Han is a Korean word. Apparently, there is no direct English translation. Han is more like a state of mind; a state of profound sadness. Blair felt she knew what the Koreans were trying to say by having such a word in their vocabulary. She felt she could relate to the word and its meaning.
‘The accident’, as those around her called it, happened almost two months ago. Blair ponders this as she sits staring at her ‘Precious Moments’ calendar. Accident, tragedy…people have different ways of approaching the subject. Blair usually helps by just stating the facts: her husband and two children were killed while driving along interstate nine. A woman, in the passenger seat of a car heading in the opposite direction, was arguing with her husband; she’d had enough of him. These perfect strangers, Blair’s husband and this couple, met on a collision course not even God himself could understand.
The woman took out a forty-five and shot her husband while he was driving. The bullet went right through his head. Miraculously, he survived. But the bullet traveled at the speed of light across traffic lanes, across worlds and into the temple of Blair’s young husband Steve. He was killed instantly. The car then careened over the side of a cliff into oblivion, killing both of their children, who were traveling with Steve on their way home from a camping trip.
A state of profound sadness; the kind of sadness where even tears do not come. Blair certainly has had her fair share of tears, but they do not come as much anymore. But the sadness sits on her heart like a heavy weight. Yet even in the sadness, hope remains. At least, that is what the Koreans believe. Blair, on the other hand, has come to fear that hope is dead as well.
The Korean people have no doubt felt this emotion, this Han, over the years. Their country, their people, have lived through war and famine. This is a country that knows loss. In the midst of devastation, pain and grief, the word Han would become almost haunting; like a piece of music you can’t forget, its melody running through your mind over and over again.
Blair looks up from her calendar and circles the day; the day her life changed forever. It seems like a lifetime ago. Her breathing becomes rapid, her jaw clenches as grief washes over her. How do people manage their loss? How does one measure grief? How can something bring such profound sadness that one cannot even shed a tear? How, indeed. Easy, Blair thinks to herself. People’s lives are broken by emotion, grief, illness and other tragedies all the time. Lives lost, hopes crushed. And yet, in this profound wake of grief and pain, people do find meaning, do they not? Maybe it’s not over ’til it’s over, as they say.
Blair clutches the photo of her husband and two children. The edges are bent and out of shape; worn and damaged. The photo is with her always, like a friend, a companion. She studies the photo with concentration, as though she could bring them back to her. Maybe if she concentrated long enough or hard enough, she could will them back. This is the human experience, is it not? That even at our most vulnerable and most weak, we are in a state of grace. That even in our loss we can and will find hope that life does, indeed, go on.
Blair gets up from her desk and walks over to the window. The sun is just coming up over the horizon. She holds the pistol to her head and in an instant she is gone from the world and from the Han that had stolen her life.
Photo from Flickr – some rights reserved