Facing Bom-yi and her family’s pain this week has not been easy, mostly because of how real life has colored my expectations. In the last two weeks, a close teacher’s husband died after a 6 year struggle with brain cancer, a younger colleague was diagnosed with colon cancer and a very good friend has spent the last month in and out of hospitals taking care of her ailing and elderly father. Everyone involved is exhausted mentally and physically. The machines, treatments, and side effects dehumanize the loved ones making it difficult for the caregivers to get close enough to offer comfort. Disease and death are messy, painful and it just plain sucks for all the people holding the sick person’s hand.
I got very upset watching Bom-yi’s journey. I hated that she was dying suddenly. That maybe she wouldn’t get a chance to adopt and raise a baby sister for Poo-reun and Ba-da. That her spirited back-and-forth teasing with Dong-ha was reduced to hushed, comforting tones reserved for dying heroines in 19th century novels. Watching Dong-ha, once again, torn to bits having to face a future without a loved one by his side? Man, that’s horrible to see. I was grieving a future that I had envisioned for them, that I needed for them to make me happy. Alas, this is not only about me, or maybe it is.
Episode 15 Summary:
Immediately after the proposal, Dong-ha suggests a nice wedding inviting all their friends and family after Bom-yi’s surgery, but Bom-yi isn’t interested.
Dong-ha and Dong-wook meet to talk about Bom-yi’s condition and care. Dong-ha wants all the research on organ transplants he can get. Samchoon offers to stay with the Kang kids while Hyung is at the hospital. Bom-yi Oma gives Dong-ha the night off so he can go home and rest.
Chez Kang, Poo-reun and Dad talk about Bom-yi. He tells his daughter the seriousness of Bom-yi’s condition.
She compliments him that he is the coolest ever and gives him a big hug, making him promise that he will protect her friend.
Dong-ha visits and leaves the paper bouquet his children made for Bom-yi. He kisses her forehead while she sleeps.
Bom-yi finds the bouquet and elicits Se-na’s help with a plan.
Dong-ha and Apa meet with an expert on mechanical hearts. There have been successful applications. One where the patient has survived seven years and counting.
Bom-yi watches Dong-ha as he researches more information about heart transplants online.
Apa says his daughter’s condition hasn’t worsened, but Bom-yi is not happy.
Dong-wook and Ji-won continue to warm up to each other. He talks her into eating lunch with him and chopstick feeding her some egg when Dong-ha interrupts.
After she runs out of the room in embarrassment, Hyung has more info on mechanical hearts to share with his brother.
Upon returning to Bom-yi’s room, Se-na and Park prepare him for a bad mood Bom-yi. When he goes in, however, he finds she has transformed the room into a romantic scene, and herself into a bride.
Dong-ha wants to give her a proper wedding, but she can’t wait that long. She doesn’t want to be a patient, but his wife.
“I know that you want to make me the happiest and prettiest bride ever but I’m so happy now. Please forgive me even if I’m not pretty.” He assures her she is pretty. “Even if I become your wife now, I won’t be able to do anything for you. I can’t make a delicious meal for you, find your missing socks and I can’t do anything for your children. Only thing I can do now is tell you how I feel about you. I’m sorry.”
She takes his hand, “I, Lee Bom-yi, take you, Kang Dong-ha the sweetest and nicest man in the world to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad in sickness and in health. Even though I can’t live for a long time whether I live a day or eternity I’ll love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Taking her hand, he promises the same, and he kisses the bride.
(Let’s pretend it was passionate and warm and in that small gesture, he was able to communicate that despite her illness, he felt towards her how any man does with his beautiful woman nearby. That she reacted, and for the first time had a taste of what living as this man’s wife would mean – not just being mom to his kids.) Tears filling both their eyes.
Moments later, outside her room, Dong-ha shows his real reaction to the promise and heartbreak of their vows.
Fists clenched, bent over in pain, he holds back his own body-wracking sobs. Steeling himself, almost, for the battle to come.
Bom-yi tells Dong-ha that she wants to go to the windy hills of Udo for a honeymoon. With Dong-wook’s support, he manages to talk Apa into letting her go.
She needs something to keep her hopes up, otherwise her depression will overcome her. Apa’s arguments are hushed with one very expensive word, “helicopter.”
Gil-dong and Dong-wook’s doctor friend greet them when they land on Dong-ha’s field.
He makes a big show of being the newlywed groom by carrying a laughing Bom-yi over the threshold.
Gil-dong has been commanded to make the house honeymoon ready by Park.
