It was the middle of September in Pusan, South Korea. Officer Pak, who had just started his career in the small precinct earlier this year, was feeling weary after lunch. As he was about to nod off, his boss, Officer Kim received a call about a strange old lady who’d been seen wandering around the same neighbourhood for over an hour.
It was time for action. Getting into the patrol car, Pak thought she might just be lost, a common enough problem that could be solved quickly.
When he arrived at the site, he found an old lady holding two bundles. She could not answer any of the questions asked by the officer and his partner: who she was, where she lived, or where she wanted to go. She simply kept repeating that her daughter had given birth to a baby in a hospital, but she could not remember her daughter’s name either. Every time that she was asked a question she could not answer, she just pressed her bundles closer to her chest. Soon, Pak realised that the old lady suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. It was a much more complicated situation than he had expected.
Unable to get any reliable information from the now distraught woman, Officer Pak began looking for clues that might help him find out who she could be. At that moment, something caught his eye. She was wearing a pair of slippers. That suggested to him that she might not live so far away. Pak took a photo of her with his mobile and inquired of passers-by if they knew her.
Hoping for some good news, he tried to lead her to his precinct so she could sit and put down the bundles, as they seemed quite heavy. “No!” she refused so firmly that he was quite surprised. Seeing that his efforts only made her more anxious, he let her hold on to the packages that seemed so precious and so important to her.
Several hours later, they finally found someone who could help to identify her. Officer Pak finally knew the woman’s name and address, and even the name of the hospital where her daughter had given birth.
After almost six hours, the two officers took the old lady to the hospital to see her daughter and grandchild. As soon as she saw them both, the old lady breathed a huge sigh of relief and immediately began to open her bundles. The contents moved even the police officers to tears. Inside the bundles, surprisingly, was some stone-cold seaweed soup, cooked vegetables and rice. In Korea, hot seaweed soup is traditionally fed to mothers after giving birth, because the seaweed is a great source of calcium.
Officer Pak was so moved. This woman, who could not remember her own name, had held on to this memory: she had to feed her daughter this seaweed soup. “Eat this soup, sweetie,” she said lovingly. Her daughter began to cry as she allowed her mother to feed her and take care of her.