49 Days… My eyes have cried
This year has been blessed with a good batch of dramas, writers have their thinking caps on and have come up with new stories to tell us. The most recent of these is 49 Days. I know, everybody is still reeling from the rollercoaster ride that it has taken our feelings on, however it was done wonderfully well.
First to understand some of the beliefs behind this story I researched about Buddhism and their beliefs on death. Oh I had a vague idea of it but now I can see why this story went the way it did. There are many deviations from the traditional views but overall it kept true to it’s spirit.
The Background: Really short version
49 days may sound like a random number to us but to Buddhists it is the time that the soul needs to move on and be reborn. During this time the soul/consciousness is led through the necessary changes by a soul mother (lama), a soul that has achieved a greater enlightenment than the recently dead. That’s the role that the “Scheduler” plays in the drama.
The soul mother is the guide that will protect the spirit during this period of 49 days until the soul finally is able to be reborn. The soul mother helps the dead person leave behind their greed and realize that they cannot take anything with them to their next life but their own soul.
But the dead soul isn’t the only one that has to let go during these 49 painful days. The people left behind have to cleanse themselves of regret, longing, guilt or anger because it will only cause problems for the soul in transition, it could make them a wandering soul unable to leave and be reborn. This doesn’t mean that grief has to be suppressed , or that it should be over and done with in just a few days, but it can be done openly and with time and support of the community/family/friends the grievers can move on with their own lives while sending the soul on it’s journey to the next life with blessings and love.
The drama 49 days has an overall bittersweet, poignant kind of feel to it in it’s light soft slightly faded colors, it makes it seem that even though we might regret leaving and being left behind, death isn’t as horrible as it seems , even if we leave it before we are completely ready. It reminds us that we should seize the day, Carpe Diem!
When the drama started our main characters were so different from each other.
Ji Hyun the nice, naïve girl that’s getting married
Minho the conniving boyfriend,
In Jung the backstabbing best friend,
Han Kang the hurt little boy in an adult’s body,
Yi Kyung a person who can’t see the world because her light left her
and Scheduler, a soul who has a greater though cynical understanding of the world
So the questions we are presented are: How can all these different people ever be related to each other? What bonds are there between them?
Everything starts when Yi Kyung decides that she wants to die and walks into the highway. This sets a chain reaction that ends up causing a crash that kills Ji Hyun. Ji Hyun had at the moment of the accident been distracted while trying to call her best friend who she saw riding in her fiancée’s car.
After the accident life doesn’t go back to the way it was for all these characters, but you begin to see from the start the true personality of each one of them. Min Ho has not cried at all, and appears more rattled than sad, as if this occurance has messed with his plans. In Jung looks troubled and can hardly bear to look at Ji Hyun. Her parents are devastated. And Han Kang turns out to be the person who’s loved Ji hyun secretly from far away and is the one most dedicated to her after the crash, bringing her fresh flowers every day to her hospital room.
When Ji Hyun dies she meets the Scheduler, who informs her about her opportunity to go back to her life after gathering three pure sincere tears from members outside her family. Ji Hyun at that time says not: that many? Instead she asks: ONLY three? The her at that time believes her life to be filled with friends who have loved her just as wholeheartedly as she has loved them, surely they can shed a few tears for her. To accomplish this she will inhabit someone’s body. There are rules though
1) She can only use the body for a designated time,
2) She can not harm the body,
3) She cannot tell anyone that she is Ji Hyun ( though there is a loophole where it’s alright if the person finds out by his/herself).
Soon she finds out that her perfect life wasn’t so perfect after all as everything she lived with her fiancee was a plot masterminded by her best friend In Jung. It’s heartbreaking to see her world crash around her and even the Scheduler who must be impartial and guide her can’t help but be touched. As she unravels the plot that has been prepared around her family for more than two years she finds herself losing confidence in ever getting three tears and getting to live once again. As she fights for her life she finds out that her father is losing his due to his stubborness of not wanting to go into surgery for the brain tumor he’s been diagnosed with. He doesn’t want to waste the time he could be sitting by Ji Hyun’s side asking her to fight for her life. It’s sad and it’s really touching that because of this the usually “weak” mother’s strength is shown. As a wife and mother, she asks that he take care of himself first and that SHE will take care of Ji Hyun for the rest of her life if something should happen to him.
