I have just resurfaced from the depths of my old computer’s Photos folder, in which are stored thousands of memories from my time in South Korea. But among those countless images taken of hundreds of friends and colleagues, I could only find two or three of Jim. We never got to know each other very well, and doubtless part of the reason is that Jim was always too busy organizing events, workshops, and all of the daily minutiae that needed to be taken care of during my Fulbright Orientation. He was always at work behind the scenes, and I know for a fact that he was working hard. Nobody coordinates Fulbright Orientation for the money or for the glamour of living in rural Goesan for six weeks. They do it because of their respect for the program, their desire to pass on what they’ve learned, and their love for people. I barely knew Jim, but it is clear from the outpouring of comments and well-wishes on his Facebook page, as well as from the incredible amount of money raised to support his family in less than one week, that he had a genuine love for people. He touched so many lives in the short time he had here, and I am absolutely certain that he would have gone on to make the world a happier, more positive place had he lived.
My heart goes out to Jim’s family, for the devastating decision they had to make when they took him off life support. That is surely an anguish that I have never felt, and no words I can offer could alleviate it. But I am still keeping them in my prayers this week.
Soon I will be returning to Korea for what I imagine will be a busy and fun summer. My first thoughts are usually excitement about certain reunions and anticipation for the completion of personal goals. I think, however, I should also go with a reflective spirit. Korea was and continues to be a unique place for hundreds of young Americans: it is a relative unknown that succeeds in bringing us extremely close together in a short time through the odd mechanism of shared experience. Jim had a hand in that; I’m grateful to him for it. May he rest in peace.
Word of the Day: saltpeter, known chemically as potassium nitrate (KNO3), is a mineral that is used in fireworks and gunpowder (and also in food preservatives). One of its methods of collection is through the rocks in caves, where it can be found. This explains its Latin etymology: from sal petrae, meaning “salt of rock”. The first photo I took of Jim is of him launching a Roman candle (a type of firework) one evening at the beginning of Fulbright Orientation in July 2012. Light up the world, Jim!