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Sunset Portrait
Week #9

Hospitals have never been my favorite places. But to be fair, I haven’t spent too much time in them before this. Being sick isn’t on the top of anyone’s list of how to live life, I’m sure.


“It’s time to go outside Mrs. Park. Would you like to visit the Bonsai garden today?”

“That sounds good. A nice sunny spot will do wonders for my old bones. They are feeling the chill today.”


The young nurse is a sweetheart. Whenever we went outside, she always found me a peaceful spot that masked the hospital noises. Today was no different. She sat me down at the end of the oversized wooden swing next to the koi pond in the middle of the bonsai garden. The fountain in the pond sang in a tinkling voice and completed the illusion of sitting next to a stream in the countryside. The sun warmed my face and I closed my eyes to relax.

“I’ll be back in a couple of hours Mrs. Park. Call me if you need me to come get you earlier.”

“Thank you.”

Most days no one else came to my secret getaways. I could close my eyes and be anywhere in the world for the next few hours. This was my time with my memories, reflecting on all the time I’ve had the privilege to walk this earth.

Today, however, I felt someone else enter the garden a few minutes after the nurse left. Given how peaceful the garden was I couldn’t quite blame them. It was a veritable paradise for those stuck in the steel and glass hospital that smelled of antiseptic chemicals. I looked up as a young man on crutches came into my view.

“I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t know there was anyone else here.” He immediately apologized when he saw me and slowly turned to head back.

“You are fine young man. No need to apologize or leave. It is a calming place. There’s enough room here and you are welcome to stay if you want to.”

“Thank you. That’s kind of you. Are you sure I won’t be interrupting?”

“Sit. As long as you know how to be calm, you’ll not bother me.”

He sat on the far end of the long swing and somewhat clumsily put the crutches on the ground. I watched him as he adjusted his long legs to a comfortable position. He seemed vaguely familiar.

“Do I know you from somewhere young man? you look familiar.”

That is when he turned to face me and smiled tentatively. He seemed unsure on how to respond for a moment. But his smile was enough to remind me.

“Are you _(Oppa)_? My granddaughter is your biggest fan. She’s claimed you as her favorite Oppa.” My fifteen-year-old granddaughter had a long list of idols but he’s stayed at the top of the list long enough for everyone in the family to have heard of his many accomplishments.

“That’s very kind of her.” He acknowledged with a slight nod.

“So, what happened to you?”

“Had an accident. But I was the lucky one.” His voice was full of pain and regret as he lowered his eyes and stared at his clasped hands. It was like watching a cloud come over the sun to watch his smile fade.

“I’m sorry Sweetie. Life can be unexpected. But if you are the lucky one then you have to make your life count. That’s the way to make sure the unlucky ones get to live through you as well.”

“Hmmm…” He watched me with haunted eyes for a long moment. “How do you make one life count for three?”

“Well, for starters, you live a life with no regrets. You give all you have to whatever you do in your life. No half-hearted attempts. No giving up when the going gets tough. Complete commitment… Be the best you and leave the world better than you found it.”

“Change the world to better… that sounds easy…” His voice was of a jaded middle-aged man that had already given up.

“Let’s see. This should be easier for you than most of us because of two things - first, your reach and second, what you do.  Most of us live small lives. In our day to day, we can touch only a handful of lives. That’s the reach of our chosen paths. But in your day to day, you speak to thousands, if not millions. Now combine your reach with the potential of the work you've chosen to do. See, the beauty of what you do is directly tied to this great tradition of story-telling that we humans have mastered over the centuries. This is how we pass along morals and social standards from generation to generation. This is how we teach what good and evil is. So, if you just choose to be the best at telling the stories worth telling the world, then you can change the world. You have this incredibly unique chance to be the voice that sits in the back of all our minds and remind us how to live worthy lives. If you give all you have to being that voice, you can easily make your life count for a whole lot more than three.”

“So, tell the stories worth telling…”

“Yes, bring them to life and make them unforgettable. Make them so real that when we are facing a dilemma, we can remember right from wrong you showed us like they are our own experiences.”

“That’s a tall order. I don’t always get to choose my roles. Show biz is a cut throat game. I have to play by others’ rules.”

“Then change the game. Write your own rules. I’ve seen your work young man. You have a better chance to shape your industry than just about anyone else.”

