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Remembering Debbie Peachy
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승인 2012.07.09  11:09:45
페이스북 트위터

I have always considered Jeju to be a special place. It has so much natural beauty and charm to offer. But perhaps the one thing that always draws me back to Jeju is the people who choose to call it home. Whether they stay one year or for the long haul, Jeju has a way of attracting such splendid spirits to its shores. Debbie Peachy was no different.

I first met Debbie as her co-worker at Jeff’s Academy in Jeju City. I was still somewhat new myself, nearing the last quarter of my first contract in Jeju. I was immediately drawn in by her friendliness, charm, and fun-loving attitude and we quickly became good friends. She was there with me the first time we visited Udo Island. She was there with me when we enjoyed our first Fire Festival together. She was there for my first New Year’s Eve on Jeju. Whether we were exploring the island, learning about the culture, or just having a relaxing night out on the town, Debbie was there, brightening the room with her smile.

▲ Debbie Peachy and fiance Rob Thomas at a 2011 Christmas dinner in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Photo courtesy Sachin Mahajan
Debbie had many talents. She was a regular performer at La Vie’s Wednesday night jam sessions and numerous open mic events. Her voice could draw you in just like her lively personality. She was athletic, intelligent, and great to work with. Like her surname would suggest, things were always peachy when Debbie was around.

Like many people who come to Jeju, Debbie also found the love of her life here. It wasn’t long before her and Rob Thomas were inseparable. When they both decided to move to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in 2009, I was sad to see them go but also excited to have a new place to visit nearby.

I finally made a trip there during Christmas 2011. Debbie and Rob had made a great life for themselves. They also had a small group of former Jeju residents in their circle of friends. It’s not surprising because, as many Jeju long-timers can attest, no matter where you go, a part of Jeju will always be with you.

I will be eternally grateful for that week last Christmas when I got to see Debbie happy, smiling, and joyful. She had just learned about her illness, but I was none the wiser that weekend. It was only after the holiday parties had passed that I learned about her condition. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer. When she and Rob told me they had news to share, I was hearing wedding bells in my head. This was the last thing I was expecting to hear.

When the initial shock had passed, I did what any friend would do; I tried my best to look at the positives. She was young and she would recover. She would beat the cancer because she was a fighter. She has a strong network of family and friends that would help her get through this.

During my visit, Debbie was admitted to the hospital to have surgery to remove the tumor from her colon. I spent the day before her surgery with her in the hospital. We wandered the courtyards and food court. We sat and talked in her room. We did our best to pass the time and keep our spirits up. When I said goodbye to her that evening, I never imagined it would be the last time we would meet.

When I returned to Jeju later that week, the first news I heard was that the surgery was a success and the tumor had been removed. She still had a long road ahead of her. That is why her friends and family all banded together to raise money for her long-term care. My contribution was to be a small charity darts tournament, which was held on July 7 at the Dart’s Bar in Jeju City, near City Hall. But in the time between the initial planning and the day of the event, my worst fears had come true. Debbie lost her battle with cancer on June 22. She was 28.

After a period of mourning and remembering all the good times we shared, my focus shifted to how best to celebrate her life. With the help of the Jeju community, we put on an excellent event and raised over 1 million won for Debbie’s family to help offset the costs of her medical bills and funeral expenses. It was a small contribution for me, as a close friend. But I am always left in awe by the generosity and compassion of the Jeju community. Over these past few weeks, so many people that never knew Debbie showed their support in some form.

Jeju is magical in that way; it doesn’t matter if you stay one year or 10, you will make friendships that last a life time. Debbie may be gone from this world, but her memory and the energy she brought to everything she touched will remain with us to keep us smiling on those otherwise gloomy days. That is what she always did best.

▲ From left, the author, Debbie Peachy, and Mona Hassanien at Iho Beach in the Fall of 2008. Photo courtesy Sachin Mahajan
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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