In Memory of Caitlin, Our Wisteria Melody

In the midst of the bali bali (Hurry! Hurry!) mentality of this fast-paced, dense city of Seoul, I was thankful to find solace and serenity at a picnic table outside of Samyook University International Church this Sabbath. Spring is nearly here, so with the sunshine casting its penetrating rays of light on me and the fresher air breezing by, I enjoyed my moments of silence--just me and God.

This week I received word that one of my dear friends from my university was dying, losing her battle with cancer, and that she only had a few days left. I immediately sent her an email, knowing that she could not respond, but hopeful that someone could read her what would be my last words to her. Last night I heard the final news--that she had fallen asleep on Thursday night.

I am thankful for this, for she has fought this disease for a few years. I am thankful that she did not die in pain and that she no longer has to suffer. At the same time, I know that even amid the suffering of her body, she never seemed to complain about her circumstances or stop living a joyful life because of them. I remember something she wrote on her blog last year--about life being a gift that God has given us. And so now, I want to reflect on the gifts that God gave me through the life of Caitlin.

Our last suitemate picture together, May 2012
I first met Caitlin during my freshman year in college. She was my suitemate. When I first came to my university, I knew no one, and since I was not good at making friends, I feared the first few months that lay ahead. But from the very beginning, I was welcomed and flooded with love from my roommate Kristin and my suitemates Christy and Caitlin. Because Kristin and I were roommates with the same name, Caitlin was the one who first fondly nicknamed me Little Christen--a nickname that has stuck amid our circle of friends.

Caitlin had a beautiful voice. Every Friday night, a group of us would gather and sing hymns a capela in a chapel that had a nice echo. Her alto voice was deep and strong. It resounded and many times penetrated my heart. The hymns she sang with such joy, thoughtfulness, and sincerity. Caitlin was also a gifted violinist and pianist. Whenever she played, I felt like the music flowed from the beauty of her soul--of Christ living in her.
Martina and John's Wedding Reception, May 2012

Caitlin's giggle always made me smile and was very contagious. Her eyes twinkled and almost seemed to laugh whenever she had a bright smile on her face, which was more often than not. When she wasn't smiling, it was because she was comforting someone in sorrow. I remember one night in particular when I was alone in my room, she and Jen came over to see me and show pictures from the orchestra tour in Europe. After that was over, they both left, but Caitlin came back to talk with me. If I remember correctly, that was one of the moments when she asked me, "How are things with your heart?" I couldn't speak. I was struggling at that time--I don't even remember what the situation was--and I started to weep. She just held me and waited until I could speak, and then she listened and comforted and advised and prayed with me until my heart was at peace.

One of the many notes she left on my desk at SAU,
unless this one was from Martina who followed in her footsteps....
I remember how much she loved to exercise. She did triathalons, was a skilled swimmer, and whenever we went hiking, she skipped along, enjoying every moment. She also loved to bake. She taught me how to make bread. Her bread and soups were always amazing, and it was because of her and a few others that I realized I could become a vegan if only I could cook like them.

Sometimes she would leave notes and flowers on my desk to encourage me.

I remember that it was mostly because of her godly counsel that I began doing mission work as well. She encouraged me to go to Guatemala for the Share Him series and to go to Korea as well. So I feel like I can say that she played a big part as to why I am here today.

The night of Caitlin's RN graduation, December 2007

Caitlin & Saralyn, December 2007

I remember how, during the summer and our times apart, she would call at random times. We always had difficulty connecting, but whenever we did, we had wonderful conversations.

One of the most beautiful things I remember about her, though, is how in-tune she was with God and how much she knew about and loved Him. Her Bible was tattered and marked up on every page. She had read it so much that the binding was falling off, so Jen made a lovely personalized, Tree-of Life cover for her and had her Bible re-bound. During our weekly group Bible studies, Caitlin always shared deep, impressive thoughts that led me to draw closer to God.

Caitlin was beautiful inside and out. When I think of her, I think of this verse:
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Our last picture together, May 2012
And in my pensive solitude this Sabbath morning, God gave me this verse to remember Caitlin as well: "Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted; for you are the glory of their strength..." (Psalm 89:15-17).

I look forward to the day when I can see Caitlin again in a perfect body, when the Lord calls her name at the resurrection, and we all go to heaven to live with our Savior forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), for it is He and He alone who can transform our lives in this way and cause us to leave such a positive and far-reaching impact on others as did Caitlin.


7 Months Later . . .

You know you've been in Korea for a long time when . . .

You start smacking your food
You choose to use chopsticks, even if forks are available
You eat cake, fruit, cookies, and chips with chopsticks, too
You don't say "Excuse me," or "Sorry" when you run into someone or shove your way into or out of the subway
You have the ability to shove in and out of the subway at rush hour without wincing
You choose to stand in the bus or subway car for 30-45 minutes, even when seats are available, just because you're used to it
You walk for 17 km with your roommate just because you can
You bow your head to greet someone older than you or to thank someone
You hand things to people (even other foreigners) with both hands or with one hand touching your other elbow
You catch yourself correcting a student's English mistake with Konglish (Korean English)
You forget how to speak English
You speak three different languages in a single conversation
Tteokbokki is one of your favorite Korean foods--vegetarianized, of course
Jjinja becomes a regular part of your vocabulary
You enjoy eating goguma and only goguma for dinner (Korean sweet potato)
You can play PUMP
You enjoy sharing food

You know you're still a foreigner when . . .

Your landlady comes up to you on a regular basis and speaks to you for 20 minutes or more in Korean and you aren't able to get the message across to her that you don't speak Korean
You sit in silence as the church members jabber away in Korean
You play with your food while students that you went to dinner with talk in Korean and just wait for them to stop to translate for you
You go to Itaewon at least once a month for dinner and imported foods
You still don't like most Korean foods and can only eat Korean food 3 times a week
You get stared at in the subway
Random people come up to you to practice their English
You give your taxi driver the wrong directions
When you mention certain Korean place names, you get blank stares because you didn't pronounce them correctly
You don't like kimchi
You still prefer to eat cereal for breakfast
Fish markets still gross you out
Every day you travel is an adventure
You're the only one you know who can cook pasta and be praised for it
Older women pull your hair in the subway to see if your curls are real
You get told you're beautiful almost every day
You laugh at Koreans for looking in the mirror everywhere they go or for putting on makeup in public
You get frustrated by the lack of human rights that Korean employees have
You know that New York is a state and not only part of a city name
Most Koreans don't want to take a picture with you because "your face is too small"