Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Remembering So Young: Four Years
February 28, 2017

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

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

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…

“God Is Good All the Time”: A Eulogy
April 28, 2013

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.

Upcoming Races!
April 8, 2013

I want to tell you about two races that many of us are running in So Young’s honor in April and May. I love the fact that So Young’s friends and family are mobilizing for various races these days. If you know So Young, you know that she was always recruiting people to run or do whatever she was into at the moment. It is so “So Young” to see former non-runners becoming enthusiasts because she has inspired them.

The big one is the Race for Hope 5k Walk/Run on May 5. By “big” I mean that it is literally a large race with a lot of participants. Also, we have a team and are fundraising for it. The Race for Hope in DC directly benefits two charities that work to fight brain tumors: the National Brain Tumor Society and Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure. So Young’s friends have formed a team for this race. We hope to raise $5,000 in her honor for the two charities. We are getting close, but we could use more donations and more participants.

If you are participating or just want a cool shirt honoring So Young, I invite you also to order a shirt as well. So Young’s friend Grace designed it and did a truly tremendous job. The deadline for buying a shirt is April 15.

Alternatively, I think that perhaps Rose may still be able to order more of the red cotton tee shirts that gave us the nickname “The Big Red Machine” at another recent race. Contact Rose or me if you want one of those instead.

The other race is the Westridge Elementary School Knights on the Run 5k Run/1 Mile Walk on April 20. This race is special to us, because we ran it as a family several times and two of our girls went to the school for their entire elementary school careers. Audrey still attends the school. Registration fees benefit the school, which really is a great school and a major reason we live where we do. They have been so good to us over the years, and especially during this crisis. My understanding is that they plan to honor So Young at the race in some way, maybe by putting her name on the tee shirts. Here is the web site for the race.

God bless all of you and thank you for your continued support! I hope to write a post soon about what it’s like to be a widower, since about half of the married people reading this post will lose their spouse during their lifetime, and it may benefit you to know what it is like. All love ends in sorrow, as they say. It’s been kind of hectic being a single dad, and I haven’t had as much time to write as I would like, although I would like to point out that I receive an unusual amount of support from family and friends.


So Young and the Girls at the Knights on the Run 5k a Few Years Ago

Bad News
September 20, 2012

From James:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

When we got home from Johns Hopkins today, Audrey ran to the door and grinned expectantly: “What’s the good news?!” We’ve become so used to good news recently. Unfortunately, today we were surprised by bad news.

The tumor has grown again, and significantly. That is the cause of So Young’s new symptoms over the past few weeks. Now it is especially affecting her brain stem, which explains the balance and coordination problems she is experiencing. We knew from the beginning that the tumor had infiltrated the brain stem, but most of the tumor is in the thalamus, so the brain stem seemed like an afterthought early on.

Dr. Redmond said that we lost most of the ground we gained from radiation. The tumor shrank 30% before. It has regained most of that and is close to its pre-radiation size.

The tumor board at Johns Hopkins will discuss So Young’s case on Monday. Dr. Redmond said that they will most likely recommend chemotherapy, which So Young has not received yet. We were waiting until it became fast-growing. The hope was that it would not.

The news brings up new questions and fears. Is the tumor really slow growing? Now there is significant doubt about that. It doesn’t “light up” on the MRI, but they didn’t get a good sample during the biopsy, and for it to increase in size so quickly seems strange. They have her on big doses of the steroid dexamethasone to see if her symptoms abate if the swelling in her brain goes down.

So Young’s symptoms seemed so vague before, but now everything seems to have an explanation. She complained of weakness on her right side, a loss of coordination in her right hand, trouble swallowing, slurred speech, etc. My reasoning was that the tumor shouldn’t affect the right side of her body, because the tumor is in her right thalamus. But the brain stem controls motor function, so now her symptoms make sense to me.

So Young took the news quite hard — understandably so. She is shaken. I think that this is almost as hard for us emotionally as the initial diagnosis in November 2010.

The perspective that we are trying to take is that this is only round two of the fight. Or perhaps a more apt analogy is mile 20 of a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles long, but runners say that the race doesn’t start until mile 20 or so. I have seen So Young several times at mile 20, and it isn’t pretty. She can be completely bereft of energy and the will to go on. But you have to stick through it, or you won’t finish the race, even though you are so close!

