Monday, June 23, 2008

The importance of family

On Saturday June 14th I was invited by Sung Hyun's mom over to her place. This was a special day, since it was the memorial of Sung Hyun's dads death. Koreans call it 제사-- a time when family comes together to honour the dead. I felt very privileged to have been invited.

But his mom's house isn't equipped with air con, so I pretty much hung out beside the fan. Sung Hyun's mom is so great and I love her little love pats on the bum. This time was no exception. I spent about 6 hours there, which left me with a sore back since I'm not used to sitting on the floor. They all laughed at me because it was becoming quite evident that I was uncomfortable. In this house there are no chairs or sofa to lounge on. So I did it the Korean way and floored it....hehe


Sung Hyun's house is very small. Growing up, he certainly didn't have all the luxuries that I enjoyed. He comes from a family of 5 sisters, a mom, and a father who died of cancer when Sung Hyun was only 10. Because of the Korean war, Sung Hyun's mom never got to attend school. She had a lot of work on her hands raising 6 children by herself in a society that is so heavily dependant on the bread winning father. Only in this family, there was no bread winner and at times I image there was no bread. It was a tough life for them, but they knew no other. Where they lacked in material possession they made up for in LOVE. And I couldn't be happier to have met someone who is so happy having nothing. I think Sung Hyun's sisters had a huge role in raising him. I have them to thank for making him such a caring, respectful, sensitive man.

So to the family ................... I THANK YOU!!!!

(The four men in the back row are Sung Hyun's brother-in-laws, one arrived late so he didn't make it in the photo. If you can spot 5 females (besides his mom and the kids) those are his sisters. Sung Hyun's mom is sitting on the floor on the left. And the 6 kids are his nieces and nephews. Believe it or not, there are 6 more immediate family members missing from this picture).

And Koreans love their GO STOP game.

So the kids played in one room

And the adults played in the other


Then they pulled out the baby album and gathered around for a peek

Sung Hyun with his oldest sister (a 20 year age difference)

Military training (which he did for 2 years and 2 months as required by Korean law):


Then like all other traditional Korean gatherings the women spent most of the time preparing

While the men chatted and drank beer..............


Then just before midnight Sung Hyun got dressed in his suit and organized the food on little pedestals, as an offering to the spirit, his dad. I watched in awe and then when the ceremony (bows etc) was about to begin I had to leave the room.

Since I am not married, therefore not part of the family, I wasn't able to observe or take part. So I waited patiently in the other room until they called me back into the room to eat the food.

We all gathered around the table and before we ate Sung Hyun told me this: "I said to my dad, 'I'm sorry dad but I think this is the last time I can do this for you because maybe next year I will go to Canada'". And those words alone made me cry. I know he will miss his family when he goes to Canada, and now I will too ;)


Amanda said...

Great pictures, Jen. And I'm really happy to hear that this meeting went better than the soju swilling, money asking one. :)

Tanya said...

Maybe you can get the supplies sung hyun needs to allow him to perform the ceremony himself when he is in canada so he does not lose that day.

Anonymous said...

Awwwwww Jen, that was sweet - all of it - his family including you, his mom's love pats, and it brought tears to my eyes about Sung telling his dad about coming to Canada....thanks for sharing with us a part of your life, I check your blog almost daily to see what's up with you!


Tuyet said...

I agree with Tanya. I'm chinese and our culture commemorate the anniversary of someone's death as well. For years we would observe my late grandfathers... then grandmother... and eventually my father's passing.

Even though my family is in Canada - we carry on the tradition. There are stores whereby you can purchase the stuff needed... check in either the Korean store downtown (on Broad street) or the Asian on 11th Avenue for the supplies. So let Sung Hyun know that just because he'll be in Canada, it doesn't mean you won't be able to pay tribute to his late father.

I'm glad that this meeting with his family went better then the last. Kudos to you two!