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She Left before the Snowmageddon

Her spirit left the week before, and her body lay inside her casket shrunken. She died on January 29, 2019 and her family would need to let her go. She had lived eight years with Alzheimer’s and, despite a valiant effort and family support, Sue Insuk Kwak could no longer be trapped inside her body.

A week and a half before, I went to Seattle to see my mother for the last time. I tried to coax her to eat and to move, but at sixty-five pounds she was declaring herself no longer part of the living world. She was, quite deliberately, choosing to die. 

Her body and her mind had not been in synch for over a year, and she had constant falls despite 24-hour care and supervision in a memory care facility. She could no longer stand or feed herself, and because the amount of assistance she needed was so demanding, she could sense everyone’s stress around her. She no longer remembered how to move her spoon to her mouth. She could no longer go to the bathroom on her own. And my mother knew it; she knew was not truly living.

She moved back with my father and spent her last month surrounded by family. She timed her death perfectly, dying just a few days before the snowfall of the decade. We were able to bury her before the snow blanketed Seattle; hundreds of community members joined our family at her service. We were able to say “Good-bye” and send her off with love and flowers.

This past year, I have said “Good-bye” to so many patients since my mother’s death. As an oncology social worker, I am always saying “Good-bye” and sending love as I let go. The beauty of love is buried deep within, and my tears water my soul. I am reminded by the peace and beauty of a fresh snowfall and the spirit of my mother released.

Jenny Kwak
Stanford, California


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