I really appreciate the encouragement we are already receiving from our loving community of family and friends. You are so dear to us to pray, call or write, offer and provide help, or to even just listen. Some of you have taken some pretty raw, tearful phone calls from So Young today. All I can say is that you are amazing for handling it so well and being there for her.

In the end, as my friend told me today, it isn’t the medicine we’re going to trust in this situation, but God.  He alone has the power to restore So Young, and whether or not He does, we trust his love for us. We won’t lose heart.

For Your Inspiration
August 25, 2011

From So Young:

“In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'” — Revelation 5:12

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” –Isaiah 6:3


Happy Mother’s Day!
May 8, 2011

From So Young:

Dear Mom,

I hope you feel loved and appreciated all the time, but especially on this day. I was overcome by emotion today, because every Mother’s Day and every special holiday reminds me that my mother is absent. I still miss Mom so very much. It’s been 11 years. I’m sure you miss your mom, too.

I am so thankful when I think of you. In you I have a loving mom and grandmother for our girls. Thank you for being here for us, especially in these recent hard times. Thank you for being at every dance recital, piano recital, and choral concert. You’ve been here for all of it, communicating to us that we matter to you. You have always treated me closer than a daughter-in-law. You are a true blessing to me everyday. I pray that God will repay you for your love, generosity, and kindness.

I love you, Mom.

It’s Actually Not Called “Brain Cancer”
April 8, 2011

From James:

So Young has a brain tumor, but it would generally not be referred to as “brain cancer.” I didn’t learn this until a few months ago, when I asked one of her doctors, and he set me straight. I think it’s pretty natural to think “brain cancer” when you hear that somebody has a brain tumor, but not all brain tumors are accurately described as brain cancer. Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail I wrote last night describing the difference:

It’s kind of a technical distinction, but basically there are four grades of astrocytoma brain tumors. Grades 1 and 2 are slow-growing and never referred to as “brain cancer.” Grades 3 and 4 are fast-growing, and some medical people call them brain cancer, but not everybody in the field thinks that language is correct. Some people call grades 3 and 4 cancer because they spread throughout the brain (but never anywhere else in the body). Others disagree and say that cancer by definition is a disease that spreads throughout the body, which is never true of tumors that originate in the brain. Spreading within the brain doesn’t count, they say.

So Young has a grade 2 astrocytoma. It may become a grade 3 or 4 some day, but God willing it will not. Grade 2 is still dangerous and life-threatening, but it is not called brain cancer.

This is not to be confused with the “stages” of other types of cancer. There is no notion of stages of brain tumors. However, some types of cancer, in “stage 4,” can spread to the brain. So Young doesn’t have this type of brain tumor, since she doesn’t have cancer elsewhere.

So Did It Shrink?
December 27, 2010

We won’t know for 6 months.

“If we looked at an MRI right now, it would lie to us,” said our radiation oncologist, Dr. Redmond. Swelling would appear and seem to indicate tumor growth, but it is too early to tell. We will take an MRI in a month. For now, they take CT scans daily to make sure everything is lined up properly for the treatments. The effects of radiation are cumulative and won’t be known completely until perhaps 6 months from now.

Meanwhile, there have been changes in So Young’s vision. I feel that she sees better, but she isn’t so sure. She seems to read more things that she couldn’t read before. She also notices a few details. She says that she can tell there is a blurry spot in the middle of her eye, with the periphery less effected. The other day, she had an episode where her vision went dark intermittently, like a pulse — on, off, on, off — which was frightening. She is also more sensitive to light these days.

So Young is adjusting to her impairment. She cooked French toast on Christmas morning and fried mandoo (Korean dumplings) this evening.(She needs a helper to cook.)  She ran/walked 2 miles on the treadmill a couple of days ago.

She is exhausted and her emotions are frayed. She cried and slept a lot on the car ride home. She wonders if the radiation didn’t stimulate the emotional part of her brain, but then she considers herself an emotional person anyway. Sometimes, she feels that God has forsaken her. But then she remembers that Christ suffered just as we did. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isiaiah 53:3).