Posted : 2010-04-09 19:34
Updated : 2010-04-09 19:34

Condolence to Bereaved Families

By Lee Eung-tae

Yesterday, after brainstorming for ideas on enhancing English skills among English teachers, we decided to create an online book caf? or club in which we will be assigned to regularly read a couple of chapters of a novel and afterwards upload our reflections.

For the first novel, I suggested, ``Crow Lake'' written by Mary Lawson, a Canadian female author. Among the very few books that I have fallen in love with, this is one of the most memorable. Actually, I've read this idyllic and heartbreaking novel several times. I have also used the novel as teaching material in my previous school.

Moreover, every time I read the heart-tugging story, I discover and experience new emotions. These quite amazing feelings are in fact not actually unique to myself, but are shared by some of the students who read the novel in the classes I taught. One of my graduates told me she was so moved by the novel that she had chosen to major in English Interpretation and Translation at the Korean Foreign Language University.

How fantastic it was for me to hear that! Her life changing decision led me to believe that there is an absolute turning point in one's life which determines one's path whether it be for good or bad. In her case it was obviously for good and I was so pleased that she and I had shared the same emotions while reading the novel.

One of the notable features of Mary Lawson's life was her prolonged and assiduous struggle that resulted in her book becoming an overnight sensation. Her constant effort, through 20 years, implies a great deal of moral fiber and perseverance. (She was acclaimed as a late bloomer because she achieved fame with this novel when she was over 50 years old.) J.K Rowling, the author of ``Harry Potter'' praised ``the fringe benefit of failure'' in her Harvard commencement address. Lawson's evocative novel couldn't have been born without her having gone first through a long and epic journey of failures.

In this regard, the two great ladies might as well be called late bloomers, blossoming into the most durable, glamorous flowers after a long period of vicissitudes. However, such praise is nothing but trivial when we take a look at the splendid storyline which unfolds in beautiful detail.

A few moments into Crow Lake will instantly attract the reader, who will not be able put the book down without reading to the end. This is a story about young siblings coping with the sudden loss of their parents in a car accident. The loss of their parents must have caused them to become emotionally arid. As the narrator commented in the book: ``They look so blank it would be easy to imagine that they weren't feeling much.'' Those innocent children were badly traumatized.

This poignant image brought to my mind the case of the bereaved families who have lost their closest loved ones in the recent ship sinking. How miserable they really must be! How heartbreakingly sad! For mere mortals, this shocking and sudden separation, occurring without any pre-emptive preparation, must be overwhelming.

Their heart-stricken grieving could stop the young deceased who are just about to cross the River Styx. As a dead mother cannot step into the other side of the great divide because of the crying echoes of her youngest son, how can the youngest son cross death's river while hearing his mother's mourning cries? Thinking about this, I find myself shedding uncontrollable tears. This poignant feeling reminds me of a funeral sermon: Death itself is not so much something to grieve, what makes us so bitterly sad is the memory of the precious years, days and moments that we have shared.

Thinking of this, my deep condolences are sincerely dedicated to those bereaved families who lost their loved ones on the ship that sank. It must be hard to overcome the traumatic experience, and no condolences can prevent the scars of their grief being deeply etched in their hearts and their lasting memories.

As they must constantly bear their loss and struggle with it, my sincerest wish for those grief-stricken families is that they overcome their tragedy through the support and understanding of the remaining loved ones, just as the siblings in the novel Crow Lake did during their harsh orphaned lives.

It is obviously easy to get emotionally trapped in the long difficult days following this unbearable catastrophe. Despite the irrevocable calamity, my hope is they leap to their feet from the rock bottom bed of despair and emerge from the sad tunnel as soon as possible.

Once again, as a humble Korean, I wish to pay the profoundest tribute to those who sacrificed their precious lives, and to their bereaved families suffering the loss of their most cherished loved ones.

The writer teaches English at Gimhae Girls' High School in South Gyeongsang Province. He can be reached at
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