wisecrack would she have said at the women’s retreat this weekend? What surprising, piercing wisdom would she offer to a new or old friend encountering another stage in life or hardship?

Every once in a while, I think to myself, “I wonder what she would have thought about that.” Or, “I wonder what she would have said…” I knew her well enough to guess.

And how much has she missed?

Audrey turning 10, Lindsay turning 13, Shannon turning 16, and me turning 40, for starters. Shannon starting to drive and getting her black belt. Lindsay starting horseback riding and navigating middle school. A few hundred nights of reading books and snuggling with Audrey.

So much missed so far, and so much more to miss.


This weekend marked two years after So Young’s death. The girls didn’t want to go to the grave (too sad, they said), so we decided to go out to dinner to remember her. We had a great time, but Audrey cried at bedtime, so we snuggled and talked until she felt better.

Nothing really makes losing your mom (or spouse) completely OK, but we have a lot to be thankful for these days. God is in the business of restoration — big-picture and small-picture healing. When the big-picture healing is complete one day, Jesus will say, “Behold, I make all things new.” Meanwhile, I’m grateful for the daily, “some things” healing He provides.

I think of her often in one way or another, but the thoughts have slowly become less grief from a tragedy and more memories from 20 years of life together. Emily has also been an instrument of God’s daily healing for all of us, unafraid of So Young’s memory, a true, godly partner and companion to me, and a loving, adoptive mother to the girls.

When a young person dies, it’s natural to think mostly of the tragedy at first, but how much more does it honor her to remember the way she lived and reflect on where she is now? The sadness and beauty of So Young’s passing is that she is painfully and acutely not here, and yet she is wonderfully and eternally somewhere else now, in heaven.

If you could hear me now, So Young, I’d say thank you for the legacy that continues to this day of being my wife and friend and a godly mother to the girls. You lived joyfully but with the weakness we all share. You struggled much in death, but even then, your faith and hope inspired us. Your young, strong body was ultimately frail, like we all are, but nothing could take the grace of God from you, and Jesus never left your side. Even as we continue to reluctantly say good-bye, we look forward in hope to being restored with you in heaven, in a little while. Until then…

A Hope that Fills the Vastness of the Sea

February 28, 2014 - 9 Responses

From James:

Today marks one year after So Young went to heaven. She is much happier now than she was here with us, but her time on earth was punctuated with sweet moments of joy, whether it was hours spent enjoying her girls or solitary moments of gratitude for what God had done for her. Here’s a journal entry So Young wrote that I found recently. It was written after her brain tumor diagnosis. It shows so many things about the So Young we knew for the short time she was here: her love of God and understanding of his character, her gratitude despite suffering, and her persistent heart for people who don’t know Jesus.

This year, So Young is going to miss some important birthdays: Audrey’s 10th, Lindsay’s 13th, Shannon’s 16th, and my 40th. Loss isn’t a single event but many lifetimes of reminders of absence, all of us missing, all of us grieving, all of us remembering. We’ll never forget you, So Young. Until we see you again… 

Overcome with emotions this morning. It’s 4:30 a.m., and you’ve called me downstairs to pray — prayers of intercession, prayers of thanksgiving. Overwhelmed at the kind of God I serve and love, who loves me. So thankful that my family sleeps peacefully upstairs, but more than anything, grateful that we are all saved. A household of true believers. It’s something to cry about. Lord, you are too good to me, to us!

Praying especially for the lost. Anyone of us could lose our physical lives at any moment, but if Jesus has saved us, we live with an immeasurable hope, a hope that fills the vastness of the sea. No — more!

Praise God I could read what I’ve written and was able to see the song list on the iPod. Amazed!


