•• Next Morning ••

Hyorin looked hauntingly beautiful and there was no other way to describe her. She was wearing a plain black Hanbok Jeogori with a teal Chima and had her silky hair tied up in a tight bun, her bangs pinned to her head. I sat respectfully with the other members, a slight distance from the shinwi- memorial table- and Hyorin. She had already spent time earlier in the morning setting up the entire Jesasang and the food and dishes were arranged neatly all over it in the proper orientation. She was beginning the ceremony with the memorial reading and then Kangshin, calling the spirits of her parents and her brother down to us.

After Kangshin, she proceeded through to the next part of the ceremony, the first offering of rice wine, Choheon. After offering the wine, she sat back and bowed the ritual bow twice. Normally, had he not passed, Hyojun would have been the one performing the ceremony, but Hyorin was the only one left in the family that actually identified as being part of the Chae Family. If she didn’t perform the ceremony, then no one would. Therefore, the ritual bows meant to be performed by the males were hers to perform in silent solitude.

Jihoon shifted slightly beside me, no doubt feeling the pressure and awkwardness that was observing such a sacred and intimate ceremony. After Choheon, it was time for Aheon and Jongheon, the second and final offerings. I wasn’t sure whether Hyorin would do them or not due to the lack of family males. To my surprise, she turned to me and held out the liquor for Aheon to me and I stared blankly at her before accepting the offering. Slowly, I scooted forward on my knees and then offered the liquor before performing the ritual bows.

I moved back to my place beside the boys as Hyorin filled six more offering bowls with liquor before handing them to each of the other members. They were, apparently, all going to be participating in Jongheon. One by one, they each offered their liquor and then performed their ritual bows before rejoining me and waiting patiently for Hyorin to continue. She filled three more bowls and offered those, probably for Jinyong, Daejung, and Kwangsu.

I sighed slightly as I watched Hyorin shakily grip a spoon before sticking it into the center of the rice bowl and standing weakly. We followed her out of the room for Yushik, when the ancestors ate food after Sapsi, the spoon insertion into the rice bowl. Outside the room, none of us spoke. It would be disrespectful to do so. I only lightly touched Hyorin’s shoulder when I noticed her shaking like a leaf in the breeze. She nodded once in understanding and took a deep breath, clearing her throat twice, customarily, before pushing the room doors back open and walking back to the shinwi.

Heoncha was after Yushik and I immediately stood and helped Hyorin to pour the rice tea for the offering. I knew that it wasn’t my place to help her, but she was trembling so much that I was afraid that she would end up spilling a heavy metal pot filled with boiling hot tea onto herself. We all waited patiently for some time before she nodded to us and we all bowed twice for Cheolsang, the end of the ceremony. The boys and I carefully helped Hyorin clear up everything, leaving the memorial tablet and the incense on the shinwi as a memory for Hyorin.

We helped to distribute the ceremony food and each took a glass of wine. Eumbok had always, guiltily enough, been my favorite part of the Jesa ceremony. Who doesn’t like sharing food with your closest friends and family while getting blessed by the spirits of the deceased while you eat? No one, that’s who.

Hyorin was flushed and pale, her hands looking clammy and weak while she picked at her food. “Hyorin-ah, you have to eat properly if you want to finish the Jesa ceremony in the right way,” I told her with a sigh, urging her to eat what she could. She nodded slowly before taking a bite of her food.

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