Bom-yi calls her anxiously waiting parents, who show huge signs of relief hearing she is OK. Next is Meat Mom, who is delighted to hear from Bom-yi. Although Bom-yi calls her Oma-nim, they don’t tell her about their marriage.
Dong-ha and Bom-yi, from the back of his truck decorated to show their “Just Married” status, tour all of Udo.
They revisit all the important places and moments of their fateful relationship. Dong-ha suggests they rest for today, and they should go out to the windy hills the next day.
Song meets with Bom-yi’s parents and Dong-wook. He drops the bomb that they have no plans regarding an Organ Transplant Center, pulling out the contract Dong-wook signed to prove it.
They may be friends, but he can’t continue to invest money into a failing hospital. If Bom-yi Apa hadn’t been disciplined all those years ago, they never would have been in this hopeless situation. When Dong-wook confronts Ji-won minutes later, she admits that she forged Dong-wook’s signature on the contract without the organ transplant clause,
thereby making it invalid. This frees him from any responsibility to stay on. Smart girl. She is willing to fall on her sword as long as he is OK.
Dong-ha and Bom-yi share a meal he cooked. He thanks almost everyone without her prompting, which is cute.
We find out that in order to cut the line for transplants, Apa lied about how critical her condition was. The Board disciplined him and suspended him as a surgeon, ruining the hospital’s reputation. They never recovered.
After dinner, Bom-yi is too tired to do anything but go to bed. We see the romantic honeymoon set-up in Dong-ha’s bedroom. Candles, petal hearts and couple PJs.
Very shyly, Dong-ha leaves Bom-yi to change. While he is out of the room, he hears a crash. Bom-yi has fallen down hard. He reacts calmly this time, giving her oxygen and breathing with her until she has recovered somewhat.
Dong-wook’s doctor friend arrives and administers an IV, commanding them to go back to Seoul first thing in the morning. Forget the windy hills, he tells them.
Since Bom-yi is feeling suffocated inside, Dong-ha takes her out to Shepherd Rock.
They reminisce of the times they were there together. Dong-ha says, “At first we sat here and talked about old stories. Then we sat here and talked about the future. So for now let’s just talk about the present.” Just in case, Bom-yi asks if she can say good-bye to him now. Reluctantly he agrees.
“Don’t come here again. I won’t become a star so don’t come here to watch the night sky. Don’t come here and drink alone, cry alone, or sleep alone. I don’t want you to suffer alone in a dream where I’m not there. It makes you too attractive. LOL I’m worried you’ll find another woman that way.”
“Then don’t leave,” he replies, “Stay here with me like this forever.”
“If there’s a chance that I’ll be reborn, I’ll make sure I’m healthy in the next life. Then I’ll love you much more and much longer than I did in this life. Then I’ll be the one to protect you.”
Dong-ha listens stoically, putting his arm around her while staring at her the way he does.
(Soo-young’s song comes on the soundtrack at this point.) He tightens his grip on her shoulder and lets everything she said sink in. It is almost of full minute before a wave of sorrow overwhelms him, and he cries quietly looking off to the side.
(I have to interject something here that came to me out of nowhere. I don’t know if these writers are religious, and I have felt no specific reason to think they are, but all of Dong-ha’s actions keep pointing me to this: Psalm 23. There is actually something in the last episode that sealed it for me. I’ll point it out when we get there so as not to spoil now. Anyway, you can decide.)
They lie down face to face on the bed, and he kisses her forehead caressing her hand.
The next day, Dong-ha is preparing breakfast for his bride before the go out to the windy hills.
When faced with the small incline, Bom-yi isn’t sure she can make it. Slowly, they go up, Bom-yi gripping Dong-ha’s arm tightly.
He tells her not to give up, and carries her on his back – memories of their fateful meeting and blossoming love flashing by as they go.
With about ten steps left, he puts her down and backs up to the top, encouraging her to finish on her own.
“Look at me. Don’t look anywhere else. Bom-yi. Now come to me. Come on. You can do it.” Step by painful step, she advances until finally he grabs her in a hug.
Her breath is short, but she is OK, and Dong-ha tells her “Good job. I knew you could do it.” As a reward, Dong-ha shows her the gorgeous view of the ocean she earned by her own effort.
Gil-dong takes their photos.
(End of 15)
Episode 16 Summary
Dong-ha takes her out to Soo-jung’s rock, leaving her alone for privacy. She makes a silent prayer.
Oma and Apa await the couple’s return to the hospital. Oma has gifts prepared for Dong-ha’s Mom and the newlyweds.
