Remembering Yima

You told us not to be sad after you go. “Just talk to the sky when you think of me,” you had said. But parting seemed to be a distant reality only a few weeks ago.

Our family and your many friends lay you to rest today. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I’lll miss wrapping my arms around your body as we walk up and down the narrow hospital corridor, your hand in mine. Three times a day, five laps to and fro, we walked together.

Our bond did not really begin until you faced your pancreatic cancer operation the summer before I went to college. Growing up, I felt keenly how you were more affectionate around my sister when you came for dinner on Thursdays. My gregarious little cousin commandeered all the attention when she visited Hong Kong over the summer. Sullen and defiant, I took to reading chapter books under the table during family gatherings.

But that summer, with fresh experiences as an OB/GYN volunteer, I related to you as a patient. I came to love you deeply, in your vulnerability, in your strength, in your enduring grace. It was clear that this tumor would be more serious than the throat and thyroid cancers that had gone in remission. You spoke wistfully about youthful looks and the adornments you no longer had occasion to wear, but you grew more and more beautiful in my eyes.

A few weeks ago, before I flew back to complete my junior spring exams, you said thank you for coming all the way to see you. I think you knew how much we all cared about you. But I never even thanked you for having loved me. As I find old photographs where you held me when I was small, I have no doubt that you always did.

I want to have the same conviction in the uplifting narratives my relatives tell me: that you’re out of pain, you’re smiling at us from above. But I’m afraid to look up. I’m afraid to even talk to you because I don’t want to face the silence that follows. For now, I’ll hope to see you again in my dreams.