Monday, December 26, 2011

The Two Brothers

I couldn't really envision continuing this blog any longer when I heard the news a few weeks ago. It was probably the most shocking piece of news I have ever received, and undoubtedly the most devastating. I'm referring to the passing of my best friend, Kiel, back in Canada. I was quick to learn the lesson that traveling around the world, while incredible and enlightening, can also come at a huge cost. It's sometimes easy to forget that life goes on back in Canada even when you're so far away. I was unable to make it back for my friend's funeral due to my contract at work, which was disheartening to say the least. However, I learned some valuable lessons here in Korea, including the usefulness of technology. In many respects, I felt like I was back home during the whole ordeal. My wonderful brother read a speech on my behalf at the service, my incredible father took my place as a pallbearer, and I was seemingly always connected to my loving friends back home through Facebook and Skype. I am deeply indebted to my friends and family for their support. The point is that through this adversity, I learned that I need to move forward. I learned that moving forward doesn't mean that you can't look back and remember. It means that you look to the important people and moments of your past in order to make the best decisions in the future. I owe a huge part of who I am today to Kiel. I thought about how Kiel would be the first one to let me know if I was ever to lose motivation and ambition in the things I am passionate about. So, I will continue to write, read, learn, love and live my life with a new fire. I'll never forget how much of that fire I owe to the sparks of Kiel.

For me, part of moving forward is about finding new meaning in all that's around me. It doesn't have to be anything profound, but it's about taking closer notice of things. I know so many people that walk around with their eyes open, but don't see anything at all. I realized at a young age that observing and taking mental notes were crucial to me. However, some teachers might insinuate that all my "observing" (especially during class time) could be defined as ADD. I'm going to politely insist that you accept my own theory. Traveling ensures that I'm equipped everyday with a curious disposition, and a thirst for knowledge. I intend to make the most out of the next year of my life, whether that be in Korea, Southeast Asia, or visiting another country beyond.

From my time in Korea, I've already done my fair share of observing since I got here. Look no further than my previous blog, which was essentially a list of 5 peculiarities I'd been intrigued by in Korean society. I've tried to learn about this society through the culture, people, culinary delights, and literature. Today, I just finished a collection of Korean folk tales entitled Long Long Time Ago. It was compiled by a famed illustrator known as Dong-sung Kim. There's a story within the collection entitled "The Two Brothers" that I wanted to copy here in remembrance of Kiel. We always had a special connection. In my speech for the memorial, I aptly noted that we had an "unspeakable understanding" that we rather ironically "often spoke about." The story I will share is simple, but reminded me of that inherent camaraderie that only happens so often in life between friends or brothers. It was never out of sight or out of mind with us. As with the brothers in this tale, I was always thinking about Kiel's well-being. The only way you would have known that Kiel and I weren't brothers would be seeing the difference in our DNA. This story reminded me that there are few feelings as great in life as being a true friend.
The Two Brothers

"In times gone by there lived two brothers. Their loving, kind ways to treat each other were the talk of the valley where they lived. They took care of their widowed mother until her passing. Later they divided everything evenly among the two of them without argument.
Together they worked very hard all through the day to produce as much as they could from their fields. Every autumn they would have the largest harvest in the village.
One late autumn evening, after they had spent the whole afternoon dividing up the last of the rice harvest, the older brother thought to himself, 'My younger brother got married just a few months ago and has many expenses these days. I think I will put a sack of my portion of rice in his storehouse and not tell him. He would never accept it knowingly.'
So late that night, he put a sack of rice on his back and carried it to his brother's storeroom. The next day, while tidying up the storeroom in his own house, the older brother was surprised to find he still had the same number of sacks of rice as he had before.
'That's strange,' he thought. 'I'll just take another one to him tonight when it gets dark.' Late that night, he carried another sack of rice to his brother's house.
The next morning he was again surprised to find he had the same number of sacks as before. He stood there confused until evening. In the end, he decided to try to take yet another sack to the house of his younger brother.
After a late dinner he loaded the rice on his back and set out for his brother's house. It was a full moon and he could see the path quite clearly. He could also see a man carrying something bulky while hurrying down the path in his direction.
'Why brother!' they both called out at the same time.
The two brothers put down their sacks and laughed long and hard, for now they knew that it was nothing other than brotherly love that had caused all the confusion.
The younger brother thought his older brother could use the rice because he had a larger family. And the two brothers lived happily ever after working hard and doing many good things together."

Kiel and I shared this type of relationship. The selflessness of the individuals in this story is the beauty of it. It's so important to show those around you that you love them. I know that I can't live forever, but it's in people's memories that we live on. Growing up, my father always stressed that he was trying to create memories for my friends and I. I am so grateful for that because I look back so fondly on the times Kiel, my friends, and I shared at the cottage (where my dad liked creating memories the best). It's no coincidence that I'm currently reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, once again. I rediscovered it on the shelf of my students' English library at the school where I teach. It's a story that focuses on the concept of memory, and was the favourite book of both Kiel and I when we first discovered the true personal joy of reading. Kiel created more memories than anyone that I know, and for that reason I'm positive that he will not be forgotten. He touched so many people's lives, and that's what I aspire to do as well.

There's a Korean proverb that says, "There is no winter without snow, no spring without sunshine, and no happiness without companions." I'll be sure never to forget that in this lifetime. I will continue to travel and see the world, but never forget the people that helped me get here. I'm filled with tremendous sadness over Kiel's passing, but I know that now I will live life everyday with unmatched fervor. Life is incredibly precious, human connections are everlasting, and knowing that is everything to me.


  1. Such beautiful Word Chris. I miss him so much. Love you and him <3 Celine

  2. Jennifer Krickette McCormickDecember 27, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    He touched my heart too and he will always be with us, so never forget and be strong <3

  3. very moving words <3

  4. well done. My heart goes out to you, kiel, and his family.

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