To my beautiful little brother –
I don’t know why, but I can’t get you out of my mind tonight. I’ve often thought about you before, but tonight the memory of you sits on my heart – not heavily, because the one memory I have of you is precious and happy and beautiful, but in a way that absolutely prevents me from focusing on and writing my Education 40AC essay which is supposed to be my “life history.” My professor told us our essays had to be tear-inducing for us to get A’s. He wanted to weep when he read about our personal experiences. There’s absolutely nothing in my educational experience, which is what I’m meant to write about specifically, that would make anybody cry, so I just gave up hope that my essay would be a particularly moving one. But I began thinking about the one and only truly sad event from my childhood – the loss of you, my beautiful little brother, and Mum and Dad’s beautiful son. And instead of moving onto other thoughts, my mind has remained on the thought of you, Junghoonah. I don’t care that it's 3:48 AM and that I still haven’t finished my life history. I want to write you the first letter I’ve ever written to you. If I don’t do it now, I probably never will.
It doesn’t seem fair that I have eighteen years to pull from in writing a life history, and you didn’t even have one. You were born three years after I was, in October 1996, and you left us in May of the next year. My one memory of you is connected to this one particular photograph of the two of us - we were sitting on a children’s playmat on the floor of our front room – you know the kind that has all different squishy things to push and pull and play with? I just have a faint memory of sitting on that with you and showing you all the different things on the mat and laughing. I was three, and I was so excited to have a younger sibling! I don’t think I was ever possessed with sibling envy, or a feeling of abandonment – I didn’t feel that way when Eugenie and Izzie were born later. I was just happy to have you, and happy to be able to play with you.
Though thinking about you is not sad or painful for me, I wish I could still say that – that I am happy to have you, and happy to be able to play with you. I know that Eugenie and Izzie might never have been born if you had lived, and I know that everything was all part of God’s plan – when you were born, he probably decided that you were so adorable and delightful that he wanted you to be with him sooner – but sometimes a part of me wishes that I could just have had all three of you as my siblings. You were born in ’96 – if you were still here with us, you’d be 15 going on 16. You’d probably be a freshman at CCS, where I went, taking geometry and biology and English. (I bet English would have been your favourite subject. As your older sister, I wouldn’t have allowed it to be any other way.) You’d probably have a crush on a girl in your class but be too embarrassed to talk to me about it. I would be encouraging you to play varsity sports, if you weren’t already, and I’d be cheering for you at the games I could go to when I go home for break. I’d be that obnoxiously loud and supportive older sister, and you’d be embarrassed but probably really happy deep down. Or maybe you’d hate sports, and find enjoyment and satisfaction in music instead, or art, or writing, or community service, or – or – I don’t know. How will I ever know? I can only make lighthearted guesses.
I hope you don’t laugh or think me completely frivolous when I say this next bit, but I would often think of you when our family got in the car to go somewhere. I suppose it’s not so much of a problem anymore now that I’m away from home; but Eugenie and Izzie always argue about who has to sit in the middle seat. I’m significantly bigger than they are, so they rarely question my exemption from this debate, since they recognize that it’d be that much more uncomfortable for me. But anyway, this ritual debate would often lead me to wonder what it’d be like if you were still with us too, and we had a family of six instead of five. Mum and Dad would have had to get a minivan, which they’d probably have a terrifying time driving in Seoul. We’d sit with Mum and Dad in the front, Eugenie and Izzie in the middle row, and you and me in the back. Eugenie and Izzie would probably be their normal, silly, bickering, funny little selves, and I’d probably spend most of the car ride making fun of you or having a serious conversation with you in the backseat. In fact, I was thinking about all of this for a few brief minutes earlier today when one of the older brothers at my church gave me a ride home in his minivan with my friend. (I think it was determined that I would be thinking about you today/tonight after all.) I told them that I’d always wished our family had had a minivan, but didn’t go any deeper than that. How could I have? It’s not something you bring up randomly in conversation: “I always wished my family had had a minivan…it’s a wish I connect to my wish that the little brother I once had was still alive.” I don’t want people to feel sorry for me – especially because the sadness I felt at your passing was so uncomprehending and faded so quickly (I was only four!) – if anything, I'd want them to hear about you and have cause to smile at my happy little memory of you. But this awkwardness in talking about you has made it hard in some ways. It’s made it hard because I don’t want you to be forgotten, but how can people remember you if they never knew you existed? I want people to know that Junghoon Kwon lived and laughed and walked – crawled? – this earth, if only for a short time. The sadness is long gone and long healed, but I want to make sure the memory of you is always alive, somewhere, somehow.
I was talking to Mum about you on KakaoTalk just now. I can’t imagine what it was like for her and Dad to lose you all those years ago, Junghoon. She told me that she rarely ever talked to me about you because it was so hard for her, but that there are so few people to remember you that it’s a relief to know that I still think of you. She told me that you had Eugenie’s face shape – or rather, she has your face shape – and my/Izzie’s eyes, nose and mouth. I’m sorry you had to have my eyes – they’re so small! But you’d’ve been beautiful all the same. In a way I think this unplanned, spontaneously written letter is as much for her as it is for you. I think it encourages her that she and Dad aren’t the only ones who think about you and miss you, even though I was so little at the time that I just can’t feel the same sense of loss they did. At least, it never hurt me to think about you the way it hurt them. But I know they want to keep your memory alive too, and this letter to you is my feeble little attempt at doing that, when it’s placed so strongly on my heart.
I think after writing this letter, my impression of you is stronger than it ever was. More and more, I am excited about meeting you in heaven, brother. I can’t wait to see you, to talk with you, to worship our God for all eternity with you. I can’t wait to see how joyful God will be at the reunion of two of his beloved children! It’s going to be a happy day – but wait, there are no such things as “days” in heaven, are there? You would know better than I. I’ve often wanted to write a letter to you, but every time I’ve thought about it, I’ve chickened out; I’m not sure why. But I’m glad that God put on my heart the memory of you today – twice – and that he prompted me to write this. Maybe he’s preparing me to be excited to meet you? Who knows.
I’m not quite sure how to finish a letter like this. I would say something like “I hope you’re well,” but that’s ridiculous – you’re in heaven! You’re doing much better than I am. I’ll settle with “I’ll be seeing you” instead, because I know I will see you again one day.
I'll be seeing you, Junghoon!