Eulogy for a Mother

Death always feels too soon.

For so many reasons, I did not want to write this.

Death always feels too soon. No matter how much or how long I’ve prepared for this: death always feels too soon.

It’s been seven years since my mother was diagnosed with brain tumor. And for the past five years, my sisters and I have prepared for her death. But her decline was incredibly slow: from taking one step at a time with assistance, to being in a wheelchair, to being completely bedridden; from eating everything off the plate, to soft foods, to purée, to not even being able to feed herself. Indeed, it felt like that the nursing home she was staying at was stuck in time: she was neither getting better nor worse.

…she would smile and say, “I love you, son.”

About two years ago, I made a huge transition: leaving Chicago – my home of six years – to attend Fuller Theological Seminary at Pasadena, California. Fuller is, for many reasons, an ideal place to study theology. But the real reason was to be closer to my mom: the East Coast may have Yale, Duke, and Princeton, but not my mother. For too long, I avoided visiting California. I didn’t like to be reminded of my mom’s crippling condition and eventual death. But when I moved I started to visit her more frequently. For the past year and half, I would see her almost every week — Sundays right before service. (It was only after writing this, that I realized how providential this was: I would go to the nursing home and be reminded of her eventual death, then I would go to church and be reminded of the resurrection of life.)

When I decided to write this eulogy – a day after her death – I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t remember anything except these past few years. I wish my memory could serve me better so that I could remember fonder memories before she got sick. I wish I could remember all the little things she did for me, but they’re all in a haze. Even right now, there seems to be a veil I can’t peer through, yet. So, sadly, the clearest memories I have with my mom are from these past couple years: the pain she was in, the loneliness she must’ve felt, the pain my sisters and I felt, and how futile everything felt.

Even in her crippling condition, she never failed to tell me that she loved me.

But we did share bright moments. When I would visit once every three months, she would always tell the nurses, “This is my son” — as if she was bragging. When I told her that I became a youth pastor, she smiled and clapped her hands. When I fed her some bread or brought her soon-dubu (soft tofu soup), she would try her best to eat as much as she could. When I turned on Korean dramas for her, she would laugh at the shows. When I would paint her nails, she would laugh and say, “this is nice.” When I told her that I would be back next week, she would smile and say, “I love you, son.”

Even in her crippling condition, she never failed to tell me that she loved me.

Her death felt too soon because I have so many regrets. She would never meet my future wife, we would never have the mother-son dance, and she would never hold my future child. I would never enjoy her cooking, and I would never hear her say “I love you, son” ever again. Death is so cruel because it’s always too soon.

I no longer have hope for these things.

The only hope I have left for her is the hope of resurrection — the hope of seeing her face-to-face, hearing her voice, and feeling the warmth of her embrace.

사랑해요 엄마. 다시 이따가 봐요.

(“I love you, mom. Let’s see each other again, soon.”)

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s