Read and share this beautiful story, “Healing: A Tribute” written by my daughter Elisabeth Sophia Lee.
Not a day goes by without me thinking about my mother……
Healing: A Tribute
by Elisabeth Sophia Lee
Every night as a little girl, I would sit at the edge of my bed with my arms lifted in the air.
I would wait for my grandmother to soak strips of seaweed in warm water and wrap them around my arms, legs, neck, and hands. Afterwards, she would meticulously secure them with plastic bags before I went to sleep hoping that they be secured, knowing that they would never make it until the end of the night. This was my nightly routine.
My grandmother, more than anyone I have ever known, personified what it meant to be kind and gracious. Of the small number of people who knew her, most assumed she was a quiet, benevolently generous Korean immigrant who spoke no English. Of course, they were not wrong, but what they didn’t know was that beneath her maternal compassion, she encompassed unparalleled resilience and selflessness. I remember her as my other mother; she took care of me, raising me and my two brothers while my own mother was busy traveling for work.
Up until I reached puberty, I had extremely severe eczema. I was a prisoner to my own skin. I took what felt like endless trips to see doctors, specialists, dermatologists; I went to the emergency room many times due to the excruciating pain and infections. My family was cognizant of what I was eating, what I was wearing, the temperature and humidity of the air—controlling every possible factor that could irritate my condition. I tried everything, but nothing seemed to work.
Then, one day, my grandmother brought home packages of seaweed to wrap my body in. I had never heard of this method of healing, but the properties in the seaweed soothed the open sores I had all over my skin, and provided a barrier for my nails when I would inevitably wake up scratching. While my grandmother spent every night meticulously swathing my body, some nights the itch was so unbearable that I would tear off her hours of work. Yet, she would come in at whatever time of the night, and did it all over again. So as she took the time every night to delicately bundle me up— despite the unchanging result, my soul was calmed, and nurtured.
When I was ten years old, my grandmother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. The doctors said it was terminal, and she passed away a few months after. In trying to cope with her passing, I began to re-adapt the same methods she had taught me. Slowly, my skin got better and I had my first night where the seaweed stayed on.
Losing her made me succumb to the reality that often times you do not fully value things or people until they are gone. As I become more aware of the privileges that I have been granted in my life, her legacy has pushed me to better serve those around me, as well as my community. When I volunteer at my local homeless shelter, when I read books to schoolchildren, when I volunteer with special needs youth, I think of my grandmother. She has inspired me to be receptive to the issues of marginalized local communities.
But perhaps most importantly, she taught me about what it means to be selfless. I always wondered how she was able to give so much when she had so little to offer. But, as I have grown, I have come to understand that her selflessness was liberating. It was as positive for her as it was for those she was serving. It gave her complete freedom to find goodness in all people, and in every circumstance. I try everyday to follow suit in this practice. In alleviating myself of the “self,” I have lifted off a lot of the fear I once possessed, and in turn I have become a kinder, more compassionate person.
***Read also Liberty Student Co-Authors Book With Mom
Elisabeth Sophia Lee
She is also a captain of BASD Mini Thon, Vice President of National Honor Society, co-leader for the Fishing Lines Awareness and Disposal Initiative, and writer for Liberty Life (school newspaper) and the city newspaper, Bethlehem Press. She has been dancing for 14 years and has performed in Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” for 11 years. She has also been performing in school plays since elementary school and is part of Liberty Theatre where she is Co-Dance Captain. In her free time, she likes to sing, hike, and enjoy nature.