RIP #JooHeeKim

From the obituary in The Oregonian:

Kim, Joohee 37 Mar. 07, 1977 May 13, 2014 Joohee died on May 13, 2014, due to complications related to type 1 diabetes, which she had struggled with for more than two decades. Thank you to the many doctors, nurses and health care staff who cared for her in the Portland area. Thank you to Providence St. Vin- cent’s Hospital and the Hancock Davita dialysis unit. A special thanks to her primary nephrologist, Dr. Pei-lee Wang and her vascular surgeon, Dr. Earl Shu- man. Joohee was born in South Korea and came to Oregon in 1980 with her family. A graduate of Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, she studied film at Bard University and at UC-Santa Cruz. She also attended Portland State University. She is survived by her mother, Bo; brother, Sog- moor of Hillsboro; sister, Joree of Portland; longtime companion, Carl Simons of Portland; uncle Hapoon; aunt Dorothee of Carlton; aunt Gomo; and many cousins. She loved cats, especially "Kitty Kim," her family cat. Despite her health issues, she maintained a sense of humor. Those who knew her will miss her clever wit.

My additional comment on Facebook:

RIP my dear friend Joo Hee Kim. I’d known her since kindergarten and, though we’d lost track, I’ve always kept her in my thoughts. She was my first crush, my senior prom date, and for my 18th birthday, she got me, among other cool stuff, a great little spinning U.S.S. Enterprise pencil topper. Rest easy, Joo Hee.

I don’t remember meeting Joo Hee. She was always there. She was my first crush. I remember telling her. She was so embarrassed… had no idea what to do with the information. This makes total sense of course. We were in 1st grade.

She was also my senior prom date. Neither of us particularly gave a damn about prom, and we went to different schools, but I figured hey, why not? So I asked her. We only stayed for a few minutes. I regret that. We should’ve danced at least once.

That was one of the last times I saw her. I went to school in CA. She went to school in NY (for a while). She called me on her first day. She sounded really happy.

This was significant. I really never knew her to be happy.

Years later, when I was in grad school, we had a tough conversation. She was complaining about this or that. I don’t recall at all. At some point, I said something like this:

Joo Hee, you deserve to be happy. I’ve never known you to be really happy. I think maybe you should talk to someone. A therapist.

We hung up shortly thereafter. I knew she wasn’t pleased, but I didn’t know what else to do. Mine was genuine concern. At that point more than 20 years of depression and misery for her. Hadn’t she had enough?

Over the next weeks and months, I figured though we’d had a bit of an argument, we’d soon talk again.

I was wrong.

I don’t remember how many times I tried finding her. Her phone number changed. I couldn’t find her on-line. Even after Google exploded. "Joo Hee Kim" never got me anything. Even with "Portland" or "Hillsboro" or "Oregon." She’d disappeared.

Life went on. I moved, changed numbers, changed jobs, blah blah blah.

Every few months, though, just for shits and giggles, I’d try to find her. Always in vain.

Until yesterday.

I don’t remember what I was doing, but something reminded me of her. "I wonder…" I thought. Assuming I’d fail, I typed in "Joo Hee Kim Oregon." The above obit was the first result.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It couldn’t be her. For a second, I was afraid she’d committed suicide. Then doubts raced back into my mind. "It’s not her."

Unfortunately, as I read the details, it all added up. She died a month ago.

And I had no idea.

I don’t regret our last conversation. Though I maybe could’ve come up with a more diplomatic way of expressing my concern, I’m glad I did. My regrets are that it was our last conversation, that I couldn’t ever find her, and that I wasn’t thus able to be one of the loved ones at her side as she said good bye.

My one piece of solace is that name in the obit. "Carl Simons." I’ll assume they shared some joy.

I hope one day to find her grave so I can say good bye properly. Until then, fond memories.

5 Responses to “RIP #JooHeeKim”

  1. Sorry to hear Anton

  2. […] I wrote about my late friend Joo Hee the other day, I immediately afterwards wondered why. This isn’t called Joo Hee Kim Memorial Asshole. But […]

  3. […] primary reason I was there was due to deaths of loved ones like Joo Hee. I just wanted to talk to somebody about it, ya know? I expect no sugar coating. No hand holding. […]

  4. My name is Joshua Sorenson. Years ago I had a relationship with Joohee Kim. We lived together in Medford, OR for 6 months or so until she had to move back to Hillsboro because of her medical problems. We drifted apart after that.

    I thought about her because I recently found out an old childhood friend had passed and I was afraid that the same was true for Joohee. I’m saddened to learn of her passing, though it is not unexpected news. The last time I had seen her was in 2008 and by that point her health had deteriorated to the point where she was on dialysis and in dire need of a new pancreas. Her quality of life was very poor due to her diabetes, though she did find solace in her relationship with Carl. She confided that they were happy together despite her failing health. I’m sorry for the vacuum that her death leaves in the lives of Carl, her family and her friends, but I hope there is consolation in the fact that she is now free of pain after suffering so long.

    Joohee was a rare and special person. She was smart. She was weird. She was generous. She was funny. She was kind. She was the kind of person that leaves a lasting impression. I don’t believe in any kind of afterlife, but I do believe that we live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved us after we are gone. She will certainly live on in mine.

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