We find out their dire financial straits have forced them to put up their house for sale and apply for a secured loan.
Dong-ha and Bom-yi arrive at the hospital to everyone’s relief. Dong-ha reports on Bom-yi’s condition to Dong-wook, who informs Hyung that she has far exceeded everyone’s expectations as far as surviving.
Dong-wook explains implanting an artificial heart it isn’t a simple matter of paying for the surgery, “No matter how rich the individual is they can’t pay the expenses. Since the mechanical heart transplant is still in a trial stage the hospital has to fund it.” The board has to approve it.
Oma holds Bom-yi’s hand and they talk until Dong-ha comes back. Oma points out the gifts, handing him his before she leaves.
Bom-yi’s is a beautiful hanbok. His is the gift of time – a watch.
Bom-yi decides that she is no longer going to take a pill out of the wish bottle when she feels sad. Instead, every time she is happy, she’s going to put one in.
Song meets with Ji-won and she apologizes. They seem to have forgiven each other.
Dong-wook shows up because he was worried about her, but she is fine. When she brings up leaving, he tries to convince her to stay
Se-na decorates Bom-yi’s room with photos from the wedding and the Udo honeymoon. Meat Mom arrives; Bom-yi decked out in her hanbok greets her.
Meat Mom just wants her to get better and gives her what looks like an extremely expensive diamond jewelry set of earrings, necklace and ring. PPL?
Meat Mom and Oma have a friendly cup of tea. Since Hanu Haon’s budget has money for social work, Mom offers financial support for the hospital.
In Soo-jung’s memory, she asks Oma to accept this donation.
The board refuses to fund a clinical trial for Bom-yi. She isn’t a good risk.
Bom-yi writes a quote from Pooh (love him!) for her bottle of wishes. “Not every day is good, but there is something good in every day.”
Oma sits and laughs with the Kang kids. Oma is impressed with Poo-reun’s maturity.
Apa arrives and Poo-reun and Ba-da greet him as “Haroboji” which makes him panic a little.
He gives them cash from his wallet. LOL
The Kang family sits and draws portraits of each other, which Dong-ha places on the wall with their names.
Bom-yi keeps filling up the bottle with new happiness quotes. Meat Mom, Oma, Dong-wook and Ji-won visit. New portraits appear on the wall with awesome names: Hospital Uncle, Uncle Dong-wook’s Girlfriend, My Grandmother, Pretty Grandmother, Director Grandfather.
Time passes happily with the family together at every possible moment. Dong-ha narrates, “It was a miracle. We couldn’t feel each other’s warmth even though we were alive but we could feel the warmth of spring when we were together.”
While working on knitting a pair of purple mittens, Bom-yi coughs until blood comes up.
The prognosis isn’t good, pulmonary edema, pulmonary hypertension and she pneumonia, too. Her chances of being a good candidate for any transplant keep dropping.
A conversation between Se-na and Park illustrate the problem SK has getting their citizens to be organ donors.
Korea only has one-third the number of donors compared to other advanced countries.
Bom-yi completes the pair of mittens, and writes a good wish for the happy pill bottle, hiding it from Dong-ha. He takes it from her, but it won’t fit, “Happiness overflows,” he remarks. (See earlier comment on the psalm.)
Suddenly, Bom-yi can’t breath and goes down.
The emergency call button brings Dong-wook rushing in. It is a repeat of Dong-ha’s nightmare watching helplessly as Dong-wook performs CPR.
He remembers grabbing Dong-wook by the collar and screaming at him, however, this time as Bom-yi flat lines, Dong-ha encourages his brother, “You can do it.”
Doctor Dong-wook zaps her, and her heartbeat returns so they can move her into the ICU.
Dong-wook and Apa come out with the bad news that both her heart and lungs are now failing.
Apa offers to do the transplant operation whatever the punishment. The board members refuse Apa again, even if Apa is willing to take responsibility.
Bom-yi is unconscious in the ICU. Dong-ha goes in to see her, and holds her hand.
She dreams of her climb up the windy hills of Udo, with Dong-ha encouraging her. Finally, it is enough to bring her around and she opens her eyes.
She is returned to her room, exhausted. “I don’t want the operation. If it fails, you’ll be in trouble too, Dad.”
He tells her it won’t fail. “Don’t do it. Whether it’s a mechanical heart or a donated heart you should give it to a patient who can live longer than me. I don’t think I should be greedy anymore.” Apa asks, “Hey, daughter. How could you say that to your parents?” “I cut in line to get someone else’s heart so I’ve lived five more years for free. I’m okay because I’ve lived happily.”