So Young with a very tiny Audrey

Celebrating So Young Gage: A Eulogy

May 8, 2013 - 2 Responses

Today is the birthday of So Young’s best friend, Kim. So Young had a lot of people she would call her best friend, but Kim was close to So Young for nearly 30 years. Kim delivered this eulogy with great poise and eloquence during So Young’s funeral on March 2, 2013. To me, it so fittingly represents So Young and her life that I don’t know if anymore words need to be said. Thanks, Kim, for loving my wife all those years, in good times and bad. I hope you know that you brought great joy to her life. This was clear even when So Young was diminished to the point that she could only listen but couldn’t talk. It makes me so sad to remember how sick she was, to the point she couldn’t talk to you. Still, you had this underlying connection so deep that for her, it didn’t really seem to matter. You were her best friend Kim. Your reunion on the other side will be so sweet, Kim. I’m sure you’ll have a lot to talk about, and you won’t have to get of the phone…

Every few years, So Young and I would stop and count how long we’ve known each other. In the end, the Lord gave us just over 28 years of friendship.  Her first memory of me is my rainbow suspenders (which are due to come back in style in about five years!). My first memory of her is hearing her reply to a classmate who asked about her longer hair: tossing her hair and saying, “Yeah, I’m letting it grow.” That was sixth grade. Over these past 28 years, the Lord brought several precious friends into our lives, many of whom are in this room. And yet I realize that there is something unique about our relationship, and I think it goes beyond the fact that we’ve known each other for so long. Ours is a friendship that God Himself preserved through the infamous 8th grade silent treatment, protected from time and distance, and ultimately used to help shape the women we became.

Kim and SY

First, the silly stuff! We used to talk on the phone ALL the time! We’d talk and talk for hours and hours. And we enjoyed a lot of great meals together. During the brief season when we were both working, before the kids came along, we would meet for lunch. So we talked all the time, and we ate, and sometimes we would do both at the same time. Like if she was eating lasagna…

“I’m eating lasagna.”

“Ooh, that sounds yummy!”

Can you smell it over the phone?”


“Here, want to taste some?”

“Oohh, that IS good!”

So we did this when we were girls, and when we grew up we did it every now and then for old times’ sake, but only when no one else was around.

We went shopping together, and on each trip we would eat, and we would buy matching things. The first things I remember were matching gray leggings from Paul Harris at Fair Oaks Mall, which I wore until they had holes and had to be thrown away. Once, we bought matching earrings… Our last outing was to Potomac Mills in a wheelchair (those ramps are steeper than they look!) where we bought matching lotion. We had picked out some things for our husbands, but we ended up putting those back and buying ourselves more stuff, and we bought matching glitter body spray. I asked her, “Where do you want to be sparkly?” She said, “My face.” So I sprayed her face.

And then we got Auntie Annie’s cinnamon sugar pretzels! This was our last indulgence together. We sat in Starbucks, eating Annie’s pretzels, and they were sooo good, and we got cinnamon sugar all over ourselves. Now she was having trouble using both hands by then, but we were both just covered. I was blessed with a chance to enjoy those same pretzels with the girls a couple of months ago.

Our friendship was also marked by unconditional love. Now, I know this is a eulogy, and I’m only supposed to be saying good things about So Young, but she wasn’t always all smiling and peaceful like in her picture! And Lord knows I’m not. But that’s where unconditional love comes in. So Young knew the best things about me and the worst things about me, and she loved me. She knew my secrets, and carried them with her to the grave. Unconditional love comes in when you’ve made a bad decision, or when you’ve loved Jesus for years but you’re having trouble following Him. Unconditional love is there to say, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And speaking of Him, So Young was the first person under 30 who I’d ever heard talk about Jesus. When we met, she was already a Christian, but I wasn’t. So she’d ask me, “What do you think about God? Where will you go when you die?” I became a Christian a few years later.

We would also bear one another’s burdens. When I consider the major milestones of my life, and the major milestones of So Young’s life, there is always a memory of celebrating together, or crying together. And remember: for So Young and I, “together” could happen even when we were miles apart. I remember happiness when she met her James, and it didn’t take long to discover that he would be the first — and ultimately the last love of her life.  I remember falling to my knees and bawling when her mother died. There was the brief shared joy of being pregnant together, and So Young crying all the way home when I lost my baby. I remember rejoicing when God worked a miracle to give So Young her dream job (Stay-at-Home Mom!) and sharing the joys of watching her three girls and my two boys grow. I remember bawling over So Young’s diagnosis and the thought that someday, this day may come far sooner than any of us had ever imagined. At every milestone, every turning point, So Young and I laughed together or wept together.

