A Life of Beautiful Goodbyes


Goodbye Korea


Stay in Korea long enough and it’s bound to happen – we lose a piece of our heart. But, we don’t really lose it, we gladly loan it to the person we cherish in hopes that we will see them again – no matter how much we know the probabilities of life will rob us of the chance.

For me, it reads like a bad personals ad in the Folio Weekly in Jacksonville, Florida.

Me: Lost ESL instructor, wannabe photographer and blogger, not tall, a little handsome, Christian, conservative, has a thing for spaceships.

You: Poet, wears very fuzzy things, liberal, Buddhist – leaning, the only thing that matches your physical beauty is the way you use words, loves religion, indie – stuff, and movies that reflect art as much storytelling.

Saw you at Thursday Party. You were at bar with a Nietzsche book. Who takes a Nietzsche book to a bar? It should have been a red flag, but I was drawn to you. We talked and hit it off. I will wait for you until you notice me again.

Lucky for me, she did.

A few months later – she’s gone.

Life has many hellos . We tend to view the hellos more positively than we do the goodbyes, just like how we think beginnings are more promising than endings. This view, however, is wrong.

Hellos are plentiful. They happen everyday and are often meaningless. Painful goodbyes on the other hand, are rare, special, and mean we are losing something in life that was actually worth living for. We don’t connect with everyone, and not everyone will connect with us. But, when we do make those rare connections, they hurt the most when we lose them. The brightest lights cast the darkest shadows. As a fan of photography, the play of highlights and dark shadows create the most compelling and meaningful photos. Likewise, the most intense feelings – intense love, hate and loss – signify when we’ve waded through the greatest depths of being alive.




I wrote about this before but it deserves repeating.

The center of the Korean flag is known as the Tae-Geuk. It represents the origin of the universe and the balance of “Yang” (red) and “Um” (blue). Yang represents fire, birth, sky, life, construction, day, heat and so on. Um complements and completes Yang by representing, water, shade, ground, death, deconstruction, night and cold. There is constant movement between these two forces, but they always work in balance and harmony. They are not greater than each other, but the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

We tend to think the red is positive, but it is only when we experience the blue that we truly understand the red. The blue illuminates the red, and shows us just how beautiful life is. Only through recognizing and embracing the pain and the depth of our losses, do we truly understand how much something or someone meant to us. When a relationship, friend, or love no longer exists, we fully realize how much we miss what we had and what it meant to us. It’s impossible not to mourn our losses in the blue, but we should embrace the blue for how beautiful it is. Getting to the blue only means we experienced something special. Blue is inevitable, but we should be happy when we are in the blue because it signifies we finally experienced something that is worthy of being alive.

If you are an expat in Korea long enough, chances are you will say goodbye to a cherished friend or love. If you are a human being, chances are you have said goodbye to either a cherished friend or love – maybe even their physical presence is no longer in this world in the form that we once recognized.

But this morning, please take solace that you are not alone in your grief. It might not be exactly the same, but it’s similar. We all cry in our pillows. We all become so overwhelmed by our loss that it becomes difficult to function at work. We all try to return to being social on Saturday nights only to leave early because our hearts still haven’t caught up with our heads. And yes, we all are told we should get better when it still really hurts inside. You are not alone, even when those around you struggle to understand how you are feeling.

Despite the pain – cherish your mourning. Remember, no matter how violent or heartbreaking the end was – the degree of your feeling of loss only illuminates how incredibly lucky and fortunate you were to share such intensity and beauty with another human being. Time heals all wounds; time just moves incredibly slow when we are wounded. Life will get better. Just remember, your wound is beautiful, like the friend or person you let go of.

And to this girl…

You know I love you. I couldn’t be more proud or excited for you. My favorite people in history – my heroes – are those who chase their hearts no matter how silly or hopeless their dreams appear to other people. Go fulfill your heart. Go connect with the future and the passion you were meant to have. Go meet inspiring people. Continue to feel beautiful and whole.

Have fewer turtle experiences 🙂

I want to share two more things with you from my faith. The first is well-known and perhaps banal. It’s often used at weddings, but the words ring so true if you can ignore its popular use. I slightly edited it and believe it fully represents how we view love.

[blockquote]Love is patient, love is kind, love is not selfish. Love keeps no records of wrongs. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.[/blockquote]

The second is one of my favorite verses and it was used at weddings until it was replaced by the former.

[blockquote]Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Wherever you go I will go, and wherever you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.[/blockquote]

I know we have talked about understanding the spirit and context of things written. We aren’t at points where we will follow each other across continents and we both need to focus on our dreams. I love this verse, however, because it is love and it says one thing – I’ll never abandon you. No matter what you do, where you end up, or who you are with; you will always be special to me. Our love transcends just being together or any couple formalities. I want you to be happy, and I will never turn from listening or being there for you in times of need.

Words can’t express how much I will miss you, but the depth of my loss only reflects how wonderful, beautiful, and meaningful you are to me. You have forever marked me, and I am a more beautiful person because you were in my life.

Thank you.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I never knew that loving and then losing people could be so hard until I came to Korea. Though I don’t know you or the specifics of your situation, I know the feeling about which you write, and your words speak to my spirit this morning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.