Dear Master Lee,

Although we have not stopped by the dojong for awhile, I am moved by my son’s recent trip home from college for the winter break to write you a note. There’s nothing like a son’s departure from the nest to prompt reflections on how he became the person he has become.

In our case, my husband and I were tremendously fortunate to have stumbled upon you and Hwa Rang Do when both of our children were very young. In my work as a criminal prosecutor and my husband’s work for over three decades as a police officer, we are constantly reminded of the importance to instill in our children a strong moral foundation, impeccable values, and a solid sense of self and duty to others. Your help in Drew and Michelle’s formative years will always be a huge part of their beings. Not only were you there for them as children, you were (as you’ll recall!) there for me as their mother. For this, I will never be able to thank you enough.

So who have we become in the years since we completed our sojourn with you? (I hesitate to say “completed” because we always have dreams of coming back!) John and Mary, as teenagers, are more grounded, well-adjusted, and confident in the loving people they are than most adults…by far. When John was home for Christmas, he had some rather bad New York air/teenager acne problems. I told him I was sorry that I hadn’t gotten him to a dermatologist earlier in his life, as I should have. His immediate response was “Mom, it’s ok. I really don’t mind; it gives me character! I want people to respond to me because of who I am, not what’s on my face.” And then he allowed me to hug him. He, to this day, treasures his time with you and all that you gave him in your almost daily life lessons. He is most proud, in all of his many accomplishments, to have had you as his teacher. He remains a star athlete with his Hwa Rang Do base, he is my peaceful warrior, and I get teary just thinking about the wonderful person he has become. Thank you for your role in that.

Mary will one day change the world, or at least she will die trying. She too speaks of you often, even though she was not as involved in Hwa Rang Do as her big brother was. She loved your hugs and the passion you so clearly live with. She felt always your concern and caring for your students. She now lives a passionate life based on helping and caring for others. She listened and looked up to you as a father, even though she had and has a wonderful relationship with her own father. She is my quiet but very present warrior, and I get teary just thinking about the wonderful person she has become. Thank you for your role in that.

And then there’s me. I doubt that I was your first (or last) uncoordinated warrior but I was, at the very least, wanting to be there every step of the way. Our time together boosted me to levels, psychologically and physically, that I otherwise would never have gotten to. Remember when I climbed Mt. Whitney while I was your student? I’m glad I did, but I must say that the pride I was given in my accomplishments with you rises as high as any mountain that could challenge me. I am my family’s stumbling warrior, and I know that, even though they probably don’t get teary, they are proud of who I have become. The time that we all spent together with you was simply pivotal in our lives.

We will always be close to you in spirit if not proximity. We will always have you in our hearts. And we are ever so thankful for your guidance on our path.

My everlasting warm thoughts to you and your family,

A Mother and Student,