Wednesday, February 17, 2010

* A Celebration of Life -To My Mother *

Today is always a sad day for me.
2/17 is my mother's birthday.
It will be 9 years in May since she passed away.
It's taken me a long time to really accept my mother's death and I'll probably never fully get "over it"... but rather than thinking about the fact that she's not here today, I'd like to remember her for who she was, how her life impacted others, and how she lives on through me.

Young Hee Lee was born in Korea on February 17, 1951.
Growing up, she was very smart (She loved telling me how she had an IQ of 150 or 160(?) when I would look at her like she didn't know anything).
She loved to read and studied very hard.  She loved Wuthering Heights.
Apparently, she would get picked on a lot... but my uncle would take care of the ones that made her cry~

She went to Ewha University (one of the best female colleges in Korea) at a time when not a lot of women went to college.
She was one of the first female journalists in Korea (A huge huge deal at the time) and worked at Han Gook Ilbo (One of the biggest Korean newspapers).
She was also one of the first Koreans to move to America.  

My mother met my father (who moved to America in the '70's right after he graduated college) when her older sister went to buy a grocery store and found herself a brother-in-law instead.
My aunt saw my father and thought he was a catch and told him about her sister who lived in Korea.
He was going to Korea soon to find a wife (So-Gyo-Tings are basically when parents/adults play matchmaker... it was very common back in the day) and decided he would meet her.
- They first met at a tea house with both their parents in tow.  The parents eventually left them on their own.
At the end of their date, my father told her, "Ok. I have to catch the bus. I'll talk to you soon" and left her standing there.
My mother was left speechless...thinking, "What kind of a guy just leaves a girl without making sure she gets home???". Of course she got over it.  After a few dates, he proposed to her.  Again, she was left thinking, "What kind of a guy is this???"
They married on 1/24.  On August 24, 1982 the biggest blessing in the world was born! ;)

My mother was always super conservative....
This caused problems growing up:
She wanted me to study. She wanted me to practice piano and violin.  She wanted me to clean my room.  She wanted me to go to sleep at normal times.
I wanted to play. I wanted to watch t.v.  I was too busy playing to clean my room. I wanted to talk on the phone til the sun came up... literally... ("WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! YOU HAVE SCHOOL TOMORROW! GET OFF THE PHONE!)
* My mother had her hands full trying to reign me in... but she just wanted me to be a good girl and do the right thing.  I guess essentially, she tried to instill the balance that I needed.  She did the best she could (It's hard to keep a hurricane in control...) and I suppose my childhood was the most balanced period of my life.

She believed in doing the right thing.
It used to make me so embarrassed when we were walking down the street and she would pick up litter from the floor and throw it in the garbage can. SOOO embarrassed.
She taught me the importance of manners, taking the higher road ("Pray for them"), and treating others how you wanted to be treated . She also taught me never to complain, never to compare, and always always "Try your best".

She had a huge heart.
My mother was always taking care of my friends.  She'd always treat us to good food and places to play (My house was the house of Domino's pizza and KFC).
My mom would give friends whose parents were working a ride home.
She'd always be our chauffeur... driving us to the movie theater, mall, and Pal Park.
If you were my best friend, you might have gotten a trip to Florida with us.
She would always give me extra money to treat my friends when I went out.
She would tip anyone and everyone. 

She did everything for me.
Sigh... when I think about the things I put my poor mother through....I was the biggest brat~
* I was the pickiest eater, so my mother would always buy me KFC hot wings.
 "Why don't you get six pieces of hot wings since you don't eat a lot. If you want more, I promise to get you more..." she would say.
NOPE! If I didn't have 12 pieces, I didn't want it at all.  Of course my mother wanted me to eat so she'd give in and buy me 12
(Oh Mother... Why didn't you hold your ground against me... )
- I will say that in my defense... I always did end up finishing the 12 pieces (even if it was the next day...)

* My shopping problem stemmed from when I was little.  Everywhere we went was an opportunity to buy something.  My mother usually treated me... and I put her through hell when I wouldn't get anything  (Yeah... I was the brat crying in the K-Mart aisle because I didn't get candy...)  I know.. my poor mother...
- She tried to teach me "Quality over Quantity".... all I heard was "Quality" and "Quantity"

She was always there for me.
* I remember one day in middle school when I was crying because I wasn't invited to a party.  I remember my mom holding me on the pink carpeted stairs trying to soothe me.
* When I was in high school and heart broken because I'd broken up with my first boyfriend, she woke me up early one morning and we drove out to Alpine Lookout to look at NY across the river.
I don't remember the conversation or what was said... but I remember that morning and how it was so special.... a mother reassuring her daughter that things would be ok.