They must see that this poor woman who has been through this before knows how hard it will be after the operation. Recovery, rehab, healing require a strong will and relatively strong body outside of the failing organ. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to live, but she is plum tuckered out. Dong-ha opens the last happy pill she wrote. “This is the springtime of my life because I’m with you who I love dearly.” The husband smiles, seeming to understand her desire, and, as usual, wants what she wants, even though it hurts him.
He asks what she told Soo-jung at the rock. “I said thank you to her. If I didn’t have her heart, I’d blame the world and would have died five years ago wishing it weren’t me. If that had happened we never would have met and we couldn’t love each other like we do now. We wouldn’t be as loved or as happy as we are now.
Also, in the time that I have left, I asked her if she wanted me to do anything for her.”
Dong-ha reminds her of all the good she has done in a short period of time. “You’ve done it all, Bom-yi. If I hadn’t met you, I couldn’t have made up with Dong-wook. Poo-reun and Ba-da wouldn’t have such happy memories and my mother would still be avoiding her grandchildren. And I would still be drinking every day and having nightmares every night. I probably never would have been able to love someone again.”
Bom-yi’s sends a gift to Soo-jung’s mother.
The purple mittens with a note written from Soo-jung: “Mom. Happy birthday. Your hands are always chapped so I wanted to make this for you. Thank you for giving birth to me and raising me. Be healthy, mom. I love you.” OK that was just NOT FAIR, Show!
Dong-ha talks to his dead wife’s photo. “You can’t last any longer? Her time is up now?”
Getting up, searching for her slippers, Bom-yi finds Dong-ha has tied her shoes to his as we now realize she did her first return to his house on Udo.
Poo-reun finds Dad at home, which prompts her to ask him if he has given up on Unni. Dong-ha replies, “I haven’t given up, but I think I should let her go.”
Poo-reun figures out that Bom-yi is dying and wants to say good-bye. She has something to tell her.
Oma wipes Bom-yi’s hands and feet.
Bom-yi asks again that Dad does not take the chance and do the operation. The daughter asks her mother, if she has any love after she dies, should she give it to Poo-reun and Ba-da? Mom sobs.
Poo-reun goes in and sits with Bom-yi on her bed. Dad watches from the door. Tearfully, Poo-reun tells her, “I’m glad a have a chance to say goodbye to you because I couldn’t say goodbye to my mother. Don’t worry. Don’t worry about me and Ba-da. We’re okay.”
“I’m sorry,” Bom-yi says. Poo-reun shakes her head, “We’re just going back to where we were except, it’ll be very different from the time before I met you.” Poo-reun turns to look at the portraits on the wall, “I was really happy to meet you, Unni.”
“Me too,” Bom-yi says. Poo-reun promises that she’ll explain everything to Ba-da later. “You told me that you’d be in my heart even if I can’t see you.” Bom-yi hands Poo-reun back the bottle of happy pills.
The young girl wants to return the heart necklace, but Bom-yi tells her to keep it and all the luck it has. Poo-reun and I cry. Bom-yi comforts her by patting her back.
Bom-yi wakes up and sees Dong-ha there. She requests that he hold her while she tells him about her dream on Jeju. While she and Poo-reun picked tangerines, Ba-da played nearby. Dong-ha showed up bragging about the two fish he caught that day. “I’m busy because I have to be both a shepherd and a fisherman,” he teases.
“Thank you for being with me,” she says, so weary, tears falling. “I want to thank you, too, for being with me.” Dong-ha says. “Sleep some more. I’ll stay with you.” He pats her arm, staring at nothing.
Apa scrubs up for a surgery.
Dong-ha accompanies Bom-yi to the main operating room. Looking at each other, Dong-ha takes her hand, and she reminds him that they said goodbye in advance. They tell each other, “Thank you,” “I love you,” and “Good-bye.” Dong-ha keeps his eyes on her as she gets rolled in behind the several sets of sliding doors.
The last one obscures his face.
We hear his voice over, “At the moment she left me she looked happy. It was as if she knew she’d provide a miraculous spring day for someone else.”
Inside the operating room, Soo-jung joins hands with Bom-yi, who turns and takes the next person’s hand in the chain. She smiles.
Dong-ha stands alone hearing Bom-yi’s voice, “This was the springtime of my life because I was with you who I love dearly.” His face seems to be at peace.
