It is always shocking when a KAD commits suicide, and we feel the loss keenly. When that person had been deported because of shameful policies that continue to exist in the US – as befell Phillip – it feels like a knife in our back. All that might be beautiful about adoption is rendered ugly in that light, and the words family, country, and belonging reduced to empty marketing slogans.
Even in death, our identity is taken from us. Phillip did not practice Christianity, but he was given a Christian ceremony. His primary language was English, but he was given a Korean-language ceremony with only a grudgingly-provided, poorly-executed English transcript. I do not know if he went by his Korean name, but surely after so many years in the US, his English name was comfortable to him — yet it does not appear anywhere on his display. Ironically, his Korean name was stripped from him after birth, and then his English name stripped from him in death. Yet another reminder to adoptees that everything we have was given to us by chance, and can be taken away just as whimsically at any time.
Sadly, the lasting memory of his death may be the controversy around his ceremony, and not even the things mentioned above. It was the front page article on that day’s Korea Times.
Let’s hope his legacy instead brings about greater understanding and change in areas such as adoptee legal issues, post adoptive services, and mental health. Rest in peace, Phillip Clay.