Thank you for coming. We know this has been a hard year for everyone, and a particularly hard time to travel. And a hard time to gather with family and friends.
We deeply appreciate your coming, some of you traveling by plane to be here, during and despite COVID.
Thank you to Young’s family: his wife Susan, his children Roice and David, daughter-in-law Maryjane, and his grandchildren, Colette and Killian, and to all his siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews and friends.
Thank you to those who are joining online. Young has two brothers and two sisters, and friends and family around the world, and we thank you for mourning with us since his passing on December 5, and for joining us again today.
I am Young’s son-in-law, Chris. Young has been living with us since shortly after his cancer diagnosis at the end of 2016. I am sad I didn’t get to know him sooner, but grateful for the time I had to get know this wonderful man.
Of the many things I know about Young, what always impressed me the most was his strength in the face of tremendous adversity. Young endured more challenges than anyone I have ever known. 2020 has been a hard in the United States. It has nothing on 1950 in Korea.
Young was born on October 20, 1946. On June 25, 1950, when Young was three years and eight months old—one month younger than Killian is today—war broke out when the northern army stormed across the 38th parallel that divided the Korean peninsula after World War II, and still divides it to this day. When war came, all of his family’s work, everything they built in the North, was destroyed. Young’s family had survived Japanese occupation, and then Soviet occupation, but all plans to return to a prosperous and unified Korea were destroyed for generations by the war that started when Young was 3 years old.
I know only the outlines of this story. I cannot imagine, and Young himself never discussed, the trauma he endured. But I know this: when war came, Young’s mother faced a real-life Sophie’s choice. She had two children in the North, an older daughter, and Young. One of the few Korean words I know is “obibah”---piggyback. Young’s family was deep in the North, and his mother could only carry one child. She walked hundreds of miles to escape the hell of war, carrying Young on her back, but leaving Young’s older sister behind. Young’s parents, as you can imagine, were desperate to return and retrieve their daughter, but the division of the Korean peninsula made that forever impossible.
His family ultimately resettled near Seoul. Two brothers and a younger sister later joined his family in the South. They never stopped trying to reach the elder sister, trapped behind in North Korea, but beyond confirming that she was still alive more than 20 years ago, they were never able to reunite. To this day we do not know her fate, and we have no way let her know that her younger brother is at rest in Heaven, where they can finally be reunited.
Still a young man in South Korea, Young met his wife Susan and was married in 1976. They came to America in 1977 with nothing but hope. After they came to Los Angeles, their family was blessed with a daughter, Roice, and a son, David. I know when that happened, but to avoid disclosing Roice’s age, let’s say it was some time in the ‘90s.
Young loved baseball. He was a baseball star in high school in South Korea. One of the few regrets he ever expressed in life was that he spent too much time practicing and playing baseball, and too little time studying. He was determined to correct that oversight, and after becoming a father, he spent a quarter century studying and honing his craft as an acupuncturist, earning a doctorate in 2001.
But he never stopped loving baseball. We went to several games at Dodgers’ Stadium as a family. He always gave his bobbleheads to Coco and Kiki. And he always loved the Dodgers. One of his best memories in this painful year was seeing the Dodgers finally win the World Series after a 32-year title drought.
In 2016, he received a horrible cancer diagnosis, but even then, he never lost his strength and courage. He never asked, “why me,” and he never lost his optimism that he could beat cancer. It is easy to call that kind of optimism misplaced, but the cancer mortality tables say he should have died years ago. His optimism and will to fight kept him alive far longer than doctors predicted.
I think one of the reasons Young was so strong is that he dedicated his life to others. This manifested throughout our lives, in ways large and small. For one, he was known by everyone in our neighborhood in Sherman Oaks. Since the time he moved in with us, though we were supposed to be caring for him, he always cared for us. He insisted on helping me in any way he could, including walking our dog, Harry---who really became Young’s dog, Harry. He walked Harry twice every day, and he took pride in those walks, saying hello and stopping to make conversation with everyone he met. He knew more people in our neighborhood than me and Roice. We’ve received an outpouring of flowers, emails, and neighbors who have stopped by to share kind words since he passed away.
In a stoic Korean family, he never hesitated to share and spread love. He was not afraid to tell his children and grandchildren that he loved them. As Roice told me just this morning, even when she was in college, he wouldn’t let her hang up the phone before saying, “I love you Apa.”
He heard the true calling of Christ. When he earned his acupuncture degree, helping people was always first, and making money was never on his mind. He was a healer, and he believed his duty was to help people heal. If you needed acupuncture, but could only pay in oranges, or in thanks, he would never turn you away. A man who thinks of others first, and himself and his wallet last, is rare, but it was Christ’s command to us all:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up your treasures in heaven . . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And we miss having a skilled acupuncturist just downstairs; he was always happy to treat our back pain---Roice’s and mine. And we had the added benefit of freaking out our kids when they saw our face full of needles.
His willingness to help extended to everything he did. While building his life here, he always put his family first. If he was down to his last $1000, but someone in his family needed $800, he was going to give it to them. At countless weddings, including our own, I was greeted by people I had never met, but who wanted to talk to me about the help Young had given them.
And he was a doting grandparent. Every picture we have of him---when Colette and Killian are around, he has a giant smile on his face. Coco and Kiki: you are both so big, but you are also so little to have to endure this kind of loss. Please know that both of you, with your love, and your laughter and your kindness, brought so much joy to Haraboji. You kept him happy and alive until God called him home.
One of my fondest memories is of “Haraboji monster.” Back before COVID, and before Young became very sick, Roice had to leave at 7 every morning to teach. Young and Susan always came upstairs to help me get the children ready for preschool, and Young played with Coco and Kiki while I got ready for work. Their favorite game was “Haraboji monster.” Haraboji would cover himself with a blanket, or a mask, or sometimes just a cardboard box, and chase the kids around the house. And when he caught them---which was rare, because he always let them think they were faster, even when they could barely even toddle---they giggled and squealed and let out riotous laughter. Sometimes they insisted that I “double-uppy” them, so I could help them run away. Haraboji would eventually catch me---but let the kids escape.
For all the sadness we’re living through now, these days together were a blessing. I thank God for him. I thank God for the quarantine bubble that kept us together this year. I thank God for David’s help this year, leaving his home to stay with us during COVID, in order to be there for his dad.
These last few years were the fulfillment of Young’s favorite Psalm, Psalm 128. He lived to see his children’s children. And though he left too soon, his pain is now behind him. He rests where all of us can finally be reunited, in God’s Kingdom in Heaven.