‘Crying in H Mart’ Made Me Think About My Mom’s Death

I realized the title sounds misleading. She’s not dead yet.

I just finished reading “Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner. The memoir is about the death of her mother, who passed away at 56 from cancer. Michelle was only 25. 

I’m a sucker for memoirs, and this one completely transported me. The author is half-Korean, and some stories about her mother felt a little too familiar. I was so touched by their relationship, and a lot of it made me reflect on my own mother.

Then, just a few weeks ago, my high school friend’s brother died suddenly of a massive stroke. I was stunned. He was only 50. I still remember him from senior year in high school when I’d go to my friend’s house almost daily to do Spanish homework and eat dinner.

After reading the memoir and attending the funeral, death felt appropriate to reflect upon. 

Death and bucket lists

When I used to think about my own death, my first thoughts would go to career accomplishments and countries I needed to tick off my bucket list. I admit I have a history of being selfish and spoiled. I had great jobs that allowed me a lifestyle of freedom and flexibility to travel and do whatever. So I became really good at concentrating on what to accomplish and where my next adventure would take me. 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting career achievements and seeing the world before you die. But that line of thinking felt too solo. So I thought about who I want to be in relation to others.

I thought about my mom’s death

In the memoir, the author writes such vivid, subjective prose that I was channeling her every thought. I was right there, experiencing her grief and delight. I’m not kidding, I sobbed through some of it. I could almost feel what it would be like to no longer have my mom around. Her physical presence… not an option. No more laughs, no more of her “nice” nagging, no more texts filled with emojis, no more delicious Korean meals. 

Photo: My parents on a recent day trip to San Diego with their computer class.

Even before I read the book or attended the funeral, I found myself really trying this year. Maybe it was noticing her becoming a little frailer each time I’d see her. I made more of a concerted effort to call her more. When I’d visit, I stayed beyond the typical week. 

The last time, we walked each evening for at least 20 minutes. It was a way to spend time together and help her get into the routine of walking. I want her to live for at least another two decades.

So I’m trying to be better at supporting others when they need me, even in the moments when they don’t make the first move and reach out. I also believe in boundaries… there can only be one Mother Teresa. I recognize that in supporting others, you have to be in a good place yourself. I am all about self-care too, y’all. 

I want my friends and family to leave this earth knowing they were loved by me. For my mom, I want her to feel the satisfaction of raising three good humans… and go, hopefully, without a lot of regrets.

Prologue: I bought a copy of Crying in H Mart for my mom—the Korean version.

After she finished it, she sent me a text that said:

“It was a good book that made me think about my family especially children and my parents and siblings. Michelle’s family was an enthusiastic Korean family! But It was so sad that her mom died so young. Many times people regret after losing or too late(beams). Thank you 💝”

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