Today, my three siblings, several friends and I are packed inside my small apartment in New York to make Korean lucky pouches, called “jumoni,” from sunrise to sunset as our way of participating in The Longest Day, an event to honor those facing Alzheimer’s. These small, colorful pouches made out of cloth and drawn closed at the top with a braided string were traditionally filled with money or special treats and given to small children by elders. We hope to make 100 of these pouches, each of which will be one-of-a-kind, from fabric and thread donated by my company, as well as from unwanted clothes.
These lucky pouches hold special meaning for me because my grandmother taught me how to make them w hen she raised me in Korea. My grandmother is everything to me – my parent, my best friend and my biggest inspiration. I was born in New York but was dropped off at the age of 1 to be raised by my grandmother in Korea. Shortly after having me, my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer and my father was her primary caregiver while also working full-time so they needed my grandmother to take care of me so that they could focus on my mother’s illness. (My mother passed away two years later.) When I met my grandmother for the first time at the Korean airport, I immediately nestled in her arms as if I already knew her and felt an immediate connectio n with her.
It was extremely hard to leave my grandmother alone when I returned to the United States in 2005. Then three years ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I was devastated by the news. It shook me to the core, and I had a very difficult time accepting her condition. It was even difficult for me to talk about her with my family and friends. I often cried when I thought of her randomly—walking down the street, in the shower, when I was cleaning. However, I realized that I wanted to do something instead of just letting my emotions get me down.
The Longest Day is not just about people with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s about the courage of the families who are facing this devastating disease together and about the selfless caregivers, like my aunt in Korea who is taking care of my grandmother, who provide the abundant love and support to those afflicted. I felt very bitter and guilty about my grandmother going through this difficult disease and am grateful every day that someone is there to help take care of her.
So today is for my grandmother. I have created an assembly line and am teaching my siblings and friends how to make these beautiful lucky pouches. Since not everyone knows how to use a sewing machine, we are allowing people to do the parts that they’re comfortable with, whether it’s cutting the fabric or braiding the thread to make the cords for the drawstrings.
By the end of today, we hope to make 100 pieces of these beautiful pouches and give them to those who are sponsoring us as a thank-you gift. With the leftover pouches, we hope to sell them to raise additional money for the Alzheimer’s Association. I’m sure my grandmother would love our labor of love, and she will be in our thoughts every minute of today.
About the Author: Regina Chung, 29, is a jewelry designer who lives in New York, N.Y. She is participating in The Longest Day®, a sunrise to sunset event to honor the strength, passion and endurance of those facing Alzheimer's with a day of activity.