At this point, when everything seemed too painful, because nobody seemed to miss her or even love her except for her family and her father could lose his life because he’s waiting for her to come out of her coma or move on to the next life, Ji Hyun decides that as she doesn’t even have one tear she should just give up and instead talk to her dad and lay out all the backstabbery things that have been occurring and help him save the company from ruin and ask him to take care of himself.
However as she’s going she does end up receiving a tear- it was Han Kang who had finally realized that the Song Yi Kyung that had come asking him to hire her for 48 days was actually Ji Hyun’s spirit , and that she had said goodbye forever when she quit Heaven (his restaurant- the name was so fitting).
After receiving Han Kang’s tear (she doesn’t know at first whose it is ) she is touched and grateful that someone loved her after all, perhaps she hadn’t been such a lonely useless person in life after all. She grows a backbone and decides that she can’t let herself die after all and she must fight it out till the end.
As the days go by Yi Kyung (the body Ji Hyun is possessing) begins to realize that there is a spirit occupying her body during the day, at first she freaks and thinks she’s losing her mind, even going as far as to see a psychiatrist to figure out if she’s gone crazy finally after years of being a living dead person. But they can’t find anything, besides the possibility that 1) she’s possessed (lol this one was actually the doctor’s first theory… what a doctor) 2) she has a multiple personality disorder or 3) she sleep walks.
We also find out that the reason for Song Yi Kyung’s attempt to kill herself and why she was alone and a living zombie was because the one person who she thought loved her and wanted her, Song Yi Soo died five years before during a period in their life that was turbulent to say the least. They were both young and insecure but really did love each other.
Ji Hyun finds out that Yi Soo is none other than her punk Scheduler. When the Scheduler finally realizes what it was that he’d forgotten for five years he realizes that the reason that he had become a scheduler was rooted in his feelings for Song Yi Kyung and his wish to spend a day with her once again before he leaves and is reborn.
Time flies as Ji Hyun is discovered and almost abandoned by Yi Kyung, who comes back as she realizes that perhaps she should help because she felt touched that a dead person could still hold so tightly to life while she just wanted to discard it. Yi Soo’s time as Scheduler is also ending and he’s begun training his replacement and he receives a last list of the last souls he will lead to the elevator to their next life.
Soon it’s the last of the 49 days and Ji Hyun’s father’s business is saved by Han Kang and Ji Hyun in turn has helped him resolve some of his angst concerning his mother. However nobody but she knows what it is that she needs to return to her body since even though they know about her they can’t be permitted to help. So in the end, she’s still missing two tears so she asks the Scheduler to just call the elevator that will take her to her next life because she doesn’t want to languish feeling dread of the moment of her death.
At the last moment people begin to think about Ji Hyun and the love they have received from her and the love they haven’t always shown her and cry the two pure tears that she needs to live. When asked if she wants to know who cried for her, she shakes her head because she feels that if she knew then she’d only love those three and harden her heart against everyone else.
After Ji Hyun leaves and awakens in her hospital room, apparently having forgotten all about her 49 days, Yi Soo goes to see Yi Kyung and follows her around all the while wishing that he could finally meet her and say what he wished for. He does get to see her and his Scheduler sunbae warns him that Yi Kyung and Ji Hyun are actually very much entwined in this and possibly their next life. He doesn’t understand so he doesn’t pay much attention as he’s happy because he can finally talk to Yi Kyung after five years.
The date that Yi Kyung and Yi Soo have is heartbreaking because they do all the things that he couldn’t do with her because of his death: wear the engagement rings he’d bought for his proposal, go to the amusement park, eat together, sleep in bed next to each other and basically just breathe the same air in the same dimension together. On the second day of their date, he finally tells her that she’d been mistaken, he hadn’t come to take her with him but instead to implore her to live happily for him, so that he won’t stay stuck as a hungry messed up ghost and can instead move on to the next life without worries for her.