My mother was an amazing mother.
* She wrote diaries to me from the day I was born until the day until I was 6 years old.
- I still like to read about how when I was 4 or 5 years old, I didn't want to eat a lot because I said I'd be fat like my cousin Je, but would eat when told that  if I ate more, I would be pretty like my cousin Yung.
* She also kept all my drawings I drew from when I was little. I have around 6 binders full of my old drawings.  One of my favorites is a picture of me crying (because I wet my pants) in captions.

To my mother, it didn't matter that I wasn't a good student (Lord knows how many times my teachers told her I had "so much potential"...)
She didn't expect me to be the best pianist around.  She didn't care if I became a Doctor or a Lawyer.  To her... all that mattered was that I was a good Christian girl.  She was proud of me not for my report card, but for my heart.

I have a lot of regrets towards my mother.  I always say that I don't live with regrets because everything is a learning lesson... but I do wish I could take back all the mean things I said in anger, the temper tantrums I had, and the unneccessary stress I caused her.
I wish I had told her I loved her more.  I wish I could have hugged her more.  I wish I could have said "Thank You" more.

She always used to say "You'll understand when you're older".......... and she was right.
When I was younger... I always felt like my mother was holding me back.... She was the one preventing me from living the life I wanted.
Now I see that she was giving me the foundation I needed before setting me free... She was preparing me to live the life I wanted.

My mother was such a good woman.  She was classy.  She was smart. She was kind-hearted.
"Your mother was one of a kind.  They don't make them like her anymore" her best friend always says. It's true... I know that everyone loves their mother... but my mother really was an amazing woman.

I remember the day of her funeral, I was standing  in my backyard ... devastated that my mother was gone. I looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow.
I like to believe that even after she was gone, she came back to bring a little sunshine to my heart.
Now, every time I see a rainbow, I believe my mother is watching me from Heaven... Looking over me. Protecting Me. Loving Me.

Umma, I wish you were here to watch me grow, listen to me ramble,  help me get more balanced, and to enjoy life with me. I would give anything to hear you nag at me to clean my room one last time.
I wish I could have been a better daughter to you........ but since I can't turn back the clock, I can only hope to be the person that you'd want me to be.

I miss you. I love you. Thank you.

*~ Have a Beautiful Day! ~*


  1. On a day of a parents death us jews wish the children of the deceased a long life. So Irene i wish you a long life!! xxx

  2. Just beautiful!!

  3. Your mommy was a beautiful person inside and out! I will never forget her. =)

  4. The day of Miss Saigon... I remember like it was yesterday. The way your mom protected me after the NY incident from my mom and moreso, you... Until the day we all meet again in heaven... let's make her proud.

  5. this was really touching and so beautiful. thank you for sharing your story.

  6. I went on your website to get a tip on how to do my eyes, instead, I'm wiping the tears from my eyes. Thank you. Your tribute was very beautiful.

  7. That trip to Florida will go down in history booksFebruary 17, 2010 at 7:45 PM

    Ay Irene, If you only know how much this made me cry. I can't believe it has been 10 years... Your mother was an amazing woman and you were absolutely the light of her life. No matter what you think you didn't say or show her when she was alive she knew how you felt. She knew you loved her and she was soo proud of you... She was sure you would find your way... She told me so herself when I would drive her to get movies. She is looking down on you always and she can hear you ramble :) If you look hard enough you may even see she is gently guiding you... All the decisions you make with your heart, well, she is the one that gave you that heart. xoxo

  8. What a beautiful way to remember your mother.
    Thank you for today's message!

  9. she truly was an amazing woman...i'll never forget how generous, kind, and loving she was...and all those dominos/buffalo wing days. :)

    she'd be darn proud of the (adult-ish) person you've become... ;) love you ree

  10. Irene, this is absolutely a beautiful dedication to your mother, I truly feel your heartfelt love and pain for her presence. If I knew during the show that her memorial date was just a few days after the show, I would've given you another BIG hug. You have a wonderful spirit and I know that your 'Umma' would be so proud of the fabulous artistry that you performed during the MDLC FW10 show. Much Peace & Love to You and Your Family, Rita Sanders(HairStylist 4/the MDLC Show)

  11. your mother sounds like a beautiful person. much love to her and people with hearts like her's.

    she is definitely living inside you!

  12. irene after reading about your mom and getting to spend last summer with you, i can safely say you are becoming a woman, your mom would have wanted you to be. an amazing one!

  13. our moms share the same name. :)

    thank you for sharing...

    i can sooooOOOoo relate to most of what you've written here...
    perhaps it's the only child thing?