Like many in her generation, our beloved Mother's life, was filled with tragedy and hardship. But interwoven into that fabric was hope, faith and love. And in the end, God triumphed and our Mother found redemption and victory through Christ.
Our beloved Mother, Hwa Ja Betty Park, was born in Tae-gu, Korea on October 10, 1942. She had 3 siblings: an older sister, Park, Hae Sang, and an older brother, Park, Yoon Sik and a younger brother, Park, Moo Sik.
She was born into a difficult world. When she was very young, Typhoid Fever swept through her village, and her Mother contracted typhus while helping others that were infected. Hwa Ja was only a toddler when typhus claimed her Mother's life, so growing up, she had little memory of her mother, if any.
After her Mother passed, her Father remarried and she had two half sisters. Unfortunately, her Father lost his life as a soldier in the Korean war, and very quickly, Hwa Ja and her siblings were orphaned. Their Stepmother left Hwa Ja and most of her siblings to be raised by relatives, and they were all separated from one another. This was difficult for Hwa Ja, who felt a keen sense of loneliness growing up, from the loss of her parents, and also, the separation from her siblings.
As time went on, she was courted by a man who would come to fall deeply in love with her. His name was Chung, Hwan Sik. He courted her until she finally loved him back. Their love bore them two children, a son named Chung, Hak Jae (Bobby) and a daughter named Chung, Hee Jae (Jenny). Hwa Ja's children were the loves of her life and she was a fierce protector of them. One of Bobby's most vivid memories of his childhood is of his mother, a small, barely five-foot woman, yelling and cursing at a huge white man twice her size, because the man had pushed her precious son. She had no fear or reserve when it came to fighting for and defending her children.
Sadly, Haw Ja and Hwan Sik's love was as oil and water. Although they truly loved each other, and held on to their marriage for 18 years, their marriage ended in divorce and their children were separated. Hwa Ja's son, Bobby, lived with his father and her daughter, Jenny, stayed with her.
The divorce introduced a dark period in Hwa Ja's life. She was bitter with feelings of betrayal and abandonment. Sometime after, in 1988, Hwa Ja noticed a mass in her right breast. Unfortunately, she ignored it, too afraid to find out what it was. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988, after it had already progressed. She underwent chemotherapy and surgery to remove the cancer, but her doctors only gave her five to ten years to live. The cancer took her into a deeper darkness and hopelessness.
Thankfully, through God's providence, she was also introduced to the Detroit Seventh-day Adventist church. This introduction to Christ and acceptance into her church family was a turning point in her life. Many of the members of the Detroit church brought ministry and friendship to her during these dark hours.
Hwa Ja's introduction to the Adventist Church also brought out the best in her. Hwa Ja moved out to California soon after her daughter and son-in-law, Jenny and Don, were accepted into Loma Linda School of Dentistry. While Hwa Ja lived in California near Jenny and Don, she spent much of her time ministering to the elderly community. She drove them to doctors appointments, helped them with their errands, and took them to church. Each Sabbath, she would take multiple trips to church, with her car packed each time, to transport her elderly friends to church. Ministering to others brought joy to Hwa Ja and helped her deal with her anger and bitterness. Generosity and the desire to minister to those who were less fortunate were her gifts.
In 2001, 13 years later, Hwa Ja was diagnosed with a second breast cancer. This was a completely new breast cancer. Once again, she had surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and beat the odds. She entered into a second remission. During this time, through the ministry of many in the church, her family, and Christ, she began to lose some of her anger and bitterness and her faith continued to grow. Indeed, some of the happiest moments of Hwa Ja's life was during this time. She cherished the fellowship of her church friends, enjoyed going to the Korean spas, going to dance classes, and travelling with her friends. Her family often joked that she was finally getting to experience a childhood.
Hwa Ja also had the joy of helping Jenny and Don raise three beautiful children during this time: Jessica, Tyler, and Aiden. These three beautiful children brought so much joy to Hwa Ja's life. She often said that when she was tired of fighting the cancer, and only wanted to lay down, she would see the needs of these kids and force herself to get up. And in playing with them, she would find joy and a desire to live again. She said that these children gave her the desire to fight her cancer.
In 2007, six years later, Hwa Ja received devastating news that her breast cancer had metastasized to her lung. She was thought to have maybe 6 months left to live. This difficult time, however, was not without its joyous moments. In fact, soon after Hwa Ja received news that her cancer had metastasized, her son, Bobby, found his life-mate, Miriam, and wed. A year and a half later, Hwa Ja had the joy of welcoming her fourth grandchild, Bobby's daughter, Allie, to this world. During this time, her will to live, combined with treatments and most of all God, extended her life for 5 more years until the hormone therapy became ineffective in September 2011.
Faced with her eminent mortality, fear and anger consumed her. Her family sought alternate treatments to extend her life, but Hwa Ja rejected them. In this dark time, she felt scared, alone and angry at her family and God. Even the birth of her grandson, Michael, Bobby's son, did not ease the anger and fear.
But, once again, through the ministry of her church, God reached out to Hwa Ja. Through the invitation of Huh, Nyung Soon (Anna Kim), Hwa Ja went to Eden Hospital in Korea for treatment. In Korea, her fear and anger continued, but Mrs. Kim, and the other patients and staff at Eden Hospital, cared for her and encouraged her to worship. Hwa Ja began to spend her time copying down scripture to quell the storm within her. When Pastor Hong Kwang Eui came to Eden Hospital, Mrs. Kim urged him to come and pray for Hwa Ja. It was then that the Holy Spirit reached her and her anger and fear subsided and her faith began to grow. She began to go to church again. She began bible study.
In her last days, Hwa Ja returned home to Bellevue and spent her time with her children and her sister who cared for her and served her faithfully. It was to her Unni that she told of her gratitude to God. She said, "I am so thankful to God and I am ready now." She spent her last moments reciting bible verses and singing hymns.
On June 23, 2013, Hwa Ja Betty Park passed away at 3:30 p.m. holding the hands of her children, Bobby and Jenny. She passed while she was sleeping and is finally at peace, having gained victory through Christ. In retrospect, we can see that God used everything at his disposal, her family, her friends, and even the cancer, to redeem his precious daughter, Hwa Ja Betty Park.