How could you go ahead of me?
This letter was found atop the mummified remains of 30-year-old Eung-Tae Lee in an excavated tomb in Andong City, South Korea:
To Won’s Father
June 1, 1586
You always said, “Dear, let’s live together until our hair turns gray and die on the same day.” How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me?
How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we lay down together you always told me, “Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?” How could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me?
I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where would I put my heart in now and how can I live with the child missing you?
Please look at this letter and tell me in detail in my dreams. Because I want to listen to your saying in detail in my dreams I write this letter and put it in. Look closely and talk to me.
When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.
You are just in another place, and not in such a deep grief as I am. There is no limit and end to my sorrows that I write roughly. Please look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail and tell me. I believe I can see you in my dreams. Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say and I stop here.
This poor young widow was left alone, pregnant with her husband’s child in the late 1500′s. Also found among the man’s remains were sandals woven from his wife’s own hair.
The human condition links us inextricably to the past and keeps us hopeful for the future. Stories such as this, long-buried, now found, fascinate me. I will never cease to be amazed by the ways our flawed species find to memorialize one another and struggle to find meaning in the most painful and heart-wrenching moments. In the depth of her pain, this widow reaches out to her dead lover, still hoping to see him in her dreams. How beautiful, how tragic, how very human.