this week has been -- without question -- the most difficult of my entire life.
on Sunday December 2nd, 2007, my cousin Mike Hong was in a car accident that took his life. since then, it's been a whirlwind of confusion, pain, heartache and indescribable grief. i've been spending every moment that i can with my family, scrambling to find a way to deal with this incredible loss and finding that there is no right way. there is simply no right way to deal with a circumstance that is so incredibly wrong. Mike was only 28 years old and had all the potential in the world. but even in that short time, it's clear that he has left a legacy.
growing up, my cousins and i were all more like brothers and sisters. every holiday and family gathering was something to look forward to because it meant time with Mike, James and Nancy [if we were really lucky, our cousins from new orleans Timmy and Brian would be there too]. my brother Chris is around the same age as Mike and James and Nancy is just a couple months younger than me so all of us were always super close. the best moments of my childhood definitely involved time spent with my cousins.
as we got older, it became more difficult to maintain childhood bonds. i know that my moving across the country made it especially hard but without fail, every time i came home for a visit, Mike would make time for me. we'd go to our favorite korean restaurant and catch up on what was going on in our lives and more importantly, what was going on in our family. Mike cared deeply about the bonds we all made in childhood and was always making efforts to make sure those stayed as strong as possible. his love for his cousins, his parents and especially his little brother and sister was immeasurable. whether we deserved it or not, he always had faith in us and always hoped for our very best. he was everyone's biggest fan. there really is no way to overstate it: he loved us.
hearing that he was gone was nothing short of surreal. i didn't believe it when James told me and as i drove to the hospital, i was sure i would get there and it would all be some kind of mistake. the hardest part of this mourning process has been trying to imagine life without him. as stupid as it sounds, there was even a moment as all the cousins were gathered eating dinner when i almost asked aloud, "where's Mike?" and though it broke my heart to have to meet with family under such tragic circumstances, in a way i know it was what Mike wanted all along: for his family to just be together - to enjoy each other's company and to love each other the way that he loved us.
i've been overwhelmed by the support of my friends in the past week. my aunt and uncle have been surrounded by loved ones and my cousins have all truly come together to support one another. we've all been showered with sympathy but i think James said it best at Mike's service: the real people to feel sorry for are the people who never knew Mike. we were the lucky ones that got to spend 28 amazing years knowing him, loving him and being loved by him. there were definitely moments this week, especially those spent with Mike's girlfriend Arielle, when i questioned the truth of that old adage 'Tis better to have loved and lost. i've always heard it in the context of romance as some kind of consolation to the brokenhearted. but when i looked into its origins it turns out that it was written by a man who lost his best friend at a tragically young age. it was written by someone who could probably relate to all of us who loved and lost Mike. in that light, i see how true it really is:
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
i love you, Mike and it has been a privilege to be loved by you.