Except for this one.

Now I’m down here drowning in tears, and she’s up there all happy with Jesus! But I must say: she expects us to be celebrating, too. When James shared her funeral wishes with me I was thinking, “What is this supposed to be, a party or something?!” I mean, I’ve spent the last few days wondering if I should be buying balloons and streamers!

And yet, my dear friend wasn’t crazy to suggest such a thing. In fact, it’s the stuff of the New Testament: to live is Christ and to die is gain…” “hard pressed between the two…”  “Consider it all joy…” In fact, So Young’s faithful God challenges and even commands us to have such an attitude, because it is characteristic of a spiritual maturity that knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is real, His word is truth, His love is unfailing, His promises are guaranteed, and His heaven is filled with all sorts of phenomenal things that our eyes haven’t seen, our ears haven’t heard — things that haven’t even entered into the heart of man! And better yet, the key to gaining all these treasures is as simple as recognizing that you are a sinner and surrendering to the One who has the power to wash away that sin: Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us.

So Young possessed that key. She knew for certain that when our good God saw fit to call her home, He would welcome her into His heaven and sustain her James and Shannon and Lindsay and Audrey all the days of their life as well. And if we know him and trust Him this way, then surely we would find this day worth celebrating So Young’s restored vision, her freedom to walk and run… and not just her renewal from the sickness that overtook her body, but in fact her deliverance from the fleshly, sin-sick bodies that we all have.

And I too believe in Jesus. Completely. Despite my questions, my pains, my sadness and my fears. I know Him and I love Him. So I can celebrate today for what God has done for So Young Gage, my truest and dearest friend. But I also mourn. Not as those who have no hope, but mourning nonetheless for the two glasses of lemonade that we never got to share on my front porch, and for the loss of all the moments we thought we’d share before we knew how soon her time would run out.

In these seasons of mourning, I am thankful for the memories: 28 years of everything from insignificant chats to life-changing experiences with So Young. And I am thankful for the three treasures that she has left behind, and that I can see So Young’s creative brilliance in Shannon, her undying passions in Lindsay, and her sweet, carefree spunkiness in Audrey. And to God be the glory for the hope of salvation, which guarantees that if we confess our sin and trust Him as Savior, then we will see So Young again, and we’ll all be happy with Jesus forever and ever. Amen!

God Gave Us a Chance

May 2, 2013 - 3 Responses

Audrey (8) came downstairs crying tonight and told me she misses Mommy. She said she just wanted to hold her hand and hug her and for her to be here and well again. It surprises me how infrequently this has happened since So Young died. The kids really don’t sit and cry a lot about So Young being gone.

Later Audrey said, “I remember I held her hand. God gave us a chance. I had no idea.”

Audrey was talking about the night So Young died. We were pretty sure that she was going to go very, very soon, maybe in a couple of days or a week, so that night we made a special effort to have the girls say “good night” to their mother while she slept — unresponsive — on the bed. Shannon sat next to Audrey on the bed while Audrey wordlessly held her mom’s beautiful left hand, which So Young hadn’t moved in several days. I didn’t tell Audrey that her mom was going to die. I had told the older two, but I just couldn’t bring myself to crush an 8-year-old like that, only to crush her again by telling her after her mom had passed. So like she said, she had no idea. That was Audrey’s last moment with her mom.

Audrey brought home a graded writing assignment the other day. She got an S+ on it, which is the best grade you can get. The teacher had filled in a title for her: “An Interesting Story.”

“Would you like to hear an interesting story? On day my mom had a bran tomer and I held her hand. When I woke up I was waiting for someone to wake me up. Then my dad came in. Mom went to heven last night. He said as a tear droped down his eye. I have lots of memorys about mommy!”

