A Korean Jesa Ceremony for My Parents

Life Story Club Contributor

November 19, 2020

I’m thankful for everything. For my family. For my kids. The only thing I want to share quickly is the tradition that we have every anniversary of the passing of our elders. To me, it’s my parents. My parents passed away seven or eight years ago. And every year, the day before the anniversary, all the family has to unite and be together.

And we cook the food that they used to…their favorite soup, rice, or meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, or special cookie, or cake that they like. And we put it on the table, a picture of them. And we have to bow from the oldest to the youngest. And I would love my kids to do it after I’m gone too in the future. But I don’t know because, you know, with this younger generation, they’re starting to forget the traditions even though I teach them. But we’ll see what happens.

For the food we prepare, we usually cook it with no salt and nothing red because it’s supposed to be… It’s a belief thing that the spirit doesn’t like no salt, no garlic, and no red. So we don’t put any of those in whatever we cook. But we do … while we’re cooking, we separate the food that we are going to eat and the special little things that they used to love.

It has to be exactly 13 different foods. And plus, whatever favorite things that they had while they were living. So every year, the day before the anniversary, we do it. So I think that’s a beautiful thing too, to remember the one that is gone already. And like I said, I would love my kids to learn to do it while I’m gone.

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Friend

Life Story Club Contributor

November 12, 2020

I got her when I was 20. We always had a dog. But mommy didn’t want it. And so when I got to be an adult, I bought myself a dog and that was it. That was Lucky. And she was my baby. She was my baby. She used to go everywhere with me. She was so smart. She would understand everything. When I was talking to my mom like, “Okay Mommy, I have to go to work,” or something, she will wait for me by the door thinking that I was going to take her. But when I had my first baby, mommy say, “Okay and now you can’t have a dog where there’s a baby,” so mommy took her. And but anyway mommy lived around the corner, so we used to see her every day.

She lived for 17 years. And by the time that she was sixteen and a half, she was having health problems. So I took her to the vet, and the doctor said that she had a problem with her kidneys, because she will just walk around the house, and she will not know, and she will just pee. So she said, “We can have her fixed a little bit with a surgery or something.” But she said, “You know what she’s almost 17, and that’s not a quality of life. And I don’t want you to spend so much money, so why don’t you put her to sleep?” I said, “No I can’t do that. I am sorry, but I can’t.” And she was like, “You know, you have to think about it. Think about it and let me know.” So I said “Okay, fine.”

So I went home. I said, “No there’s no way that I can put her to sleep.” But six months after she passed away naturally, and I cremated her, and when they sent me back her ashes, I couldn’t let her go. I couldn’t because she was my baby. She was my baby. And so, I had her ashes in my room for seven years. And when my mother passed away… She used to love the dog, too. When my mommy passed away, I buried her with her because she was my baby. But Mommy loved her, and she took care of her after I had the baby, so it was her dog too. So when mommy passed away, I finally let her go and have some closure.

Passing Down Korean Traditions to My Children

Life Story Club Contributor

October 29, 2020

I left when I was 5 years old. I’m from South Korea. We have a lot of respect for older people, like our elders. Not only older people, our elders like parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts. And I try to teach my kids because they were born here and they’re so Americanized. But what I try to keep teaching them the tradition of my country. One of them that I really like is when we serve our food, like dinner, lunch, or whatever, we always serve our elders first. And we wait until they first start eating. We have to see them start eating. Then we can eat, too. Otherwise, we have to wait. If they start talking, and they’re not eating, we have to wait even though if the food is all served. So that’s one of the things I really like. And I try to teach my kids to respect their elders and everything. Not only that but that’s one of the things I really like.

And another thing is if we drink alcohol in front of our elders we have to do a 45 degree … we cannot drink, like, face to face. We have to turn around and drink like this. So those are the little traditions that I’d like to teach my kids. Even though they don’t like it … they always say, “Yeah, but we’re Americans. I was born here. So whatever.” Blah, blah, blah. But I say, “No, no, no, no, no.” I mean, if it’s something else. But respect, I think, is very good to teach them. So I try to teach them whatever is related to respect.

My parents passed away already. So between my siblings and myself, we try to teach them whatever we remember. I would like them to talk…speak Korean, too. But I guess they’re a little more comfortable … like myself. I mean, I left Korea when I was 5 years old. And we went to South America. So, I’m fluent in Spanish too. I mean, not that I was forced to speak my language. But my parents didn’t speak any other language. So I didn’t have no choice. But my kids, they have the opportunity that I speak English and Spanish when they’re doing Spanish homework and stuff. So they’re not forced to. But they feel more comfortable. They do understand, but they answer me in English. They understand English, Spanish, and Korean … but they all answer in English.

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