1928: Chang Moo Kim was born in Bukcheong, South Hamgyeong Province - a long contested small mountain region that’s part of North Korea, but claimed by the South even to this day. Life in this war-torn region has always been filled with tragedy and cruelty. At 19, Chang and one of his ten brothers were cast out of their village home and left to survive on their own.

Chang and his brother set out - the adventure begins

INT. FRIENDLY VALLEY RETIREMENT COMMUNITY - EVENING: 75 YEARS LATER

Siblings JOOHAE and JIN, their partners JANEL and BANJO, along with grandkids ANDREW and ELIZABETH and wife, mother and grandma AE IN (pronounced A-in) are gathered around the bed of CHANG (91) for a peaceful, end of life tribute.

It's been a lifetime since Chang struck out on his own, And now, here he was - comfortable in his own bed, surrounded by a room full of loved ones. This was not your typical family story or coming to America dream. Neither of his children (Joohae or Jin) went to college or had any musical ambitions, each has a white partner (Banjo and Janel) and the grandkids (Andrew and Elizabeth) are adopted Mexicans born to the same mother by different dads.

But yet here they all were - packed in a tiny back bedroom sharing stories, crying and singing hymns, while making best attempts to remain masked and socially distant during the height of the Caronavirus pandemic.

Around 1am, Joohae needs to say goodbye. She’s starting an important new project and has the big team introductory Zoom at nine. The moment she holds Chang's hand, kisses his forehead and says she loves him was as heartwarming as it was gutwrenching.

Chang’s threshold for pain was always next level. Well into his late eighties, he continued to take a train, then a bus from Santa Clarita to Downtown LA. One Sunday, on his way to church, he fell stepping off the bus and completely obliterated the bones in his shoulder. He immediately got up and continued on - sitting through the service, then socializing before taking the bus and train back home. Later that night, he casually mentioned he was experiencing some pain. When Jin stopped by, he immediately noticed a severe slump to his father's posture. On the way to the hospital, Jin asked why he didn't say anything after it happened. Chang explained that if Jesus could survive all that time on the cross, he should be able to sit through church for a few hours.

85 year old Chang's severely separated shoulder
85 year old Chang - pinned up and ready to go

INT. CHANG’S LIVING ROOM - A FEW DAYS LATER

Ae In sets up for lunch as Joohae and Banjo arrive with Chang’s favorite sandwich - the Primavera Wrap from California Chicken Cafe. Since forever, Chang’s appetite has always been the key to his speedy recovery. Unfortunately, this time the outcome has been predetermined. Five months ago, a stent was put into Chang’s stomach to help open up a blockage caused by the large mass of pancreatic cancer. The doctor said to expect it to last 4-6 months and that at 91 years of age, surgery was not an option. Everyone agrees not to mention the “C” word and oma never catches on. Which was a miracle since Joohae was not a very good actor.

  •      JOOHAE
  • Appa - (taps stomach) pain?
  •      CHANG
  • No-no. I good - I good.

EXT. FRIENDLY VALLEY GOLF COURSE - DAYS LATER

Standing outside, a masked Jin and Joohae discuss next steps with the HOME HOSPICE REPRESENTATIVE. Just two weeks ago, they had declined the services, but the time to call it like it was had arrived. Chang was not going to get better. And with Covid raging, the idea of going back to a no visitor hospital type situation was scary - especially since Chang didn't hear or understand English very well any more. And his wife or kids wouldn't be able to be with him. So the home hospice decision was made and the goal shifted to helping make his time left as comfortable as possible.

  •      JIN
  • How long does it take to...
  •      HOME HOSPICE REPRESENTATIVE
  • Could be two days, two weeks, two months - everyone has their own plan.

Chang's plan had been revised many times over the years. There was the time he was hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the 10 freeway. And the time, he miscalculated the off-ramp curve on the 60. And that horrific accident outside their own apartment complex. And it was always: "I good - I good."

Chang's injuries - a tale from head to toe

INT. KITCHEN - NEXT MORNING

In tears, Joohae pours soy milk into her coffee as she dials her mother on speakerphone.

  • BANJO
  • I put some spoons in the freezer last night. Should help tamp down those puffy eyes before you Zoom.
  • JOOHAE
  • Thanks babe.

Joohae's mom answers.

  • JOOHAE
  • (into phone) Hi oma.
  • OMA
  • (upbeat - through speaker) Hallo.

Joohae and Banjo are look at each other like wtf.

  • JOOHAE
  • (into phone) Okay - annyeong (goodbye).

Joohae hangs up.

  • BANJO
  • What's going on?

But Oma didn't have time to talk, Chang was at the breakfast table reading his Korean newspaper with the magnifying glass and complaining about being hungry - just like always.

  • JOOHAE
  • She says she doesn't have time to talk - she has to make breakfast, Chang's at the breakfast table reading the Korean newspaper with the magnifying glass complaining about being starving.

Just like always.

  • BANJO
  • Damn - dad won't die.

“Dad Won't Die”
A ride of the lifetime

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