That pretty well summarizes what it was like to tell her. Audrey was the last I told and the one I least wanted to tell. But God gave her that one last chance.

An Interesting Story

Two Months After She’s Gone, and Sure Enough I’m Still Thinking about Her

April 29, 2013 - 8 Responses

I feel like I am commemorating little anniversaries, like So Young and I did when we were college kids and first dating. “Wow, it’s been two weeks! Happy anniversary! I made you a card and wrote a poem…”

April 28 marks two months after So Young died. I have this strong feeling these days that I want to leave it behind me. By “it,” I’m not sure what I mean, but I think I mean this blog, ruminating about the fact that she has died, I’m alone, my kids have no mom, the whole mourning thing (good luck with that), etc., etc. The problem is that it’s like getting your right arm cut off and somebody telling you to stop thinking about your right arm.

I’ve met a few fellow young widow(er)s recently, and it has been refreshing. Before, I felt like nobody understood. Now I know that (besides God) there are people on earth who understand and are going through the same thing. We have similar frustrations, similar preoccupations.

Kenji reminded me in another one of those life-altering meetings  that occurs when I’m going in the wrong direction (we have too many of those) that I need to not primarily identify as a widower but as a disciple of Christ. He really pressed me on this over and over again while we sat there at Chipotle for an hour and I laughed uncomfortably, because I was clearly preoccupied with certain things (not just being a widower, but about certain things that are sort of ancillary to my condition) to the extent that he was wondering if I wasn’t idolizing those things. Anyway, long story short he’s right, and I’m struggling to reorient myself toward God rather than all these distractions and my grief. It ain’t easy. I talk to other widow(er)s, and they’re in the same boat. Still thinking about that dumb right arm.

I have a lot of new goals now, in addition to my primary life mission of being a disciple and follower of Christ. For one thing, I want to commemorate So Young properly, especially for the girls. She left a lot of journals from all stages of her life. I want to type those up for the girls, and maybe our letters, and maybe my (sanitized) journals, too. I want them to hear their mom’s voice as they grow up. New goals or not, I realize that the day-to-day running of my little family is time-consuming enough, such that as much as I want to achieve humanistic perfection in addition to becoming this really devout individual, I might have to settle for fumbling attempts at both.

I have one more eulogy to post on this blog. I reorganized the blog already to reflect the fact that she is dead. I’m not sure how many more posts I want to do. So Young is gone. I wake up in the morning and hesitate, as if I am about to put my wedding ring on. It’s a habit and I sort of pause there. I don’t put it on anymore. I’m not married to her.

Today I ran and thought about how I don’t really run for her, because she doesn’t see me. She isn’t here. I should run for Jesus. I said to myself there would be a sign at that moment if she was here. Sure enough, there was this strong breeze and a lot of petals from a cherry blossom or some such tree came blowing in front of me, across my path. It was like the snow at the funeral. It just came drifting down, right at the moment it should have, just like the snow. Winter has turned to spring. They said she wouldn’t make it to the spring.


The coolest picture I have seen in a while: So Young’s friend Sara ran the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville yesterday in So Young’s honor and tweeted me this picture of the shoes she wore. It was a really tough run through a heavy downpour. So Young would have loved that on several levels.

“God Is Good All the Time”: A Eulogy

April 28, 2013 - One Response

So Young’s sister, So Me, delivered this eulogy at So Young’s funeral on March 2, 2013.

I am not sure how to begin.  So Young wanted this to be a joyous occasion…a celebration of her life.  It is a joyous time for her. She is smiling down on us right now from Heaven asking why there aren’t more flowers.  It will be difficult for the ones left behind…it will be hard for me, and for her family, and friends that love her so much.  Life will not be the same.

I am not a good public speaker and to have to speak in front of you under these circumstances, will make it that much more difficult. Despite this, I will do my best to share my testimony about So Young today.

