Five years ago today, I got a phone call early in the morning from one of Won's friends in Korea. The words were brief, and high impact.
"Hello? Mark? Won Chong is dead!"
Those words threw my life into an immediate whirlwind. I didn't have time to absorb the shock. I didn't grieve - I was just numb.
It was early morning, Sunday, January 3rd. (Just after Midnight, January 4th in Seoul) I spent the day arranging flights, finding a sitter for my pets, and telling my apartment manager to not expect rent until I got back. I borrowed some money from a friend. The next morning, January 4th, I went into work, and took emergency time off. I was on the plane out of Fresno to LAX before 10 AM.
When you fly from California to Seoul, you lose a day. I landed in Seoul on the morning of the 6th, and took a shuttle bus from the Inchon Airport to the hospital and morgue in Saedaemoon, Seoul.
That was a long, cold, bus ride. South Korea had been hit hard by snow over the weekend. Seoul was literally digging its way out - people on the street with shovels were following garbage trucks with chains on their tires, shoveling in ice so it could be hauled away. The highways were clear though, snow plows had cleared the snow from them continuously.
A lot has happened since then. I've mourned, I've remembered, and I started healing.
And I fell in love again. I got married. I bought a house. I started my life over. And on 10 December 2014, my company laid me off, along with a lot of other engineers, in a bid to staunch their flow of red ink.
I think being laid off, and the recent very cold weather here in Fresno has brought back my haunted memories. My life in late 2009 was very different from my life today. I've grown so much since then. If I had been laid off in 2009, it would have been an epic emergency. Instead, now it is a nuisance, a mere inconvenience.
My... how things have changed!
I think it is time to tell the story of Won's cremation.