My uncle-in-law passed away, a few weeks ago, in Cambodia.
Divided by ocean, genocide, and culture, my family in Cambodia and my family in the States have led completely separate lives. It grieves me. With each death, pieces of our family history disappear, one by one.
I knew so little about him, my uncle-in-law. He was my eldest aunt’s husband. I met Dea (‘uncle’ in Chinese) during my first trip to Cambodia. At the time, he was elderly, but still walking. His cane looked home made, wood he probably cut himself. Nothing fancy, just a stick that helped anchor his unsteady gait, especially upon the uneven soil, watered by the Mekong. I’m not sure if Dea had a stroke in the past, or his residual weakness was a result of head trauma from Khmer Rouge torture.
Dea was probably buried here, beside my aunt. At my aunt’s tombstone, a white cloth banner was strung to a pole. When the wind blew, it soared like a kite and danced like chimes. According to R. Hall, banners “serve as a passport for the deceased for entrance to heaven, or function as reminders of the Buddha’s teachings.” While I do not share the beliefs of my Buddhist family (since I am a Christian), my uncle’s passing compels me to think about other things.
In this quiet place, the white banner waved, the tomb stone lay beneath, and the blazing orange sky dissipated into a hazy gray. My eyes search the horizon and indeed, beyond the rice fields, I was reminded…
God is bigger than the air I breathe
The world we’ll leave
God will save the day and all will say