To start, for those who do not know me, I am So Me, So Young’s younger sister.  This is a bitter-sweet day.  As many of you know, So Young was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in November of 2010.  I remember the day I received the news.  It was November 12, 2010, the day before my baby shower.  I was 35 weeks pregnant with my youngest son, Jacob.  So Young called me and I could hear the hesitation in her voice because she wanted to protect me from the truth.  I could tell she didn’t want to burden me with bad news especially during a happy time in my life. When she said the words “I have a brain tumor”, I sat silent for a minute.  Maybe I was in a state of shock, but for some reason I was not sad or upset.  I remember telling So Young “this is not the end.  I know it”.  I felt a sense of peace and I reassured her that everything will work out according to His plan.  I think it made her feel better that I had that hope.

Many of you know that So Young was an avid runner and a marathoner.  Being diagnosed with a brain tumor was just the beginning of her new race.

After months of radiation therapy, So Young seemed to be getting better.  The tumor shrunk 30%.  What a miracle!  Despite all of the challenges ahead of her, So Young really began to live in the two years that followed.

She gave her testimony at the Women’s Fall Tea in 2011.  Her words were inspiring.  Her speech really touched many people that day when she spoke of her personal experiences.  She was honest.  She spoke of her brokenness and her feeling of unworthiness.  She was depressed until God woke her up and told her “you are worthy”.  A brain tumor isn’t something anyone wishes for, but So Young was awakened by this experience and it inspired her to begin living.

So Young ended her speech with this verse:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

It is evident that God loves So Young.  He loved her so much that he couldn’t resist taking her from this world early.  She has fulfilled her purpose in life and was ready to turn the page. God has used So Young for the purpose of touching our lives and she has succeeded.  She was ahead of us in the race.

During her time of trials, she managed to pull something good from a bad situation.  She learned to live again.  She loved deeper, and took nothing for granted.

So Young was a great older sister.  The Best!  Don’t get me wrong, but she wasn’t perfect.  We used to fight and beat each other up all the time…like siblings do.  We were very close when we were younger, but there came a time in our lives that we went our separate ways and we weren’t as close as we had been in the past.

So Young got married to a wonderful man, James, moved to Woodbridge, and had three beautiful daughters, Shannon, Lindsay, and Audrey.  It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that we really began to reconnect when my husband and I decided to move to Woodbridge.  We lived about 5 minutes away.  We started to see each other more often.  When my first son, Nathanael, was born she cared for him during his toddler years while I worked.  We got to see our families grow in that time.  It’s amazing how things work out.  You don’t realize it at the time, but God always has his hands in your life…moving you where he needs you to be at just the right time.  I think living closer to So Young in these last few years was for His purpose and for our benefit.

Last February, So Young and I went to our church’s Women’s Retreat at Sandy Cove in MD.  We shared a room and it was like old times.  When we were kids, we would stay up past our bed time just yapping all night long.  Dad and Mom would keep telling us to “go to bed!” but we continued talking for hours.  Sharing a room at this retreat reminded me of those times.  She even assured me that I snored in my sleep.  Well the jokes on her because she does too. 🙂

This past Fall, So Young found out that her brain tumor had returned with a vengeance.  We all were discouraged, but she still did not complain or ask why.  She endured chemotherapy medication and treatment to no avail.  Her health declined quickly since the summer to the point she was bedridden by Christmas time.

She never once complained or felt sorry for herself. In these last few months, I have talked to her more than I had in a long time.  Even if she didn’t want to hear it, I told her about my day and about my mundane everyday problems, which usually consisted of work and kids.  She sat patiently…she listened, and she tried to look interested.  I remember one time I was talking about how my husband mentioned that he wouldn’t mind being a stay at home dad.  She quickly blurted out, “well that’s not gonna happen!”  This made me laugh especially because she wasn’t really talking much at that point in time, but she sure had an opinion to share with me.

This past week has been the hardest for me.  I have known since last Saturday that So Young was leaving us in just a few short days.  I said my goodbyes several times throughout the week.  Each time it got a little easier.  A dear friend shared her experience with the passing of her loved one.  She told me that sometimes the one you love just wants to know that it is okay to move on.  God must have placed this on her heart to share this story with me at the time I needed to hear it.  Each time I went to say my goodbyes, I told So Young that I would be okay, and that James and the girls would be okay in time. I told her that this time she had to do what was right for her even if that meant leaving us behind for now.  I told her we would be along shortly and this is not goodbye.  Instead I said “see you soon”.  This is So Young’s end here on earth, but the beginning of her life with God in Heaven.