“You think so?” I could hear the tiniest drop of hope in the previously jaded attitude.

“If you don’t try, you’ll never find out what you can do.”

He spent the next few minutes staring at the koi pond. I closed my eyes again and decided to enjoy the warmth of the sun. I understood his need to digest the tall order from the strange grandma. When I opened my eyes, he was watching me with curiosity.

“What is it? I can see you still have questions”

“Have you lived a life with no regrets?”

“Oh… I have regrets. But no one gave me this advice when I was your age. I had to collect a few regrets before I figured it out. Once I figured it out, yes, I’ve lived a full life. I’ve tried my best to be all that I can be with the gifts I was blessed with. I’ve loved with all my heart and lived with all my soul…”

“I hope I can say the same one day.” His voice was full of quiet optimism, this time.

“But I didn’t have the gifts you have. Mine was a lot more muted and so I probably only touched a few hundred lives in my entire time. You, I’m sure have already touched thousands, if not more. But your path is barely begun. You will have the chance to touch millions, if not billions, I’m sure.”

“That feels a bit daunting and exhausting.”

“Yes, I suppose it can be. Especially if you go on the journey alone. You need to figure out your own source of strength. For me it was my husband. All I can tell you from my experience is if you find your soul’s mate then every moment will be worth the effort of living.”

“Hahaha!… now grandma is really stretching it. I don’t know I believe in soulmates to start with, not to mention how to find her even if I believed in it.”

“You are too young to be this jaded, young man. What do you think love is anyway?”


“Love it trust, loyalty and patience. Being there when things get tough.”

“Wow… that’s one boring definition of love if I’ve ever heard one. Did you read it in a book a monk wrote or something? I don’t mean to dismiss that all those exist in love but love is so much more than that. It's what makes you want to open your eyes every morning and jump out of bed. It's what makes you want to dance in the rain and go chasing after rainbows. It's knowing with certainty that when you step off the cliff you will fly. It is being happy for no reason other than because you are alive. It's completely irrational and yet it is when everything makes sense. If you make this journey and never fall madly and irrationally in love then yes, living life will be exhausting.”

“So how do I find this illusive soul mate that will make me dance in the rain?”

“I believe we all have a soulmate and fate will make your paths cross. But fate can only do so much. You have to keep yourself open to recognize them.”

“How exactly do you recognize them? Don’t tell me to listen to their words. I’ve been deceived enough and there’s just too many anyway.”

“That’s the age-old question, isn’t it? How to recognize your soul’s mate… I don't know I have a playbook for that but here’s what I can say from my one experience. You have five senses for a reason. Use all of them and then tap your sixth sense to confirm what your five senses showed you.”

I could see the wheels turning as he listened. I knew the questions weren’t done from the look on his face.

“That was a bit too cryptic grandma. How about you give it to me in simple terms and go slow. I’m feeling a bit dense today.”

“Ok. How about this... When I met my soul mate, I recognized my thoughts in his words. The way he moved and the sound of his voice felt familiar even the first time I saw him. I recognized his scent and his touch like they were always in my memories. I remember our first kiss to this day. It was the most exhilarating thing that made me feel like I was levitating. But his lips were familiar like I’ve kissed them a million times before and missed them every day I didn’t get to. It was like I had centuries of memories of him stored somewhere in my mind waiting to wake up. I just needed to give him the chance to remind me.”

“Huh…” He was openly staring at me by the end of it. “What if I get really old and never meet her?” His whispered question was barely audible.

“You have a choice then… settle for something less if you are in a hurry or wait for her. Here’s the thing – your soul has been looking for its mate all the years you’ve walked this earth. You just need to listen to it when it recognizes her. Know that her soul is seeking its mate too. As long as you both are open, lightening will strike. After that you can practice the boring things like trust, loyalty and patience when life throws all the curve balls. But as you reinvent yourself with every challenge that comes your way she will always compliment your strengths and she will be the reason you choose to rise to the challenges.”

He watched my face for a moment longer before his eyes twinkled and he flashed his lazy, lopsided grin. “Sounds like a fairytale, grandma!”

“Real life Ever-After is a lot more exciting than the movie version, young man.” I smiled back before closing my eyes again.

Week #8
Week #5
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