The global pandemic and tight border restrictions have added huge complexities for families living abroad. While many Australasian families are reuniting, the wait for the rest of the world to open travel is all too familiar for South Korean born Kiwi, Sue Ryu. After raising her daughters in New Zealand Sue’s mum Lee moved back home in 2016 to care for Sue’s grandmother. Last year Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer; Sue talks to us about her mother; her selflessness and strength, what it’s like living apart, the things she cherishes most and how love can overcome distance.
Tell us about yourself, your journey and what led you to become the women you are today?
My name is Sue, I am 24 years old, South Korean born but moved to New Zealand when I was only 3 months old and been here ever since. Even though I was raised in New Zealand, I grew up with a lot of Korean values.
What is it like living away from your Mum, especially now with the added complexities of border restrictions?
My mum moved back to Korea in October 2016 after living in New Zealand for over 20 years. It was a really hard decision for her to make at the time (whether or not to go back) because I was only 18 and my sister had recently moved to Brisbane earlier that year. She felt bad that she would be leaving me behind, but I told her to go and be with my grandma, and that I’d be okay. So yeah, I’ve been on my own since. I’ve been back twice over the past six years to see her, first was the beginning of 2017 and then again in Feb last year. This was around the time when COVID was starting to get really bad, so I was very lucky to have been able to go.
It is definitely hard being away from my mum for so long, but it’s made me appreciate the time that we have when I’ve gone over to see her. I took a lot for granted when I was younger, like coming home and having dinner ready for me or when she would wash and fold all my clothes. Lots of little things that she did for me I appreciate way more now and I wish I could have shown her appreciation while we were still living together!
Tell us about your mum; the things you love most, the values she has instilled in you, what you cherish most?
My mum is definitely one of the most positive, tenacious and strong woman I know. She gave up her whole life and moved to another country, not speaking a word of English and raised my sister and I. She worked so hard, day and night, always trying her best to provide for us to ensure we had new clothes for mufti days! hahaha.
If I could grow up to be half the woman my mum is, I’ll be happy.
We are so sorry to learn about her health. The news must have felt like the earth was shaking at your feet. Tell us about those early days; her diagnosis, your relationship and how you have overcome distance to support her.
My mum was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer on May 21 2020. I remember when she messaged our family group chat that she had something important to tell us that my heart just dropped. My mum isn’t the type of person to tell us bad news or anything that will make us worry because she knows it’ll make us upset and stressed that we can’t do much to help her. We aren’t a wealthy family, we don’t have a lot of money and so the option to drop everything and fly when sh*t hits the fan isn’t there for us. When she told us, I already knew it was going to be bad news. I just broke down and cried. I cried for days. I genuinely thought about how unfair this world is and why my universe was punishing my mum so much after everything she’s already been through. It was a really tough pill to swallow.
One of my best friends Tiffany had started a give a little page for my family to help alleviate some of the financial pressure as my mum was about to have surgery. I was overwhelmed with the amount of support that came through, and we managed to raise close to $12,000.
Sue’s mum is currently doing well, and will undergo further testing in a few months. If you believe in the power of collective thought, join us in wishing her strong health.
If you would like to follow along on Sue's journey you can find her HERE.
Spoil them with Saben this Mother's Day.