Bio

I (James) wrote this short biography of So Young the day before her funeral. Writing your own wife’s obituary… What a challenging writing task! Still, a life well lived writes its own story.

So Young Gage was born on July 20, 1972, in Inchon, South Korea, to parents Jhin Chull and Bum Sun Park. She was sister to Bobby, Josh, So Me, and Paul. She immigrated to America as a toddler and grew up in the Washington, DC region, first in Maryland and then Reston, Virginia, where she lived in the same apartment for most of her childhood. As a child, she loved playing outside with her friends and going on fishing trips with her family. Because her father was a pastor, she was a Sunday school teacher practically from birth. In sixth grade, she befriended the shy and unassuming Kimberly Davis. They were friends for 28 years before So Young’s passing, a testament to So Young’s propensity for making and keeping close friends. Today, many close friends mourn her passing.

So Young attended Herndon High School, where she enjoyed art, playing violin in the orchestra, and occasionally sneaking off campus in the trunk of a friend’s car to grab MacDonald’s. Her brother Josh taught her how to play the guitar, and she sang and played guitar on and off throughout her life, especially praise music. She was very active in the Christian Fellowship Church (CFC) youth group during high school. So Young went to college at George Mason University in Fairfax to study English Literature, where she made lifelong friends through a student-led organization called Immanuel Christian Fellowship (ICF).

So Young regretted that she hadn’t studied art instead of English, but she soon met her English major match while working at Reston Regional Library as a page. William “James” Gage was 19, and she was 21. She laughed at all his jokes and her dad was a Southern Baptist minister, so James knew there was no turning back. It is unclear why the attraction was mutual. After a few weeks, James insisted they get married, but So Young wanted to wait until they graduated. They were married May 31, 1997 after a laughably romantic 4 1/2 year courtship

So Young and James moved into a spacious one bedroom apartment in Annandale, Virginia. They began attending Ambassador Bible Church (ABC) a week or two after they got married. So Young was a Sunday school teacher and small group leader at ABC for the rest of her life, later founding one of the first “Moms Group” Bible studies in the church as a young parent. During a spontaneous (and evidently also laughably romantic) trip to New York City, they “decided” to start a family. Nine months later, on November 9, 1998, the first of her three daughters, Shannon Elizabeth Sun Aye Gage, was born. So Young decided to stop her work as a technical support specialist for EDS to become a full-time mom. About a year later, So Young’s mom passed away.

Although So Young and James had a pretty nice setup in the spacious apartment with a crib in the living room, after 1 1/2 years, they moved to a bigger place in Woodbridge, Virginia — a three bedroom townhouse that would soon be home to two more girls: Lindsay Rose Aye Kyung Gage (born June 10, 2001) and Audrey Kate Aye Jung Gage (born November 19, 2004). Her babies were the joy of her life.

So Young’s life was filled with many joys. She loved spending time with James, who she considered her best friend and called (without irony) her “soul mate.” The feeling was mutual. They enjoyed talking for hours and going on as many dates as they could. So Young loved her girls. She always dreamed of being a mommy, and her dream was fulfilled in spades by her three daughters. She relished spending time with her many friends. She loved books, movies, and the performing arts. She had somewhat of a reputation for loving to eat. Her favorite meal of the day was breakfast. She loved coffee and chocolate. She very much enjoyed Thai food. So Young was a great cook who could identify the ingredients of anything she ate and could seemingly make a great meal from any ingredients available.

So Young had achieved what most people strive for — a marriage, children, a close community of friends, prosperity — but her journey wasn’t easy. Like all of us, she went through many trials throughout her childhood and as an adult, both because of struggles in her own heart and external circumstances beyond her control. Yet she always relied on a pure, simple faith in God that everyone knew was sincere. During one particularly hard time, she began distance running as a hobby/lifestyle, eventually running five Marine Corps Marathons and several half marathons and races of other distances. She was never a fast runner, but she had a lot of heart. The close friendships she had cultivated over the past 15 years were a great help to her during difficult times, as was the close-knit running community.

On November 12, 2010, So Young was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Despite the devastating news, she was determined to glorify God through this difficulty. She wrote of her journey and God’s faithfulness throughout it on a blog (https://mynewmarathon.wordpress.com). A great number of people rallied around So Young and her family during this time — praying, bringing meals, visiting, and often going to truly extravagant lengths to support her. Yet many were struck by the fact that the person they were helping was a still greater help to them on their journey.  She continued to reach out to friends who were in difficult circumstances to minister to them. When her eyesight was diminished to the point that she couldn’t drive to her Bible study, she started her own with a close circle of friends. She began volunteering in ABC’s toddler class again after taking a break during treatment. She continued sharing Christ with people easily and in a genuine way, as she had all her life. The “spiritual children” who accepted Christ through So Young owe their very lives to her.

The next two years leading up to So Young’s homegoing were the happiest in her life. On August 7, 2011, she wrote, “Is it normal for my days to be filled with this much laughter? I don’t remember a time that I’ve ever felt more love, joy, peace, and contentment. I feel God’s hand on me daily. He’s been encouraging me to keep trusting and believing that He has a good and perfect plan for my life… I know what the Lord has for me is very good. I want to live each day, every moment, for him.” So Young was surrounded by devoted friends and family until she went to be with the Lord on February 28, 2013. She said that this is the story she wanted her life to tell: “God is good, all the time!” May we all hear her voice and reflect on her short life to consider how we might better live ours.

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