My Aunt

When our family fled south to escape the invading North Koreans during the Korean War, our family consisted of 6 people: my grandmother (who at the time was younger than my wife is now), my uncle (who was in 8th grade), my brother (who was 4), myself (7 years old), and twin aunts, who were high school seniors at the time.

My grandfather was exposed to Western culture early in his life. In fact, he attended the same language school as the first president of South Korea, who earned a Ph. D at Princeton before becoming president. Because of this, our family members started coming to the States early. My oldest uncle and aunt came to the U.S. to study just before the Korean War broke out. My younger uncle came alone at the tender age of 14 during the war. Then the older of the twin aunts immigrated here. The arrangement was for the younger one to take care of their mother, my brother and me until their older brother finished his degree and came back to Korea. Then she would come to the States to pursue a graduate degree.

So she continued to care for the family while finishing her bachelor degree in pharmacy. But the situation changed such that none of her sibling in the U.S. could come back to take care of their mother. My aunt couldn’t abandon her family. So she gave up her dream of obtaining a higher degree and got married to a graduate of the marine academy who worked on a ship as a chief engineer.

A few years later, I came to the States to get my PhD; soon after my brother came for the same purpose. Later, my grandmother came to America to live with us. Many years after that, my youngest aunt, the last member of our extended family, immigrated to the U.S. with her family.

Since she came to the States at an advanced age, she had a difficult time settling here. She first ran a deli shop, then later a laundromat, while her husband worked odd jobs to support their family. Eventually, her three children grew up, finished college, and got married. Then her husband passed away. She turns 75 this year.

This aunt had a massive stroke last week. The doctor said that the stroke was so severe that the parts of her brain that control language articulation and motor skills are completely dead. She seemed to have anticipated this. She already left a will that says that she does not want to be on life-support and that she wants to be cremated and for her ashes be buried in her husband’s grave.

She is the most devout of her brothers and sisters. She was the only one who supported my decision to give up my job as a scientist and attend seminary. She was happy that one of her family members decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and became a pastor. She was very proud of being the aunt of a pastor, and she shared my Sunday sermon CDs with her friends, exaggerating (in my opinion) my accomplishments to them.

When my wife last talked to her on the phone, she said that she fell asleep every night with the hope of waking up in heaven, and was disappointed to find herself still in this world the next morning. Her children said that even though their mother is totally paralyzed, her hearing is still good. So I am going to visit my aunt in Philadelphia and say goodbye. I pray God that, instead of healing her, He takes her to the place where she has long desired to be as quickly as possible.

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