Mrs. Jo’s Suh Long Tong

There was a huge snowstorm in January a few years back in the NY/NJ area, and in the middle of it all my girlfriend Diana went into labor and had a baby. A baby boy. Calvin.

I trekked out to the bumblefuck-nowhere hospital out in the hills of New Jersey that Diana had purposely chosen because it was quiet, and in the boondocks. I got lost eventually and hopelessly, wearing 3-inch-heeled leather boots in knee-high suburban snowbanks. I stereotypically believed that I could just hail a cab, like I always did in the city.

I eventually got to Diana and baby Calvin in the middle of that snowstorm, and I held him in my arms. I loved him right away, and Diana too. I also loved Hyun, Diana’s husband and baby daddy, for making their little family happen. I was so thrilled for them. I was far from being married or having a baby at that time myself, and I was just happy to be an auntie to Calvin.

I remember on that cold and snowy day seeing Hyun’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jo, meeting their grandchild for the first time. You don’t have to be Korean to be doting grandparents, but Mr. and Mrs. Jo were pretty damn cute Koreans. If you looked close enough you could see them jumping out of their skin so excited to hold their first grandchild.

What I actually remember most was the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Jo brought gallons of Korean suh long tong soup with them that day to the hospital, for Diana. Koreans are all about soup, and especially soup for new mothers still laid up after child-birth. Suh long tong is made from broth out of ox bones, and quality beef, and it can take up to a day to make. Dedication.

Along with the soup Mr. and Mrs. Jo made sure there was enough rice and rice noodles, chopped scallion and kosher salt, and fresh and stinky kimchi to go with it all. Spicy red angry kimchi, to balance the milky salty suh long tong. Diana got hooked up, and by her in-laws no less.

Mrs. Jo kept telling me to eat together with Diana. My own Korean mother had always taught me to politely decline food if offered, but she’d also taught me never to say no to food offered from a Korean mother. So I’d feigned politeness and declined the meal, but Mrs. Jo made sure I ate of course. I ate well. I sat there warm and full inside while it snowed and howled outside. There’s nothing like suh long tong on a cold day.

I made it back into the city in one piece later that evening, and fast forward to today…

Lots has happened. Diana and Hyun have moved around a few times, but always stayed in New Jersey. I got married to Davy, and Diana and Hyun were there to celebrate with us together. I moved to Belgium, but last year our little Noah got to meet their little Calvin, and Andrew their second son.

Two days ago Hyun lost his mother. Mrs. Jo is dead. In one morning she lost her life. She died after being hit by a speeding SUV in a quiet suburb of New Jersey. These things are only supposed to happen in the movies.

In one morning Hyun lost his mother. Diana lost her mother-in-law, and she grieves for Hyun’s loss. Their two little boys lost their grandmother, and both Hyun and Diana grieve for them in turn.

I have no right to be so shaken when it’s not my mother who died. Hyun said to me today I know that you know what it’s like. To lose a parent? Yes, I do, but it doesn’t make Hyun’s loss any less great.

I lost my father after a year-long battle he lost in health. Hyun lost his mother to a sudden and freak accident. Extremes cause deaths. I have no right to cry so much when I only met Mrs. Jo a few times. I know though that she always kept Diana’s freezer full of sacks of home-made suh long tong soup. Every time I visited Diana’s house I remember she’d show me all the soup stocked in her freezer. I thought it was a bit much, but Diana loved her mother-in-law’s soup. So did Hyun and Calvin and Andrew. I’ve eaten it and it was damn good.

I can’t be with Diana now, but I really wish I could. I really wish I could hug her, and tell her everything’s going to be okay because it will. Even if all I can blog about is some stupid soup.

You know what i’m saying Diana.

Rest in peace Mrs. Jo. You will be missed and remembered. Always remembered.

Always dishing,


P.S. White ribbons symbolize mourning in Korean culture. White ribbons are worn on lapels of male family members of the mourning family. White ribbons are worn as barrettes in the hair of female family members. Hence the photo of the white ribbons.


