About: The Story


My mom was a difficult person to please, always keeping her approval just out of reach. In fact, her dying words to me were, “I don’t like the way you live.” Like many Korean parents, Mom’s retirement plan was to be taken care of by her family, so you’d think she would have tried harder to keep from alienating them. When her health started to decline, I was the only close family she had left, and I fell into the role of the reluctant caregiver. Hand in hand, we traversed the labyrinth of an unforgiving health care system where we learned how difficult it is for middle class Americans to retire with dignity, security, or a penny to their names. Providing end-of-life care for my “Tiger Mom” tested my career, my relationship, and my resolve. Our journey together was turbulent and profoundly transformative. It enlightened my understanding of aging and dying, and gave me the gift of empathy for a parent whose love for me was always conditional.


I wrote this story in the style of a classic, syndicated comic strip, with the goal of having them published as a book. The modular format allows me to boil a complex narrative down to bite-sized vignettes, turning a heavy topic into a page-turner. Spread across 241 comic strips (approx 140-150 pages, printed), this challenging subject is easy to read and easy to binge. I go into painstaking detail about every step of our journey, and identify the coping mechanisms that caregivers and the dying employ­­—consciously or otherwise—in a way that is relatable, authentic, and surprisingly humorous at times. Many of the obstacles we faced were beyond absurd, and in the face of absurdity laughter is often the best medicine.

Target Audiences

Families of aging parents

How Mom Died serves as a handbook for families going through this for the first time. I reveal the complexity of assisted living and in-home care in America, and the challenge of paying for it. How Mom Died joins the chorus of voices in the dying with dignity movement.

People from multi-cultural homes

The American approach to elder care differs vastly from from that of other cultures. That difference became very pronounced when Mom fell ill and needed help. Her expectations versus the realities of end-of-life care were a constant source of learning for us.

Children of abusive parents

The role-reversal of caring for an aging parent is hard enough, but when the relationship is strained, things can be exponentially challenging. In this story, I explore how suffering and epigenetic trauma can be halted by following a compassionate path.


How Mom Died is part of a growing genre known as Graphic Medicine and belongs on bookshelves next to titles such as Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? and Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies. Academics and therapists have used How Mom Died as an educational resource.

The Monomyth (modified)


How Mom Died is a linear narrative that maps quite well to the monomyth, or “Hero’s Journey,” popularized by Joseph Campbell. Most caregivers, in fact, will find themselves walking a similar path.

You can navigate to different phases of my journey by visiting the table of contents on this site, and clicking directly on the chapter names.