Wednesday night I visited So Young briefly in the afternoon.  I was supposed to take Shannon to TKD as I usually do but James’ dad, offered to take her.  James sent me a text that read “Dad is taking Shannon to TKD. I think you should still visit SY tho”.  This time he didn’t give me the option to say yes or no and I am so grateful for that.  I remember thinking, “I just saw her this afternoon, maybe I will go tomorrow”.  Thankfully I did go.  I talked to SY like it was just another day for about 45 minutes…until I started getting thirsty.  I told her about the many people that love her and that I couldn’t believe how many people cared to come by to visit her.  There was a constant flow of visitors day and night.  She was very popular.  I even had to make appointments to visit her.  Although, I did get priority over most everyone else 🙂 This was a special time I got to spend with my sister and I am forever grateful for that.

When I think of who So Young was and what she was all about, this is what I came up with: She loved God, first and foremost, and she loved her family and friends.  She was a devout Christian, faithful wife, wonderful mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend.  She was selfless and put the needs of others before herself. She wasn’t ashamed to witness to others, and to show God’s love.  Even when she was sick, she still devoted her time to the church and to our children.  She had passion for food and for life.  We always joked that we had a second stomach for dessert.

When I heard the news of So Young’s passing early Thursday morning, I was sad for myself and the ones she left behind, but happy for her.  She has finished this race well and has won the prize…to finally see Christ, and to be reunited with our mom, and countless others we have lost along the way.  Now So Young is looking back on the life she lived and enjoying the view of how all the pieces fit.  In case you aren’t familiar with this quote, I got it from a Casting Crowns song called “Already There”, so I can’t take credit for being a genius writer.

These last few months have been difficult, but through it all So Young has kept her faith and continued to encourage others even when she knew her health was declining.  She prayed for others, including my father in law who is also very ill.  What an example she was.  So selfless and so strong.

So Young has done so many things in the last few years than many of us will ever do in our life time.  She was a true servant of God.  She witnessed to many about her love for God and his love for them.  She even brought a few to Christ.  How God has used her in her lifetime is amazing to me.

There is no doubt in my mind that God is telling her “well done, thou good and faithful one”.  So Young…you have left a legacy for all who knew you and you will live on in our hearts and souls, and in the many wonderful memories we have of you.  We will see you again soon.  Until then, save me a seat and keep the kimchi chigae hot.

So Young wrote, “I don’t know what God has in store for me. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know this. I know that He loves me and what He has for me is always good.”  She is right. Like So Young said, “God is Good All The Time.”

I love you my sweet sister.  Rest with the angels.

Visitation and Funeral

April 18, 2013 - 4 Responses

This entry recounts So Young’s visitation (March 1, 2013) and funeral (March 2, 2013), from James’s perspective.

We didn’t want to get out of the car.

I remember that we had listened to Justin Bieber on the drive over, and just before we parked at the funeral home, we listened to Sufjan Stevens’s beautiful rendition of “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

“Holy, holy, holy. Though the darkness hide thee…”

I turned off the car. The music stopped. Lindsay said she was scared. Nobody wanted to go in. I didn’t even want to go in. I had never heard of a “visitation” and had no idea what to expect. I said, “Let’s pray,” and we prayed that God would calm us down and help us say goodbye to Mommy. We were there to honor her. Let’s do it for her.

I dreaded the visitation and funeral, but they were much more meaningful and beautiful than I could have imagined.

We gathered as a family first — the four of us, Mom and Dad, So Young’s dad, her siblings, etc. One of my best friends (and my pastor) Kenji was there to minister to us. Many objects that were meaningful to So Young or that spoke to the person So Young was were on display around the room, including photographs, artwork she had made, and the old green Bible that So Young had given me the year we fell in love. In the dedication, she wrote that I should read it “cover to cover until the ink rubs off.”

