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Monday, October 24, 2011

As You Are Being Glorified with God in Eternity, John

This morning, a friend of mine sent me a chat message asking me if I knew a John Young Kim. She proceeded to send me a link pronouncing him dead and asked me if that was him. John was my second cousin, and yesterday (Sunday, October 23, 2011), he was killed in a hit and run car accident.

As soon as I got word, I called the DC Metro Police to get more information before I called his parents. I couldn't get through so I looked through his old posts on Facebook, found that he had been working part time at a restaurant in Maryland and called them. They confirmed to me that the police had called them the day before to gather information regarding John. My heart dropped.

Apparently, John was hit between 1-8 a.m. and the car that hit him, dragged him for about 15 feet before his body separated from the car. He was pronounced dead on arrival. I am writing this so that he can live on in my own memories and in the memories of others as they read this...

If there is such a thing as nice, John was the epitome of it. About the time I first met him, he spent three months just living with me and my family. He was going through a rough patch in life, but I thought it was great that I could get to know him better. Our friendship was forged from those three months forward. Anyone who knew him would attest to his gentle nature and the constant smile that was plastered on his face. He never pursued anything for status, but in everything he did, he did because he saw a purpose behind it. He was one of the most mission oriented people I have ever met. He rarely ever had any money, but that never stopped him from being generous.

I met him for the first time as he was getting his M.A. at Berkeley. After spending nearly everyday together for three months, we became close. I remember calling him up one day and asking him if he was doing anything; I was in LA at the time and he was up north. He said he was just studying and I said to him that I would be there in 7 hours. I packed my things and drove up for three days and just spent the entire time just hanging out and talking about various aspects of life, something we often did. John was very intelligent, but his curiosity never died. I think it was his curiosity of things that kept his fascination for life robust.

After he graduated from Berkeley for both his B.A. and his M.A., he wanted to devote his life to medicine. We went on missions to Guatemala together with my aunt and uncle who lead annual medical mission trips and was able to bond further, sharing the thing that mattered most, our faith in Jesus Christ. He fell in love all over again with the idea of being able to help people by healing them. Everything he did in life oriented and pointed in the direction of medicine.

After he finished his M.A., he struggled through medical school application rejections, he became determined to join the Army and become an officer, and through the Army, become a medical doctor. He was always in great shape and kept himself active - he even boxed for fun. When the Army wouldn't accept him, he found himself at another crossroads. He had been so determined to be a doctor that he didn't want anything to stop him, but there was one thing that kept him from moving forward with his medical career.

Anyone who knows John, knows that he is a genuinely kind spirited person who is always willing to serve. What most people may not have known about him was that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. From what I know, the catalyst was an experimentation with acid that altered his psyche because a few friends decided to try it. This affected his college social life and his social life beyond college. For the most part, no one could tell unless if he was off his medications, but whenever he was on his medications, he would always be frustrated because he felt as if a part of him became void. He felt like he couldn't feel. This had always been the primary source of his exhaustion, his greatest frustration, his greatest struggle. This, had been the thread of internal conflict in his life since I have known him. This, was also why I respected John so much as a friend. As much the disorder would affect him, I never found him violent toward me when he was off his medication. There was always a bond of love that I knew existed between the two of us.

Seeing that he had been blessed with a top tier education (he was also getting his second Master's degree in Public Policy from USC - he got his Master's in Public Health at Berkeley) he knew that there were injustices at a policy level for those with mental disorders. He shifted his sights from a medical career to advocacy and politics. He would frequently invite me to events where they would discuss mental health issues and the injustices following people due to stigma, ignorance, and poor policy. He started to speak at council meetings, town halls, and awareness campaigns. He began to engage with political leaders and social leaders who saw the same injustices that he did. He then began to set his sights on changing policy from up top, not just from the bottom.

John, in every sense of the word was a believer. His sense of belief drove him to excellence in everything he put his mind to. This translated in his efforts from his schooling to his volunteering and most importantly, to his relationships. I consider myself lucky to have many people who have rallied around me that believe in me, but one person that has always stood out in their belief for me was John. John would call me to tell me how blessed he was by the words that I wrote and the conversations we had, he would also express to me his constant anticipation of what my future would bring, as if I would single handedly change the world.

I think a lot of people misunderstood John because they didn't know him. Few people were truly fortunate to have been able to spend the amount of time that I was able to with him (and even the amount of time I spent with him wasn't that much). In everything, he was optimistic no matter how hard things were. In everything, he looked at the world with the perspective that the glass was always full, never half full or even half empty.

The last time I had spoken to John was 4 months ago while I was in Korea. We chatted and caught up, but even in that interaction he asked me if there was something he could do for me. He had always been one of my greatest fans in life and for that, I always found myself grateful. I don't think that there is a person that has read every single thing that I wrote beside John, and even as he read through them, his enthusiasm for my poor grammar and mediocre content always encouraged me to write more. Anytime I needed a friend, he was readily available, and he was always someone I could count on to be there. One time, while I was serving in the Peace Corps, John put together a pricey care package that anticipated many of the needs that I would have. All this, he did, when he had almost nothing in his bank account and probably needed the money more than I needed the things he sent me. Another time, I needed a friend to drive with me from Los Angeles to Chicago because I needed my car for college. John volunteered, and while he was driving, we ended up sliding on the ice, wheels locked, crashing into another car already in the ditch in Iowa. After the accident, we looked at each other, freaked out, but still laughed at the situation. We've had quite a few great moments, and throughout the 10 years I've known him, John has maintained consistency in his loyalty and positivity towards all things.

I think as we all approach death, we will wonder if we have said enough in life to be remembered in a positive way. I think we will wonder if the words we spoke as we lived gave or took away life from people. When I think about John, I think he has said plenty and that he has filled the jar to the brim. All the words of encouragement, hope, belief, and even his vulnerability and transparency in things have instilled within all those he has been able to touch the fuel to go out and conquer the world. The words John has spoken of others have only been positive and uplifting, edifying and encouraging, and my hope is that those of us he has blessed can take the words and deeds of John and make the most of it.

John, I will miss you. I will do my best to live up to the way you viewed me, as a world changing history maker. I hope that I can live with the humility you had throughout life and serve in the manner you served. It won't be long until I see you for all eternity. Enjoy God until I get there!


  1. Very touching, thanks for sharing. I met John once but it was not hard to tell that he is just all of the up. Top notch, heck of a nice genuine young man. I wished I had the chance to know him more.

  2. Truly an inspiration~~... thanks for sharing, Ray.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing, this really pays tribute to John who was truly a blessing and inspiration to all of us.