The thing that he’d wanted to clear up was that she was his most precious person while he lived, and he’d loved her enough to want her to be happy even if it was with someone else. I loved the line where he basically said that dying was dying and there was no romance in dying together, because in death everybody leaves alone to move on to the next life. Even if she died because she wanted to be with him, she wouldn’t, because they would exist in different planes, in their own deaths.
I cried so much but I was happy because he was asking her to live and stop trying to kill herself because she would cause him pain by seeing her like that and it would be for naught since they still would never be as they were while they both lived. Throwing the engagement rings into the Han Kang river he tells her that from that moment on they would need to go their separate ways and down their separate paths.
As Yi Kyung processes everything that’s happened, she finds that she unconsciously ends up in front of Ji Hyun’s hospital room. She remembers that Ji Hyun shouldn’t be able to recall anything she turns around. As she starts to leave a voice calls out ” Unnie!” It’s Ji Hyun who hasn’t really forgotten anything, but has been carrying a sad secret for the past few days.
Ji Hyun was going to die soon, it was her appointed time, the time that had been fated to her since her birth. Though Yi Soo and her had felt the unfairness of it when he’d had to inform her shortly after her awakening, they both understood that there was no one or nothing to be angry at and that it was better to know and think of it as a blessing, giving her the ability to give closure to those around her and say her goodbyes.
While she tells this to Yi Kyung they both have tears in their eyes and yet it is Ji Hyun who’s the more resigned and prepared for this while the person who’d wanted to die can’t accept the fact that Ji Hyun is accepting her impending death so serenely. She asks Yi Kyung to not tell Kangie because she doesn’t want him to suffer like Yi Kyung had suffered, instead she’ll take him out to eat a picnic lunch and hear music and just relax together. The date she’d never had before in her lifetime, a sweet time of togetherness, it would be her goodbye to him, the goodbye she’d promised him before.
Yi Kyung felt that it would be unfair for Han Kang not to know and she goes to tell him that Ji hyun will die and that she doesn’t want him to know because she wants to spare his feelings and wants him to be able to move on without lingering so long on the could have beens of a relationship with her.
Han Kang obeys Ji Hyun’s wishes and pretends that he doesn’t know and when she asks that he be her boyfriend for a day he laughs and says only if she’ll be his girlfriend for a day. And so the day passes and she returns to the hospital where she tells both her parents how happy she is to have been born to them. She turns around and she falls down and her soul leaves her body. Yi Soo is already waiting for her with his hand outstretched. She takes it and though she feels sad seeing her father crying with her lifeless body in his arms, she can do nothing but move on, at least now she’d given them some way to find closure.
Before she enters the elevator Yi Soo tells her that her final tear had come for In Jung, she’s happy because she’d known that behind that jealousy and bitterness In Jung had truly cared for her and been her friend. That leaves us with a question though: Yi Kyung also cried so why wasn’t her tear taken into account? That’s where the second twist of the drama comes to play.
Are you ready for it?
Yi Kyung is Ji Hyun’s actual blood related Unnie. The unnie that had been kidnapped when they were just toddlers. Ji Hyun hadn’t remembered because she was two at the time and as she grew up her parents didn’t talk about it because it had traumatized her and had hurt them too much.
This twist however wasn’t something pulled out of a hat though- it’s execution was deus ex machina, but it had been hinted at and layed out from the beginning: Ji hyun’s mother’s comment of how God wouldn’t take away her “last remaining child”, and Yi Kyung and Ji Hyun’s mother inability to process ox-tail soup. This is resolved and Yi Soo is surprised as well as he’d never expected that though in retrospect his Scheduler Sunbae had hinted at Ji Hyun’s and Yi Kyung’s deeper connection.
So we leap two years into the future after this. Everybody is paired off mostly, and In Jung continues to visit Min Ho in jail who is now completely and truly repentant on the pain he’s caused Ji Hyun and her family and asks her to move on and not look back at him since he was the one that went through with the plan. Yi Kyung and Han Kang are friends and aren’t really love interests, just friends that share the same kind of pain of having lost their most precious people.
And that my folks is the end!
And so after saying all that I can say I understand why it went a certain way with the storyline and why I am satisfied with it, however even if I am satisfied my heart keeps breaking as I watch and rewatch the last few episodes.
- 49 Days (vivianbee.wordpress.com)