It’s so hard to think of an appropriate title to this post. A good friend here in Korea lost her husband in an accident last Sunday. It was around 5 o’clock in the afternoon and I was shopping in Myeongdong when I received a call from Wendy. I had changed my phone and fortunately she updated her contacts the day before. She told me that Jasmine lost her husband while trying to save their daughter in the stream where they were having a picnic. She asked me to meet at Yonsei University Hospital’s funeral home.
My husband was shocked to learn about the passing of Jasmine’s husband. It was only about two weeks ago when he saw the MBC documentary featuring Jasmine and her family. I was able to see “Love in Asia” last Tuesday and I remember Jasmine talked about how her husband used to call her “honey” but it has changed to “hwani” since she was always angry.
Jasmine is sort of a celebrity in Korea. She regularly appears on KBS’ Love in Asia. She also teaches Korean on EBS. She has appeared in a movie starring Kang Dong Won. She has done numerous translations for documentary shows on SBS, KBS and MBC. In short, she’s a foreign wife who has made a mark in Korea’s conservative society and she happens to be a Filipina.
When we (my husband, my son and I) arrived at Yonsei U’s Funeral Home last Sunday night, I was shocked to see a side of Jasmine I have never seen before. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t even say “condolence”. I know there are no words that could ease the pain she was feeling. Her eyes were swollen and she was still in her “vacation” clothes. She had no makeup on and it was a pain to see her like that.
I’ve always known Jasmine to be full of life. She could speak a hundred words per minute and I would understand every word she’d say. She’s frank but never tactless. How many times did we laugh at the mention of her last name? When she opens her mouth to speak, everyone would just stop and simply listens. She’s got a “magnetic” personality that one would just be drawn to her. She’s a knowledgeable person but is never pretentious.
After seeing her last Sunday, I knew that it would take a long time for the Jasmine I used to know to come back. She had just turned 18 when she met and married her husband who was 12 years her senior. They were together for more than 15 years and while it’s not perfect, they were a happy couple. We often laughed at the anecdotes that Jasmine shared about her marriage, and they were numerous and a lot of them too personal to post here. She has also shared with us that time when she almost left home.
As I saw Jasmine sitting on the floor in front of the altar on her husband’s wake, I wonder what was running in her mind. They were not only a couple but they were best friends too. Best drinking buddies. Whenever he could, he would accompany Jasmine in her “gigs”. In fact, the last time I saw him was when she manned the Philippine food booth during the “Hi Seoul” festival in May. Cathy (Korea Times) said, he was also with her during the Philippine Independence Day celebration in Incheon.
Mr. Lee Dong Ho would surely be missed. He was a funny man and so full of life just like the woman he left behind. He was a great provider and protector of his family. To Jasmine, just grieve and remember that we care.