One Generation’s Length Away From Fighting Life Out On My Own

This was indeed a crazy weekend.

My dad called me on Friday afternoon, around 430ish, to inform me that my grandmother, his mother, had passed. He needed me to come and pick him and my mom up at Pomona, and take them to the LAX because they booked a flight to Korea leaving midnight. Also, he needed me to come up so that we can pick up their dog and fishes to watch them while they were gone.

So my wife and I geared up to fight through the God awful California Friday evening rush hour traffic. It felt like we spent most of our weekend in the car, stuck in traffic.

I didn’t know my grandmother very well. For most of my life, there was a whole lot of earth and ocean that was between us. We immigrated to the United States when I was 6. She and the rest of my dad’s family stayed in Korea.

She came to live with us for a couple of months when we lived in South Carolina. But the only real memory I have of her during that time is when my brother (a baby) threw a golf ball, and it just happened to hit her square on the forehead.

In 2001, I went to Korea for my cousin’s wedding. But, my interaction with my grandmother was, oddly, next to nothing. I don’t recall seeing her that much during my short stay in Korea.

So the sadness I felt upon hearing of her passing was more sadness for my dad losing his mother than for myself.

I do know that she was an amazing lady of faith.
There is one story (of the many) that my dad has told me about her and his childhood has always stuck in my head.
When he was young (he was the youngest of 4 sons), my grandmother saw a need the church had. And to help out, she sold her home, and with the money she made, she wanted to give it all to the church. The pastor did not want to accept the money, wondering where she and her 4 boys would stay. But my grandmother insisted that they had a place to live and insisted more that the pastor and the church take the offering. So the pastor, believing that they had a place to live, took the offering for the church.
But in truth, they didn’t have a home to stay at. So for a few months or so, they lived under a bridge near their old home.
One day, a church leader followed my grandmother’s family “home” because he was concerned with how they were living, and was shocked to see that they were living under a bridge. He owned an orphanage and offered my grandmother to come and live at the orphanage with her 4 sons. He was adamant and insisted that she and her boys come live at the orphanage and would not take “no” for an answer and finally my grandmother obliged.
So my dad grew up in an orphanage for a good chunk of his early life.

When I first heard that story, I think I may have been a teenager. But it never seeped in. It was more of a “Cool story, dad.”

But now that I’m older, a pastor, a husband wanting to be a father. It has taken a deeper meaning.
I mean as a pastor, I talk/preach about sacrificial giving and living, and also try to live that out.
But… talk about sacrificial giving. She sold her house to help the church. And lived under a bridge with her 4 sons.
Some would say that she was being an irresponsible mother — putting her kids in that kind of situation.
Others may just not be able to comprehend why she did what she did.

But for me, it speaks to her unwavering faith in God, that somehow, someway God would provide. And if that meant she had to live under a bridge, she’d make the most of it.

I didn’t know that much about her, but I feel that I know the most important things about her: that she was a loving and generous person with a tremendous amount of faith.

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