To clarify the end for anyone who was wondering if they wheeled a living person into the operating room for organ donation – no, they didn’t. The peaceful goodbye took place at her bedside. Cinematically, it was more symbolic for her pass into the next life – as symbolized by the doors – with Dong-ha watching. A grieving husband, yes, but much calmer than when he had lost his first wife. Despite her poor health, Bom-yi could have donated several organs, including corneas, which is why I think one of the final shots of the blind woman with her son. That is what the surgery her father was scrubbing up for.
I sobbed so much over these last two episodes, I know my family worried about me. At first I was angry that the writers didn’t give me the ending I wanted – that I needed. Pissed off that they went with the idealist vision that a life lived well can’t be too short. But, really, nothing should have been a surprise. Bom-yi’s heart didn’t suddenly wear out. She was dying before we met her, before she met Dong-ha and fell in love. Soo-jung’s literal push for Bom-yi, up towards the wonderful man she had loved, came at a perfect time.
While Bom-yi was vibrant and adorable and as irresistible as she joked and still had the fight in her to win the battle for Dong-ha.
In order to explain why the writers decided to take the story in the direction it went, I want to address a fundamental difference between the Asian and Western views of death. After I read the linked study, I watched Episode 16 again with a completely different perspective. In my own words, the Western culture regards death as a hard wall in front of them at all times. It is imminent, dreaded and the longer we live, the larger it looms in our psyche. Mentally, we dig in our heels facing this finish line, doing everything in our power not to be dragged over it against our will. The belief in an after life comforts or dismays depending on whether a person expects a reward or a punishment behind that divide. The Asian perspective is literally a 180° change. Death is an acknowledged part of life, but the individual turns her back on it, choosing to focus on being alive. She doesn’t ignore it, but respects it. Knowing time is limited enhances her experiences. In terms of supply and demand: what is rare becomes more valued. Living a good life becomes the reward itself and earns her the added benefit of a peaceful death, without regrets, without unfinished business between family and friends. Comparing Soo-jung’s sudden and horrifying departure from this world, Bom-yi was indeed fortunate to have time to say good-bye.
That I could view mortality as a gift is an idea that has never occurred to me. I know learning this has profoundly changed my outlook. I haven’t ever been one to wish time away, but I know I will be even more mindful of treasuring all my interactions with friends and family because of this show.
Do I still think the writers could have pulled a miracle and saved her somehow with a fancy treatment nobody discussed before? No, I don’t. Two reasons, Bom-yi’s last five years of life were the miracle Dong-ha talked about in the opening narration. The sudden appearance of a heart back then was unexpected. Secondly, her survival guilt of cutting the line weighed on her too heavily on her to repeat it. She truly believed it was someone else’s turn, as she had been so blessed up to that point. The greed that Dong-ha mentioned was something she wanted to avoid, too. Dong-ha’s view on things could never be as positive as Bom-yi’s, since he was the one left behind again. But I do think this experience – as painful as it was – has a much happier long-term outlook than losing Soo-jung. I was thrilled at the CPR scene where Dong-ha looked his little brother in the eye and forgave him for not saving Soo-jung all those years ago. There will be a wound, of course, but the peace and love of Bom-yi’s passing will serve to heal it. My hope is somehow a new woman arrives in his life that he can truly love. I volunteer to be that woman.
Dong-ha will remain one of my favorite male leads, Bom-yi one of my favorite female leads, but it is Poo-reun, that I will never forget as the little girl who stole my heart within minutes of meeting her. I think that a drama around her would be awesome. A story told from her perspective – similar to the Amelia’s Notebook series – as she grows up and experiences the confusing life before her. Of course, that means we would get to see Dong-ha from time to time, and that would be fine, too.
Going into this drama, I had zero expectations. The beautiful, humorous love story caught me by surprise. The warmth of Dong-ha and Bom-yi’s seemingly impossibly love, surpassed all my hopes. I have one small quibble, and that is the lack of passion between them after they became a couple. The attraction that was there from the beginning was ignored completely.
I feel it emasculated Dong-ha towards the end, making him saint-like. I prefer him to have stayed a real man. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t seen the BTS of how comfortable the actors were together. While marital relations between them were medically impossible because the patient would have to be capable of “a brisk walk around the block” to take part, a kiss, a real kiss could have happened. Let SK lose their minds over the age difference for once. Take a chance, network execs! Secret Love Affair did.
Thank you to Koala for giving me this forum to babble. To all the readers who loved this drama as much as me, thank you-jo! I will always treasure the time we spent together drooling over admiring Kam Woo-sung, and I look forward to the future drama where we can do so again. Hopefully sooner than later. XOXO ♥♥♥