You are gone now, and I am thinking about the life you left behind.

What was it like to grow up in Korea?
Were you scared when you escaped from the North to the South?
What was it about my Halmoni that made you want to marry her?
Did America overwhelm you?

We spoke different languages, so I never asked the questions. Although I wish now that I would have tried harder to discover the answers, I take comfort in the things I do know and remember about you, the things that transcend words and biographies.

Your generous heart. Your quirky sense of humor. Your unfailingly energetic spirit. Your thousand watt smile.

Just a few minutes ago, I negotiated naptime with a little boy you never met. The cancer debilitated you before you could meet him. He has almond-shaped eyes and a huge, sweet smile, and he doesn't know yet that he carries you with him, that he takes a part of you along in his daily adventures of mushing bananas between his fingers and climbing into cabinets.

Tears fall hot and fresh from my own almond-shaped eyes, spilling onto the eyelet trim of my cotton robe. It feels different - not entirely grief. Like an overwhelming sense of the great expanse of life - years and continents and experiences and generations - edged with the inescapable sadness of goodbye.

Sleep well, Haraboji. I will miss your smile.

prologue: isaac's birth story

Here is what I know so far:

We get what we need, whether we want it or not.


My dad loves to tell the story of how, on my first day of kindergarten, when the teacher called for everyone to form a line, I stepped up and began bossily arranging my fellow pint-sized classmates into order. My dad gestures broadly when he recounts how I would grab their shoulders and line them up straight.

I'm a smidge embarrased for that well-meaning but totally oblivious little girl. Mostly because all these years later I still recognize parts of myself in her self-assured playground tyranny.

She was in charge, in control and in pursuit of perfection.

Fast forward twenty years and you'd find me in a career that made it kosher for me to (nicely) boss people around. Event planners are a tightly wound bunch, obsessed with control, details and perfection. Is it any wonder that I thrived in that job?

Clearly, I was doomed from the start - before sperm met egg, before I tossed out my birth control pills, heck - even way before I ever set eyes on my husband. My tightly monitored, immaculately organized fate was sealed and I had no idea.


I thought I understood why I named my son Isaac.

I've come to believe there is another, less obvious reason - unknown to me at the time we gave him his name, but slowly revealing itself as our life with him unfolds.

In the days after he was born, the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac was constantly on my mind. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. To let him go, no questions asked, no answers provided. To relenquish his hopes and plans, his dreams and expectations.

With unshakeable faith, Abraham placed it all on the altar.

To the parents of Isaac, God says:

Let go. My ways are higher that your ways. Trust me instead.


Here is my pregnancy story, Isaac's birth story.

A story about fear, a story about love,
And a story about how I got what I needed.

Click here to read the next installment: Isaac's Birth Story: Part One

fifth times a charm

Dearest husband,

I've been thinking about our previous anniversary disasters celebrations.

Remember our first anniversary? We road-tripped to San Diego, got a gorgeous hotel room right on the beach, had a relaxing dinner al fresco, and then topped off the evening with a bit of champagne. Romance was definitely in the air... until I ran to the bathroom and started puking my guts out. It must have been food poisoning, because for the next 8 hours, I writhed in misery on the cold bathroom floor. I remember you helplessly calling out from the bedroom, asking if there was anything you could do. We drove home the next day, me queasily clutching a plastic bag, just in case.

Undeterred, we tried again for year two, this time staying the weekend in-town at a swanky hotel. It started off unassuming enough -- a little bit of pool-lounging, a little bit of shopping -- until our, um, sparkling personalities decided to explode at exactly the same moment. You remember that fight, don't you? I mean, how could you forget The Great War of 2006? To this day, I can't think of it without cringing in uncomfortable embarrassment. (But, as with most of the fights we've had, I couldn't tell you now what were fighting about. All I know is that if we can survive that, well, then we can survive anything.)

Surely, I thought, SURELY our next anniversary would prove redemptive. The third times a charm, or some such cliched nonsense, right? Wrong. That year, we traveled to the Midwest to stand with your family under the soaring trees of a grand old cemetery. The specialness of "our" day was completely, and rightly, eclipsed by the mourning of your grandfather, who passed away that week after a short battle with cancer.

By the fourth year, I think we wised up (or maybe we were just fed up). Either way, we kept it simple that night, with dinner at a favorite restaurant. A few weeks later we spent the weekend up north in the mountains. Do you remember, after our picnic by the lake, how we got lost and drove for 17 miles on a bumpy dirt road filled with cattle and deer - me clutching my heavily pregnant belly, you wincing as our small sedan got battered and bruised by the unexpected off-roading? Why we didn't turn back, I'll never know.

And now, here we are, just days away from marking the fifth year of our marriage, and the Bad Anniversary Fairy has come for her yearly visit. The news was swift and surprising, and cemented the fact that this has been the most trying, most complicated year of our life together. A rough pregnancy and birth. A baby in the hospital. Your worsening, debilitating back pain. The overwhelming stress and exhaustion of new parenthood.

Now, a job loss.

In the dark, we talked about our anniversary. How should we celebrate it, in light of the situation and without spending money that we should be saving? I told you I felt like throwing in the towel. "Forget it," I said cantankerously. "What's the point? All of our anniversaries get ruined, anyway."

You said, "Who knows? Maybe it will be the best one ever."

You said, "I have hope."

(Husband, where would I be without you? Drowning in my own melancholia, that's where.)

So this year, inspired by you, I propose a joint anniversary gift. A little something inexpensive that we can carry in our pockets every day:

that you'll find another, even better job. Hope that your back pain will respond to the new therapies you're trying. Hope that our darling son will finally start sleeping through the night so that you and I can function like normal human beings again.

Hope that even without spending a lot of money, this anniversary will blow all of the others out of the water. (Because, let's face it, it doesn't have much in the way of competition.)

Hope that this year is going to be the best one ever.

What do you say?

Love + kisses, your devoted wife