This is my first time delivering a eulogy to remember a beloved family member’s life.
While I had expected to see you in a month from now grandma in a different set of circumstances for Christmas, we have all gathered here today – my sister from Paris, my brother from Beijing, myself from Seoul, and the rest of the guests from around the country – to reflect upon and celebrate your life story.
So while I may be a novice in describing your time on this planet, you were undoubtedly a seasoned veteran of life throughout your 89 years here, with all of its accompanied pleasures and pains. I’ll do my best to articulate the significance of your life from the vantage point of your grandchildren who you helped raise during our formative years.
You showed us how to take in the simple joys of life – teaching us that happiness doesn’t have to be an obscure concept but can be found in the everyday routine, from eating at Red Lobster with your grandchildren to watching your favorite television drama after a long day of work. You carved a niche in this world and found your peace and contentment where many of us fail to do so. If only we could all be so satisfied with life’s outcomes. From this we can all learn so much in a society that increasingly accelerates and demands more and more of us. This is particularly true for the young generation, marked by instant gratification and attention distraction where we are constantly interconnected but never quite satisfied with our station in life as we endlessly compare ourselves to peers and desire for more, instead of feeling gratitude for the plenty we already have.
Your mentality of thankfulness was rooted somewhere within a different era. You came from humble beginnings and weathered difficult periods that your grandchildren have trouble even contemplating, from the Great Depression to the 2nd World War. Through your grit, persistence against hardship, and commitment to your family, you laid the stable foundations for your descendants by cultivating a strong sense of self-responsibility to become the bedrock of the family.
You sacrificed for your family through the years, day in and day out, which would eventually afford opportunities to your grandchildren that had been unavailable to you. In doing so, you embodied the American Dream of meritocracy, upward mobility, and achievement from years of focused dedication. The fruits of your labor flowed down to your children and even further to our own lucky upbringing as grandchildren, helping to provide us with an ideal environment where we could learn, grow, and develop into ourselves.
You continued to serve and help others into your golden years, exemplified with left turns from E. Bainbridge Avenue onto Golden Eagle Boulevard in the early mornings of our education that you disliked ever so much, or spending hours to cook multiple course meals for dinner that your often ungrateful grandchildren took for granted and dare I say seldom fully appreciated. Once more you put yourself aside for the good of others. You may not have liked doing it, but you knew it should be done, and so you did it. Sometimes there are no shortcuts. There’s a certain beauty to this logic that is at times lost on us.
You remained engaged and responsible with your daily crossword puzzles and balanced your son’s bills and expenses, which may be more indicative of a deficiency in accounting skills of my dad than anything else.
The animated episodes we had debating about whether a fish was an animal or the unnecessary Hamlisch maneuver you performed on my sister one night reminded us that you always had our best interests at heart, even if we didn’t always recognize this fact at the time.
You stayed up until all hours of the night as you couldn’t sleep without knowing full well that we had returned home safe and sound. At times we selfishly viewed this as interfering with our lifestyle, but it was in your selfless nature to ensure our welfare even at your own inconvenience. What we may have interpreted as stubbornness was in fact a level of maturity tempered from years of life that we failed to grasp at the time.
You tolerated us through our rebellious adolescent years. Between my brother, my sister, and me, your hands were more than full with our exploratory escapades and experimental adventures. From video game gatherings, sleepovers, and full-scale parties, you endured through them while always keeping a watchful eye. You acted as a mediating influence during our respective teenage periods, with a reliable presence that was somehow comforting.
You were not shy to speak your mind and never hesitated to remind us of how much you loved us and that your grandchildren made you proud. You would frequently express how happy you were to spend time with us. In adulthood’s professional corporate life where encouragement and recognition are far too rare, these were welcome words of love that reassured us – putting wind in our sails so to speak – and motivated us to keep going.
The way in which we can truly honor your life is to continually strive to make you proud. To live our lives with the measuring tool of whether our decisions would still make you proud for you to be our grandmother. This will be a frame of reference to carry with us into the future in the years ahead as we are also faced with our own obstacles and challenges.
For someone with a penchant for over-complicating things like myself, I will take to heart your mindset of keeping things simple and remembering how fortunate we are for each and every day. To live and let live, to let bygones be bygones.
For someone who has yet to raise a family, you demonstrated that it’s not solely about the individual but rather the collective family unit. And even if sacrifice and compromise have to be made for others, that they are a bottomless and bountiful source of happiness.
For someone who’s restless and overly keen on taking on new challenges, you let me see that sometimes it’s OK to just be yourself, to unplug your phone, and to smell the roses a little bit.
As we come to terms with your loss, which will be strongly felt in the upcoming Christmas season, we may find solace in contemplating that you led a good life, that you left a positive impression on your family and friends, and that you sowed the seeds of well-being for your grandchildren and many here today.
We will hold fond memories of your time here with us. We loved you during your life as we do now and will continue to do so. We will try to keep making you proud grandma. May you rest in peace.