Happy Birthday Umma

Happy Birthday umma. Without you there would be no me.

I will try to read you this later when we birthday Skype, but I know I will have to paraphrase in lost Korean translation…

I learned from you how to laugh so hard my eyes disappear and my mouth hangs open, and to never hide my laughs. I learned from you how hard to fight for what and who matters most, and to never hide from a fight. I learned from you how to give and take in love, and to never hide my love.

I watched you eat all the imperfections standing alone in the kitchen, because you served only the most perfect food to guests in our home. I watched you put hot cups of coffee into the hands of the homeless sleeping under the awning of our fruit and vegetable store, because you’d once given money before and saw them go straight to the liquor store. Anyway. I watched your shell crumble bit by bit as appa got sicker and sicker, because you knew you were only a short time away from the day that would take him forever away.

Your love, yours and appa’s, is what gave me the confidence that puts me just where I am today, despite the fact that it means thousands of miles stand between us.  Your love, yours and appa’s, is what instilled in me all throughout my life the ability to make my own decisions even if my own parents didn’t always agree with them. Your love, yours and appa’s, is rare and you were both lucky to have fallen in love and remained in love to appa’s dying day.


Appa adored you and everyone knew it. He never hid it, only fought for it, and his laughs at you and with you filled our home.

And so I understand why, that year after appa died, you tried to join him. We don’t talk out loud about it at all, but we do with our eyes and sighs, almost always. I can’t imagine having gone through the last few years of my life without you, because I know what it has been like without appa already.

And here we are now, so many years later, celebrating yet another of your birthdays. And by now, by Korean standards, you have been made whole again through a grandson and son-in-law to call your own. In your world, where things incapable of measurement are measured anyway (by some menacing invisible Korean ruler), you are in a much better place than you were the year after appa died.

But if I could do only just one more thing for you, it would be this…

To bring appa back. Even if only just to you.

Thank you Umma. Without you there would be no me. Happy Birthday to you.


Jun Mi

~ ~ ~

When my father passed away I had to choose a photo to be displayed at his funeral. I chose this one, cropping it just so his smiling face could be seen. On the sea, with the love of his life, is where he loved to be.FuneralPhoto.


Always dishing,



  1. Shelly

    What a beautiful bday decoration to your mom. Looking at the pics brings your parents romance to life & shows us you are quite the gebetic blend of tgem both. We learn so much, your audience…about you, about culture, about so many things. Thank you Mama Song for bringing us Jun Mi.

    1. Jun Song Author

      My dear M, I know you know just exactly what is involved. My thoughts are with you still. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Hugs.

  2. Wow what a Beautiful soul you are Dear Jun! 🙂 It seems your Appa must have been the same (love how our languages are so similar – Apa in Hungarian :)) and we definitely know how Mama Song brings you joy.. <3 Wish there was a ruler to measure the beauty that was born inside your parents' love and came to live within you!! <33

  3. My parents went through way too much during their way too short life . But they went through it together. I have outlived the time my mother spent on this earth by 7 years now .And have another 7 years to go to do the same for my father. I watched him grieve for 14 years. Perhaps that is why I never seriously attempted a true relationship, for fear of going through that kind of grief. But looking back, I realize that the only times of joy for my father were those joyful moments he shared with us, his children. I missed out on giving and sharing another joyful moment with him. Celebrate every moment you have. Love every moment you can.

    1. Jun Song Author

      Thank you for sharing Richard. That’s a hard realization to come to, I’m sure. And you are right about loving every moment you can. So many can’t.

  4. kcsmum

    Lovely. If only Appa had one more day to spend with Umma squared. He would be so proud of you & your mom and how your love has grown since his passing. A beautiful sentiment any mother would love. I’m so glad your Umma was able to clear the fog. I know your support pulled her through.

    1. Jun Song Author

      It was a fucked up heavy fog for a while, definitely not pretty. Everyone has their fogs but we rarely share.

      “If only Appa had one more day to spend with Umma squared. ”

      Yes 🙂

  5. My throat is closing around sobs that I am trying to stifle after reading your beautiful words to your umma. My heart hurts for your umma’s and your loss and I only hope that the passage of time lessens the pain. So beautifully, heartbreakingly written. Thanks for dishing Jun. xoxo

    1. Jun Song Author

      I think the passage of time helps and also hurts because there are so many “If he or she was here…” events in the present and future. But she is in a better place now. But we know Korean ummas are resilient, don’t we? 🙂

  6. Hammy

    Wow. Just WoW You have such a gift Jun. Your words almost always stir such emotion in me.

    I can so understand your Ummas struggle after losing the love of her life. Although I didn’t walk the exact road she did the year after losing mine, I did experience this over whelming feeling that nothing mattered anymore because he was not here to share it with.

    I still feel that a lot. We’re it not for my Umma getting ill the second year after losing my soul mate and offering me that distraction, I suspect I would have put in what would feel like 15 very meaningless years to date.

    Everything happens for a reason, I believe. Sometimes we determine the reason(s) and sometimes not. But we have to have faith in ourselves, and each other, that we will be ok either way

    Your love story always brings such a smile to my heart as I feel in a way you earned it. You and your Umma lost such a precious piece of your hearts, it seems only life balancing that you found what your parents had, and Umma can share that new circle of love

    Much love to all of you and a very happy birthday to your Umma. She is such a special lady!

  7. Moya

    Oh, Jun…I can’t even breathe after reading this. Sobbing. Thinking about my own Father…They both left us too soon. Sending love and hugs from NY to all of you in Ghent. <3 <3 <3 xoxo

  8. Moya

    I can’t get over how much like your Appa you look!! I thought you looked just like Momz…but you’re a perfect blend of them BOTH…Yet, to look at you and them separately, you look like each of them. Heck, I don’t even know if this makes any sense to anyone reading this, I know what I am trying to say, but somehow putting in into words it doesn’t make sense!

    I hope you understand what I am trying to say. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMZ!! Sending love to her, too! I wish I could have gone to have lunch with her today 🙁 but you know the situation here is impossible!


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