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Charlotte man honors his wife with 100 love notes on the anniversary of her death

A year ago Hyong U Yi’s wife Catherine Zanga died after battling cancer. On Friday, Nov.20, 2015 Yi and their two children Anna, 10 and Alex, 7, handed out love notes in her honor to passersby on Tryon Street.
A year ago Hyong U Yi’s wife Catherine Zanga died after battling cancer. On Friday, Nov.20, 2015 Yi and their two children Anna, 10 and Alex, 7, handed out love notes in her honor to passersby on Tryon Street. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

If it were up to him, the grief would have kept Hyong Yi in bed for a year. Last November, Catherine Zanga, his wife of 15 years, died of ovarian cancer.

Yi faced two options as the anniversary of her death grew closer: Yield to the pain, or do something about it.

He chose to write.

The result was 100 distinct love notes that honor his wife, a former prosecutor and police attorney.

On Friday, Yi, a Charlotte assistant city manager, walked through uptown handing out the notes, which he said contained “the story of love and life we had.”

Yi was accompanied by his two children, Alex, 7, and Anna, 10, a self-proclaimed extrovert who handed out the last batch of notes in front of St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Her mother is buried there.

“My hope is that as we share these love notes with random people on the sidewalk, that they’ll take a moment to reflect on the love in their life,” Yi said. “What I wouldn’t give to have one more minute – even a minute – to talk, to hold hands. I want people to take a minute to reflect on that and share a note with somebody they love.”

Beloved, follow me to the top of the mountain. Hold my hand; I’m afraid of falling. Don’t let me go.

One of Hyong Yi’s 100 love notes

The notes, written as if Yi and his wife were having a conversation, give insight into how their love blossomed.

One note reads: “Beloved, follow me to the top of the mountain. Hold my hand; I’m afraid of falling. Don’t let me go.”

Another reads: “We ate strange foods together and watched an even stranger Russian play. Would it be weird to kiss you now?”

And this: “I don’t need a test to tell me who to love. I believe in you and me. I do until death do us part.”

By Friday, Yi’s idea had already taken on a life of its own. Friends helped him build a web site. The effort was hailed on social media and by Friday, “#100lovenotes” was trending on Twitter.

(View the love notes at www.100lovenotes.com.)

On the street, some people who received the notes Friday morning shed tears. Some shared hugs. Annette Potts reflected.

“We need more . . . unconditional love,” she said after reading the note. “She must have had a heart full of love,” Potts said about Catherine Yi.

The power of #100lovenotes

Jonathan McFadden: 704-358-6045, @JmcfaddenObsGov

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