Tag Archives: Korean

Death Becomes You

Photo I took from one of the oldest cemeterys in America in NYC's St. Paul's Churchyard.

Photo I took from one of the oldest cemeterys in America in NYC’s St. Paul’s Churchyard.

Today I went to a cemetery to photograph some stones for family members that did not live in Washington State. It is a volunteer program I became involved with to assist those that can not take the photography themselves. On this particular day, I was having trouble finding a plot. There was a woman alone near me and as we began to talk, she started helping me search for the grave site.
After a few minutes I found who I was looking for and took the pictures I needed to take. After I was done, I began to talk with this woman. I realized a sadness in her face as I asked her if she was there visiting with someone. She said, “Yes, my husband. He committed suicide.” I said, “I am so sorry to hear this. When did he do that?” She replied, “In 2010.” It was at this point we began sharing back and forward about life and death situations. It was as if she was saying death was the best choice he saw for himself.
It was interesting having this chance meeting with her. I do not even know her name, but she did take me to her husband’s burial site. I paid my respects with her. This nicely dressed lady was from Korea and shared with me that he was depressed before he killed himself and had lost much of his business. He was a highly respected businessman and it sounded from her he had lost everything. She had begun to go to work at a department store to bring in some money.
As I took my time with her, we spoke of Korean traditions and how the husband’s role is so important in that culture. She spoke of going to work and what this might have felt like for her husband. You could see the sadness in her eyes as she discussed this with me and the clash of current culture with the culture and traditions of her home country. She shared that her home may be lost soon to foreclosure and she wondered about moving back to Korea. She now has grandchildren here that make her so happy. I offered her the only advice I knew when she told me she is now an American citizen, “Stay in America and be with your grandchildren no matter if you lose your house. They sound so lovely for you.” We smiled and said our goodbyes. I offered to take a photo of her husband’s grave site and email it to her. She was so happy for me to do that. I hope in some way it helps her.