The Fight of Her Life

May 8, 2013 - Gee Gerke

As a little girl in what is now North Korea, my mother, Bock Sill, watched as the communist regime dragged away her grandmother to kill her. In the horror, she found strength.  She relied on that strength as she fled to South Korea during the Korean War. She used that strength to find a job, meet my father, Tae Hun, and immigrate to the United States to provide a better life for her children. Today, she relies on that strength to care for my father, who has Alzheimer’s disease. 

Thirty nine years ago, my parents immigrated to the United States to pursue the American Dream.  After suffering through the Korean War and fleeing to South Korea, the opportunities there seemed limited, while the opportunities in the U.S. seemed limitless.  After working 80 hours a weeks for over 20 years running a store in one of the worst gang-infested areas of D.C., my parents could say with pride that they were able to own a home and send all three of their children to college. The perfect American Dream, achieved. 

A few years into their retirement, they received terrible news.  My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  The world felt like it stopped.  My mother had to come to grips with the fact that her golden years would not be so golden after all. The thoughts of relaxing and finally experiencing all that the world had to offer were replaced with thoughts of the unknown road of taking care of my dad.  The joy was replaced with sadness, relief with anxiety, and hope with fear. 

But over the last eight years, my mother has remained stoic and incredibly strong.  She pushed through all of the hard days, even the days she just wanted to give up. She reached deep within her soul and once again, relied on the strength that she gained as a little girl. 

My mother never wanted to give up on my father. She tirelessly searched for a cure or anything to help him get better.  Any time she heard of something that might help, she tried it.  She would take him to the pool every day to swim and try to convince him to work on puzzles.  She fed him onions, blueberries and peanuts soaked in vinegar. She gave him eight walnuts a day, fed him curry every day for a month, and did anything that she thought might help.

None of it worked. The day came when she knew she could no longer care for him. She was devastated, but she pulled through; she came to terms with the reality and learned to move forward.

That’s my mom. She is a strong, courageous and determined woman. She is a fighter. She is a survivor.  She is a hero. She perseveres through life’s hardships.  As my mom, she taught me to face adversity and use all that I have to overcome.   I am thankful that she passed that strength on to me; I use it daily as I face life’s hardships.  And one day, I hope to pass that strength on to my own children.  

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