  1. Becky Nixon

    Oh my god such a sad story. I’ve never met your friends mother in law, or you for that matter, but you have such a way of telling it that makes me feel like I want to cry. Can’t imagine what your friends are feeling right now. They have had no notice or time to prepare for this, it’s been so sudden. My thoughts are with you x

  2. purrwing

    I am very sorry, Jun. I lost my aunt to a freak accident, She was hit by a drunk driver. Actually, the drunk driver hit a parked car and pushed the car into her as she was walking across a parking lot. To this day, I can’t get past the suddenness of it all. She was my favorite aunt. September has not been kind to you. Thankfully, October is within reach.

  3. Kristy

    Perhaps you’re so upset not only because your friend lost a loved one, but because the loved one was taken in that manner. Life is happy and good then something like that happens to change everything. It’s scary.

  4. MarluvsBB

    There is no “right” or wrong to feel shaken when someone we care about dies. My husband’s grave marker says… “for nothing loved is ever lost”. She is not lost… just sleeping until she meets you again. Believe it.

  5. Kelly banes

    I’m so sorry Jun. I know as someone who has lost a parent, it really hurts me when someone I love loses a parent too. I always cry as if it was my own parent that has died. My best friend of 35 years lost her dad about 2 years ago. She lives in Oregon and her parents still live here, so I went to the hospital and stayed with him and her mom and niece since she couldn’t be here for them. It broke my heart for her and for me. Her dad had been in my life longer then mine had, since mine died when I was 22.
    Then my sister in law lost her mom to cancer last year and again I was heartbroken. I found out yesterday that my other sis in laws mom now has cancer and again I’m heartbroken for her and for me. I have known her mom for 30 years and she is one of the sweetest people I know.
    As I get older, I fear losing my mom, my in laws and my close friends parents as well, for they have been in my life for 30+ years. Please don’t feel that you don’t have the right to cry, because you do. You not only feel their pain, but yours as well. There is no right or wrong way to mourn, we all do it differently.
    Hang in there mama. I love you a lot! Xo

  6. Incredibly sad for everyone involved. I wish you were able to hug Diana and Hyun in person. They can feel your love and hugs in their hearts.

    Be at peace Mrs. Jo. Watch over your babes and grand babies with a light heart knowing you will never be forgotten.

  7. Oh, no! I saw that on the news :'( She was the owner of a Dry Cleaning shop that my cousin uses. I am so sorry to hear of Diana and Hyun’s loss. Please send my condolences to them and of course you as well. May she Rest in Peace. As a person that lost their Father in a second, I know what they’re both going through…I don’t know what’s harder, to have to watch a parent suffer or to have them pass in an instant. Either sucks. Hard.

    Oh, how tragic, I thought about Momz when I heard this story, never expecting to hear you knew her though. This makes it all more tragic to me, even though I have no right to be in tears, I am. Brings back memories of my phone call…I pray for all of you. xoxo

  8. Jmantyger

    So sorry for Mrs. Jo, her family and friends. Our loved ones are never gone. They always live in our heart until it is our time to go & be with them. My brother (younger) died from AIDS. When we were little, I’d always run ahead and save spots for him, my sister & my mom in the bleachers to watch the local high school football games.

    One night as I sat with him in the hospital toward the end, I was trying to be calm on the outside, but burning with despair on the inside. Big brother couldn’t fix this & I was ashamed. He took my hand and said that is was OK. He was ready to go. He said don’t be sad. He said he was returning the favor. I asked him what favor. He replied he was simply running ahead to save us all good seats in the bleachers. I believed him. I still believe him in my heart. Look for us when y’all get there.

    Peace to all Jun…

  9. debchr

    You may have enjoyed Mrs. Jo’s companionship on a limited number of occasions, but they were special, loving and deeply felt moments, perhaps sacred moments. You cry your heart out for your loss and what that loss represents to you (which my very wise doctor told me is very important to determine). You can love some in an instant and others you may not understand for a lifetime…


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