Musings: A Bittersweet Birthday

Another year, another birthday has come and gone but this recent birthday will remain etched in memory as one of the most bittersweet of them all.

As I'm sure all of you have heard or read, a truly terrible accident occurred in Korea on April 16 as a ferry carrying cargo and passengers sunk off the southwest coast of Korea. The truly heartbreaking part is the fact that most of the passengers were young high school students from Ansan who were on a school field trip to Jeju Island. It seems a number of factors including negligence, miscommunication, and human error are behind this incident in which, so far, 108 people have lost their lives to while some 194 individuals remain accounted for.

This accident has affected and put a heavy mood on Korea the past week while its occurrence, just two days before my birthday, has certainly provided me things to reflect upon. How tragically ironic to celebrate my own day of birth on a week in which so many, most of who were even younger than me, lost their lives. Out of respect, I refrained from blogging and making posts on any SNS but I still found it a struggle to grasp how to go about and/or move on in life in the wake of such a horrific incident. Thanks to many wonderful friends and family, I did spend this birthday feeling much blessed and loved and yet there was such a tinge of guilt and heaviness in all the joyful emotions I felt.

What was to be a happy and exciting trip for these young students turned out to be a harrowing and horrifying ordeal within a matter of minutes and I can't begin to imagine how the survivors must feel knowing classmates and teachers who have died or remain missing, as well as what these surviving young students will carry with them for the rest of their lives. The images and reports on grieving parents and family members alone proved too much for me with my TV remaining off this past week. But in particular I was so broken seeing a picture of a dazed and grieving younger brother, of one of the victims, as he silently carried his brother's portrait at his brother's funeral; so young and innocent and yet how can this younger brother process these turn of events? How terrified he must feel on living in a world in which young ones on a simple school trip can have his/her life snatched away by the follies and negligence of adults?

A 17-year-old victim’s brother holds a picture of his sibling at a funeral service in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, Monday (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

So many lives cut short. So many promising sentences and songs prematurely ended on an abrupt period. And those periods, in a cruel manner, has become a series of periods, an ellipsis, in my own life as it spurs me to make the most of each day in their honor; to live and to love without regret and to remind myself not to be defined by the pains of my past and the concerns of my future and to vicariously live through the moment that is presented to me now.

Too young and too early you went but not in vain is what I wish I could tell them and also what I hope will be for this nation so that the tears of anguish and bitterness flowing now will one day turn into tears of determination and perseverance in creating a place where the young are happy, healthy, and can dream big things.

Let the wounds heal but let the scars remain as a reminder of our shortcomings and how much further we must go. Rest in peace and thank you for the tragic and jarring reminder from the trivial things of our everyday lives to focus on the things and (most importantly) people who most matter.


  1. I have many Korean friend and alway follow news from korea but this news made me very sad and we're pray for korea and the victim


Post a Comment

Questions? Suggestions? Thoughts? Please feel free to comment!