For Jess From Bo Hee Kim

From left to right: Jessica Lum, Bo Hee Kim, Julia Chan and Hyun Jin Seo celebrate their graduation from UC Berkeley Journalism School in May 2012.

Dear Jess,

I wish we had become friends over something more meaningful, but I’m going to just say it: we bonded over raw oysters at Legal Sea Foods. We were in Boston for the Online News Association conference, and though we were both so excited to be there, by the end we were dragging our feet. We looked at the schedule and then you mentioned that the president orders chowder from this chain restaurant nearby. Skipping a panel seemed like a small price to pay for presidential seafood (other than the ridiculous bill we ended up with). Even though we ate a ton, it didn’t stop us from eyeing everyone else’s plate on the way out.

Like I said, I wish we had bonded over something more meaningful. But you dragged me everywhere to eat everything. And when we weren’t trying to eat our weight in seafood, we pretty much lived at the journalism school. You, me and Julia would be editing away, grumbling, until one of us would mention late-night sushi. It was amazing how quickly we could pack our things and dash out the door.

In between mouthfuls, we got to know each other. We gossiped. We chortled. We shared our hopes and dreams, and eventually our fears as well. I was struggling with the loss of my mother. You were struggling not to lose yourself.

Every week you schemed and we conspired. You wanted to buy a boat and live on an island in Hawaii. You wanted to buy an RV and road-trip across the country. Once you secretly drove out to the desert over the weekend and told me that if you were ever dying, you’d like to drive to a place like this so no one would think you were gone, only traveling.

All these things seemed theoretical. I knew you weren’t going to buy an RV. The idea of you living on a boat was outlandish. It took you some time to tell me you were sick, and when you did, I didn’t know how to comfort you. The last thing I wanted to say was, “I’m sorry.”

Since we graduated from Berkeley, you suffered setback after setback. You would get better only to end up worse. But throughout everything, you were indomitable. You were brave though you were scared. You were defiant as you complained of defeat. You won a prestigious reporting award while joking that you were a blogger, not a journalist.

A reporter asked me this week to “accurately” describe our relationship. I haven’t answered him, because every time I visited, I always saw a new side of you (cornrows and all). All I know is that you became my friend at a time when I was hurting and wasn’t eager to make any. That you taught me so much. That I always admired how creative you were. And now that you’re free, I have so many things I need to share with you. But, like Major Tian wrote to you on Facebook the other day, I don’t need email or text or a phone call for you to hear what’s in my heart.

And so here’s to you my beautiful, brilliant friend. I miss you. I love you. I’ll never forget you.

And like you said, I’ll see you on the other side.

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