Bible Inscription

Inscription from the Bible “So Young Park” gave me on July 18, 1993

We walked through the double doors to the room that held So Young’s casket. The casket was closed and surrounded and covered with flowers. I had never seen it before. Dad had selected and ordered it on my behalf weeks before. It was so perfect — beautiful and feminine. It was closed because I didn’t need to see her dead again to say goodbye, and the kids didn’t need to see their mother dead to know she was gone.

We stood in front of the casket. Some of us prayed. Some of us said words to So Young. Even I did this throughout the evening, as if she could hear us better there than somewhere else.

Soon guests began to arrive, and it was then that I saw the beauty of the visitation. I came to realize that I did not mourn alone. Many mourned So Young’s passing. Many were touched by her life as well. I felt so happy to see so many familiar faces, some that I had not seen in many years, that I had to subdue my enthusiasm. I was absolutely delighted to see all of you. You have no idea how much your presence meant to me.

Shannon had created a slide show with music in honor of her mom. I was surprised that people didn’t just mingle while it played. They really stood and watched it, many crying, even the throng of teens and preteens who had come to support Shannon and Lindsay.

I became a mobile receiving line as people approached me, wherever I was in the room. My brother arrived from California. I was beside myself with happiness at seeing him. It was so strange. He is the only person that created for me the same kind of comfort I felt when So Young was by my side. I kept trying to talk to him and stand beside the casket with him, but for the longest time I could never get a chance.

Kim arrived with her family. She brought the most amazing banner, which she had created at late notice in the hours since So Young’s death. I think she didn’t sleep either since So Young went to heaven. The banner hangs in my bedroom today. It is the most beautiful tribute to So Young I have ever seen: photos, scripture, hymns, quotes from So Young’s writings. Just amazing. She also brought gorgeous copies of So Young’s testimony and a large, blown up picture of her to place by the casket. Kim ministered to my girls the whole time she was there, comforting them with her words and praying with them. She stayed with us until nobody was there anymore.

I remember putting on my suit for the funeral the next morning.

I am dressing for my wife’s funeral. How do I look?

Dad let me borrow his overcoat, because the day was bitterly cold. I remember her doctor saying she would not live until the spring. It was if God was driving home the point: It is still winter. Well, I guess the doctor was right.

By some miracle, the funeral perfectly reflected what So Young asked for and would have wanted. She had given some pretty explicit instructions to about how she wanted it to be. We sat in our car two years before she died and discussed it all, waiting for another appointment with a brain surgeon. I took good notes.

It was to be a celebration, a happy event. Yeah right. So Young, don’t you realize how sad we would be? She wanted certain hymns sung. She wanted her testimony shared, funny stories about her told. Most importantly, she wanted the Gospel proclaimed at her funeral. She literally suggested an altar call. Kenji and I planned the service at my dining room table on Friday.

So many people came to the funeral. Almost 300. Again, I was delighted. I wanted to hug and high five people. I wanted to call to them across the room, I was so happy. But I tried not to act too happy or look around the room too much. How would it look if the grieving husband stood at the front of the church, grinning and pointing at people? “Hey! Wow! You’re here! Wassup?!”

All of So Young’s closest friends participated in the funeral, women who literally sat by her bedside and ministered to her while she died: Laurie, Linda, So Me, Jin, Kim, Sungjin, Grace. Each eulogy was personal and funny and proclaimed the Gospel in one way or another. We sang a lot of hymns. Kenji ended the service with a direct proclamation of the Gospel: “This is the message So Young wants you to hear…”

Her brothers carried her casket to the hearse. For some reason, her dad almost didn’t make it to the burial service on time.

It was bitterly, bitterly cold. I was shivering. It’s winter, right God?

God gave us the most beautiful snowfall while we buried my wife. Amanda and Ashton sang “Amazing Grace” by the graveside.

“The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine”

I will never forget that day. We mourned together with joy and hope.