Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sudden Death

Midway through Monday afternoon my wife started feeling sick, and by the time London opened at 4pm our time she was too ill to work. About the same time, Korean Father, who has been spending most of his time in Namhae looking after his parents in recent months, set off on his way back to Busan on a regular visit. Korean Grandmother died suddenly shortly after he left and was discovered a couple of hours later.

Within an hour of his arrival, he was on his way back to Namhae with Korean Mother, but not before we'd done our own bit of running around between apartments to help them and talk about what they wanted us to do. Unlike the UK, being very family oriented Koreans tend to drop everything they are doing in these circumstances and head off to the household in question. So in retrospect, it was a surprise that we weren't expected to go immediately ourselves. During the evening phone calls from Namhae suggested that most of the rest of the family had already arrived - even the ones from Seoul - so we ran the risk that our faction of the family might lose face. Even worse, Korean Brother was off working with a broken phone and was incommunicado, so he didn't even know and wouldn't be likely to find out in time to come.

The plan became for us to travel to Namhae first thing the next morning, irrespective of my wife's illness which had grown worse during the evening; the realities of Korean family responsibilities took precedent to anything else. The funeral would actually be on Wednesday and we would sleep in the Funeral Centre overnight as part of the mourning, which unlike the UK, seemed to be organised around a two-to-three day period. Unlike British funerals, I was about to discover just how complicated death in Korea can be.

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