The impact of getting to know a real warrior is just inexplicable. Every now and then, we come across a tale of bravery and sacrifice that instills our faith back in humanity; an act that reminds us that sheer belief and strength are good enough to defeat even the most dreaded disease in the world.
Those who've had a near-death experience know how indispensable life is and how it ought to be cherished.
This is a true story - not of a celebrity - but of a common person, whose zeal and zest for life and compassion for mankind has made her a hero in the hearts of many.
I relocated to South Korea for work in 2005 - knowing little of the country where I'd be spending the next seven years of my life - notwithstanding the challenges that were going to come my way.
In Korea, from the hoardings to the labels of packaged goods, Hangul rules the roost. It didn't really matter if I was proficient in English. The commoners, the doctors, the grocery store attendants, and almost everyone I met wanted me to learn, err, master Hangul. I was forced to communicate in sign language, sometimes in broken dialect. It was around this time I met Yun Eun-kyong, a 30-something Korean woman, broadly structured, tall, humorous, and warmhearted.
|Yun Eun-kyong - A True Mardaani|
Her presence was reminiscent of a fresh spring breeze. Casual tea get-togethers soon turned into family outings. She showed me a side of Korea I never knew existed - a culture and tradition seemingly difficult yet so deep-rooted and enchanting.
Eun-kyong's Tryst With Cancer and Infidelity
As the friendship grew deeper, we started to share everything - from our buried past to our varied experiences. It was shocking to learn that she had battled Stage 2 breast cancer. As if the trauma of chemotherapy and the fear of death was not enough, she was further devastated by the bitter revelation of her husband's extramarital affair. Deceived and dejected, she started preparing her two kids for a life without her - teaching them how to bathe, get dressed, make breakfast, clean dishes, and perform other chores all by themselves.
|Moi and Eun-kyong|
Though she never gave up on life, she did not want to solely rely on the meek ray of hope. To her surprise and by the grace of God, the therapy was a success and the cancer was removed.
By then, she'd already learned an important lesson and decided not to take her life or relationships for granted -- as either could backstab again. She started living for the moment, reaching out to those who called for help, standing besides those who felt alone, and giving strength to those who fumbled. She recognized the difficulty expat families faced in the rigid Korean society and decided to assist them.
Random Acts of Kindness
Eun-kyong learned English from the Internet, sometimes from the foreigners she'd accidentally meet in the local buses, parks, malls, etc. She became the ready-reckoner for most expats living in the vicinity. From taking sick children to pediatricians and pregnant woman to gynecologists to helping expat families in school admissions, she stood by all those who called for her helping hand.
|Eun-kyong - Always the Center of Attraction|
Soon her name became synonymous with celebration. Everyone I knew of respected and adored her. She became a godmother to several newborns. She would religiously drop each family going for their vacation to India at the airport, wish them luck, and anxiously wait till they returned. Yet she never revealed her painful past and wounds to anyone.
|Hanging out with Eun-kyong and other friends|
I feel blessed that she found my friendship worthy enough, thus could open up to me. She gave me innumerable reasons to smile.
Though I've left Korea now, but I know for sure that she continues to make a difference in other people's lives. Eun-kyong is a true Mardaani, to whom life bows down with respect and admiration. This is an ode to a rare friend whom I will never forget.