I met my uncle and his family for the first time five years ago when I visited Korea. I remember he was tall and wore thick glasses. He talked loudly like my mom and was quite the chatterbox also like my mom. He is the youngest of five with four older sisters. Two years ago he passed away suddenly. My mom and her two sisters that did not live in Korea were not able to attend the funeral. He left behind a wife and two children. One of my reasons for visiting Korea this time was to see my uncle’s family. I worried we would lose contact with them.
This morning we waited in the hotel lobby and my uncle’s wife and daughter walked in. My uncle’s wife had a big smile on her face. I was shocked how grown up my uncle’s daughter looked. I’m still wearing the same t-shirt and jeans outfit I’ve been wearing for the past two months and my cousin looked like a fashionable South Korea college girl and did I mention she’s taller than, and she was taller than me five years ago too. My mom and my uncle’s wife had a long embrace. The words my mom failed to say but tried to express with her body, “I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner. You still have me.”
We hailed two taxis to take to us to our uncle’s memorial. I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s not a cemetery. There’s a building and I’m not sure if it’s his body or ashes. We went to the room where whatever part of him remains.
It’s not supposed to be this way. The older sisters are not supposed to visit their dead brother’s memorial. He was only 55 when he passed. His oldest sister is pushing 80 and still works once a week and doesn’t need reading glasses. The minute we stepped into the elevator the tears started. After visiting his body we went over to an area where they give you 15 minutes to pay respects the traditional Korean way.
In Jeju we had visited the graves of my grandparents and other relatives and not once did anyone cry. It made me sad to watch his daughter perfectly execute the ritual. She’s too young to know, she should be stumbling through it the same way I stumbled through it my first time in college when I attended my grandfather’s funeral.
In the room there’s a electronic board with my uncle’s photo and information. It lists his wife and two children and a short message.
I think it reads:
Father, please rest comfortably.
We all love you so much.