With a background in social science, I’ve spent most of my adult life focusing on the things that can be measured and scientifically proven. I’ve left very little room in my mind for the unexplainable. I was never so arrogant as to say that if you can’t prove something scientifically then it can’t be true. I just never paid too much attention to all the mysteries and unanswered questions in life. Until now.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve come to learn that it’s when life really throws us a curveball, shakes us to our core and brings us to our knees that we start paying attention to that previously unexplored side of things. When you lose a loved one you cannot help but wonder where they have gone, whether or not they are still somehow present, and if there’s any way for you to meet them again.

This is where I’ve come to increasingly embrace what I can’t explain. Just because I cannot explain something does not mean that it can’t exist. I also cannot explain astrophysics but that does not mean that I’m in denial of its existence or importance. Consequently, I’ve decided to allow for a little mystery in my life and embrace the unexplainable in my efforts to find healing.

On the day that my friend passed away, I shared an update on Instagram explaining how completely heartbroken I was along with a series of pictures of the two of us together. One of my readers, who also follows me on social media, recognized our picture from an article she had seen on a Korean blog or news outlet of some sort and sent me a link to the article asking if it wasn’t my friend in that article. At first, I had no idea what she meant, but as I copied the link into my browser, a blog entry in Korean appeared. It was clearly written by my friend and told the (wildly exaggerated as per usual) story about how we met in Denmark several years ago and how he taught me Korean.

As I scrolled down the text in Korean, my name “Sofie” stood out at least 10 times among all the Korean letters. The article concluded that we still have a unique friendship to this day and that he is proud to be Korean and loves Korea because it gave him the opportunity to make unforgettable memories. Obviously, this article first had me crying a river because it was so clear to me that this was truly his writing. I could feel him in every sentence. The strange thing is that the article was published online within minutes of him drawing his final breath. It wasn’t written on a personal blog of his but on some site where Koreans can contribute stories about extraordinary experiences abroad that are then selected for publication. He must clearly have sent it to the outlet several weeks in advance. 

This experience felt nothing short of a love-filled greeting from heaven. If one of my readers had not stumbled upon this and also seen my post on Instagram and sent me the link, there is zero chance that I would ever have seen it. But I DID see it, and his affectionate description of our story and his repeated mentioning of my name was a tremendous comfort. I want to believe that he wanted me to see this and find consolation and reassurance in his words, and through some mysterious way, he made sure that I did. 

In a similar way, I sometimes feel his presence in ways that I cannot quite define. One episode happened in Denmark around a month ago, while I was absentmindedly browsing a bookstore in an attempt to calm the uproar in my heart at the time. Blankly gazing at a whole shelf of books, one title caught my eye “Du gør mig glad” – you make me happy. My friend did not know a lot of Danish but I taught him some, and this was one of the sentences he knew how to say. When I saw this title – I heard it in my head with his voice, cute accent and everything, and suddenly felt warm and relaxed. Skeptics may say that this is just a coincidence and all just a trick of my mind, to which I’ll say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I want to believe that he is somehow still there.

As a new year’s present to myself and as a tribute to my friend and our unique relationship, I had booked an appointment in a jewelry cafe in Hongdae on January 1. Making your own rings is a huge hit among young Korean couples but I had something else in mind. I wanted to make a bracelet and a ring with engravings that would symbolize our friendship and help me feel that he will always be with me. 

I chose the design of a matching ring and bracelet in silver and spent two hours crafting, hammering and polishing before they were taken in for engraving. On the ring, it says 인연 – a special connection or fateful meeting – a term he always used about our relationship. The bracelet says 행복하자 – Be happy – and also has the Korean flag and a heart. He used to always tell me 행복하자 if I was ever troubled by something, and he was so proud to be Korean. In fact, the biggest compliment he ever gave me was “Wow, Sofie – you’re SO Korean!!” That was the biggest praise he could give me. He also used to send me the Korean flag emoji in text messages for no apparent reason, so whenever I see this flag I’m reminded of him. 

I’m happy that I took the time to create something meaningful that gives me a sense of having him close to me. I still feel that I’m “under reconstruction” but being back in Korea helps tremendously, and every day I am one small step closer to healing.

Happy new year everyone! Kiss the ones you love~


  1. I have been reading your blog for a while. It has helped me a lot in my Korean learning journey. These last posts about your grief have reminded me a lot of the thoughts in my own head after my son died a few days after he was born and my world was shattered. On his first birthday, I was a total wreck, I’ve been crying on the couch all day feeling so alone when suddenly the door bell rang. For some weird reason I opened even in my state and I was greeted with a big package from Ireland. I know no one there, but my son had an Irish name so we joked my whole pregnancy he was coming from Ireland, it was an ongoing joke the whole time so it was weird. I open this package totally confused and I found all kinds of yummy snacks and comfort food from Ireland and a letter. The letter was from a girl I had never met who entered the same reddit gifts (anonymous gifts exchanges from all over the world) exchange I did like 6 months or longer before. I sent my gift (not to her or anyone in Ireland) and got nothing myself so I just figured I got a bad sender (it happens sometimes) and completely forgot about it. She told me this crazy story about how her flat mate was supposed to send the package but didn’t and didn’t tell her and then, she moved and a bunch of crazy things that happened to her but she didn’t forget about it and she finally sent the package months later. She told me this was Irish comfort food, there was so much stuff. I am a very rational person, not religious, superstitious or over emotional. But this completely felt like a gift from him somehow. And it came to me on his birthday at my absolute lowest point. I just felt so much better, it was like he sent me a little something. I think there are just things we can not explain or see. Some snakes can see infrared light and heat, my eyes can’t see that but it doesn’t mean there are no heat waves around me. We are just limited in what we can see or perceive in a traditional way. You will find “little gifts” here and there. Just pay attention. I will end my already too long post (sorry) with one text that brought me most comfort during my dark days…

    Ask A Physicist To Speak At Your Funeral
    You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy is created in the universe and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, ever vibration, every BTU of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid the energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

    And at one point, you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off you like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

    And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue in the heat of our own lives.

    And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy is still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone. You’re just less orderly. Amen.

    This is a transcript of a speech given by writer and performer Aaron Freeman on NPR News “All Things Considered”.


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