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“You have to say goodbye, to meet again.”: A review of Hi Bye, Mama

Gretchen Tsai reviews the K-drama that will make you consider the meanings of life in tears

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The main character – Cha Yu-ri, passed away in a car accident when she was pregnant five years ago. However, the love for her family and friends and uneasiness did not cease when she passed away. These unsolved emotions made her linger in the world for five years. Her greatest grief is that she had so much love to give but was unable to do so. During these five years, she had been by their side almost everyday. Among all these people, she cared about her daughter, Seo-woo, the most.

Yu-ri had been next to Seo-woo since the day she was born, even if this was the day that Yu-ri died. Overtime, this gave Seo-woo the ability to see ghosts. But when Yu-ri realised that this could put Seo-woo in danger, she yelled at the sky angrily, wishing she could be there for her daughter. Miraculously, she came back to life but was told that she would die again if she did not reclaim her role as Seo-woo’s mother. To do this, she had to be her husband’s, Kang-hwa’s, wife again; however, Kang-hwa had remarried in these five years.

Coming back to life is not purely a good thing for Yu-ri. She had seen how these people that she loved were in great pain when they processed her death. Now that time had washed away the grief and they finally started to feel better, Yu-ri did not want to disturb their lives again. Yet, everyone found out eventually. Unbelievable as it is, they were still happy to see Yu-ri alive again. Yu-ri’s best friend and her husband could not accept losing her again, and therefore, they wanted her to take her role back. However, Yu-ri hesitated, knowing how kind and caring Kang-hwa's new wife, Min-jung, was. Min-jung’s love saved Kang-hwa when he lived in the guilt of Yu-ri’s death, and she was the mother that Seo-woo needed. Although Yu-ri was relieved to see her loved ones living better lives, her heart ached when Seo-woo called another woman ‘mom’ in front of her.

The idea of selfishness and selflessness is explored throughout the show from different perspectives. If Yu-ri chose to stay – it would be selfish to change the settled situation; if she leaves again – that would be selfish to people who have loved her since they would get hurt again. In this dilemma, I couldn't help but wonder: what is the worst thing? Being overly selfless or slightly selfish?

Another prevalent theme of the drama was the regrets of life after death: “Why do we only regret things when we lost them?”

Yu-ri was not the only ghost to linger around this world. Ghosts hang around for different reasons. Every ghost’s story here is a tearjerker, but among them there were two that struck me the most.

The first is a girl, Hye-jin, who died at a young age. Tragically, Hye-jin experienced bullying from her work colleagues, leading her to take her own life. However, this injustice in the company remained even after she died. As a result, Hyejin’s mother protested outside of the company everyday since her daughter’s death, demanding justice. Heartbreakingly, the audience watch in pain as there is nothing Hye-jin could do except watch her mother standing outside in the cold weather everyday. She cried and begged her mother to stop but she couldn't hear her. In this moment, Hye-jin realises that the bullies did not matter at all. She would not have ended her life if she had thought about how much pain her death would bring her mother.

Another ghost to linger around was a father who wanted his daughter to be truly happy. Everyone thought her sadness was because he was not there to attend her wedding, “I can walk down the aisle alone, it’s fine,” she said. But what made her sad was that he had been working all of his life for his daughters, yet now he wasn’t there when he could finally enjoy and be proud of them.

The stories of these two ghosts convey the same message: life is unpredictable, cherish those people you care for as if it were their last day everyday. Hye-jin regretted ending her life because at that moment she only felt the hate from her colleagues but not the love that her mother had been giving her. It shows that people tend to take things or people for granted just because they are always there.

Receiving something everyday can sometimes make you forget to appreciate it. The daughter in the second story is a case which I believe many people can relate to. As we grow older, take on more responsibilities and become busier, finding a balance between living your life and spending time with family can be difficult. Indeed, parents would be happy to see their children succeed in life; however, simply spending time with them could bring them the greatest delight. From the two stories, an important message to take away is to remember to appreciate those little  things and people in life.

This is not only a story about a deceased mother coming back to life, but also about how people’s lives can be so intertwined. The stories were told from the perspectives of being a daughter, a mother, someone’s love of their life and best friends, which makes it fascinating. One second it is funny and the next second you find yourself trying to figure out the meanings of life. Apart from the part where you need plenty of tissues for the inevitable tears, I highly recommend this K-drama.

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