Beyond the Rice Fields


My Aunt’s Burial Site

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
My glorious!


4 thoughts on “Beyond the Rice Fields

  1. It grieves me. With each death, pieces of our family history disappear, one by one.

    I’m sorry to hear your uncle passed away. I have this very same feeling, that I have to cling on desperately to my family history and tradition before it fades away. But at the same time, realize you are actually writing your family history too, with what you’re doing in the present.

  2. Wow. My family is so boring. All in the States. I can imagine how it would be difficult, though, to have your family separated by an ocean and… Cambodia is a rough place. I’ve been–once. I’m so sorry for your loss… I’m doing a terrible job of conveying it, but I feel like I “get it.” I love the lyrics at the end of this post. My thoughts are with you.

    • Really? I think every family is interesting, each with their own skeletons in the closet that you have yet to find…=) Besides, your family is from the best country in the world, where people have freedom of speech, social equality (for the most part, at least women get treated more fairly here than in the middle east/asia/africa), freedom of religion, etc. I’d consider yourself very blessed! My relatives would do anything to come here…

      I don’t reply to comments frequently but I read ever comment you’ve left Jess and they all mean a lot to me. =) thank you…

      • Awww… I am so sorry it’s taken me this long to respond to this. I read your response at a busy time and kept meaning to come back to it.

        It seems the grass is always greener on the other side. Yes, many people would love to come to the States, and we truly are blessed in many ways here. But, on the flip side, I see a nation falling to national debt and divided and distressed in so many ways. America is not going to be an “empire,” so to speak, for forever.

        You’re right, of course, every family has its stories and skeletons. I sincerely wish I knew more about my family’s past. I’m sure we came over from Europe at some point, but I have no idea from what part or how or when.

        I’m glad to know you. Your posts are all well-written, genuine, and thought-provoking. Thank you! 🙂

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