One Year Later: Broken But Grateful

“Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” — 1 Chronicles 29:13

From James:

Thanksgiving Day marks about a year from So Young’s brian tumor diagnosis on November 12, 2010. It’s a strange kind of anniversary, because you aren’t happy that you heard the news, and yet you are happy for another year of life. You are “broken but grateful,” a condition that it would seem God wants us to be in sometimes.

List-maker that I am, part of me wants to write a comprehensive list of everything that has happened over the last year that So Young and I are thankful for, but I realize I couldn’t do it justice. There is just too much. I would miss something incredible and poignant from the flood that has passed over us. It was a tsunami of kindness, in every way just as strong and all-encompassing as the dark news itself. So setting that approach aside, I offer a few recent vignettes, not to capture it all but to illustrate.

When one of our close friends heard about So Young’s diagnosis, she was greatly affected. She has done much for our family this past year, really more than almost anyone else, and there is no way to repay her. One thing she did was to let her hair grow out for an entire year. Just recently, she had a foot of her long, lustrous black hair cut off, which she donated to Locks of Love in So Young’s honor. When she told me about this, I’m pretty sure my response was understated, something like “wow” or “cool,” because what do you say? “Thank you” doesn’t do justice to an act so meaningful. We’re thankful for the tangible devotion of friends like her.

Some of you know that So Young and I went to DC a few weeks ago to cheer for the Marine Corps Marathon participants. So Young has run the race four times. Last October, on her fifth attempt, she had to quit at the eighteenth mile. Two weeks later, she received her diagnosis. It was out of gratitude that we went to the MCM this year. For most if not all of the runners, it isn’t actually about the miles. It’s a metaphor for overcoming life’s difficulties, diseases, and other hardships, whatever form they might take. But the race isn’t about overcoming them alone. It’s about running the difficult miles as a community, with family. So we trekked to the Mall, dressed as bumblebees (don’t ask), screamed, danced around, held cheesy homemade signs, and passed out candy to honor a family that has loved So Young these past years. We were lucky enough to see her brother Paul and our friend Erica along the course. We met with more than a dozen others afterwards — brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles to us in the running community. For this extended family we are also grateful.

So Young Cheering at the MCM

Looking, Uh, Cool on the Metro

Shannon turned 13 this month, and Audrey turned 7. A kid turning 13 is another one of those causes for celebration that makes you scratch your head a bit: I’m the parent of a teenager? It also turned out to be a very hectic time, and I have to tell you that I was overwhelmed at different points this month. Because of So Young’s limited eyesight, I carry a lot more of the parenting responsibilities than I used to. In a sense, I have had to “grow up” as a parent this year. At one point recently,  I was so frustrated (and whining about it) that I actually made So Young cry, because she is helpless to do anything about it. Great. Now not only am I overwhelmed, but I’m making the lady with the brain tumor feel bad about having a brain tumor! Mom and Dad have really stepped up during this time. And by “this time” I mean this year. Again, the list-maker in me wants to come out at this point in the narrative, but suffice it to say that they have done a lot — a lot — to pick up the slack when we’ve needed help this month, as always. We are grateful for being blessed by such amazing parents, who are also the very definition of “extreme grandparents” to our kids.

Shannon with Amazing Cake

We are also grateful for joy. I have told a few people recently that So Young is more joyful than I have ever seen her in my life. She’s almost like a child, able to enjoy the moment and laugh in a most un-grownup way that always makes me smile. I believe that’s a gift from God.

Finally, we are grateful for healing. If you’ve heard So Young’s testimony, you know that God has healed our marriage, and last month we found out He is answering everybody’s prayers and is healing her brain. You might be broken, too, like we have been many times in our lives — broken by grief, bad circumstances, health problems, financial troubles, and maybe even family and friends. Remember that Jesus can heal you. You might not see it now. For me, I can say that at certain points it seemed like hope wasn’t even a glimmer on the horizon, and I know that there are moments So Young has felt the same. But the Healer is near. He spent his life on this earth healing. Don’t think that He has stopped now, even for you, no matter where you are.

We Have Some Strange Thanksgiving Traditions


4 Responses

  1. It was so fabulous to see you guys this year. Sorry I was bit tired from Jet lag and all but it was so amzing to see how great you both look in all of this. To see you two you would never know you were going through something so intense. You two are truly being carried by the maker!

  2. Great witness to the great and only God! God’s love does endure forever. I love you.


  3. Happy Thanksgiving!

    As I was reading your letter, I was reminded once again your Audrey and our granddaughter Audrey is of same age..Seven!
    We are so happy to hear/see So Young’s joyful life! Linda Park, your counsin’s two year anniversary is coming, according to her mother who called and asked about So Young’s health. She thinks about you a lot, So Young, hoping you heal completely. I was so happy to tell her that you are healing well, and everyone around you, your family, friends, church member are bending backwards constantly helping you, praying for you all. Thank you for keeping us in touch!

    Aunt Grace

    • Hi Auntie,

      I think I have your old number. I couldn’t get through. I hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving, but of course, everyday is thanksgiving. Thank you for your continued love,support,encouragements, and prayers! Please keep praying bold/healing prayers. I need them still. Please tell LInda’s mom that I think about her and pray for her and her family. Love and hugs to you and your family.

      Love, So Young

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