When You Mourn, I Mourn Too

Everything was pink.

Pink roses highlighted a heart shaped bouquet. Pink suit, the last outfit she’d wear. Pink ribbons pinned to suit pockets, to remember her battle with cancer.

We sat in silence, our hearts heavy.

Her husband cleared his throat, then spoke in Khmer. “When I first met my wife, I saw her disabled leg. I knew she felt embarrassed by it, but I looked at her, thinking, ‘her…that’s her, that’s my soon to be wife.’ Although her leg was disabled, her heart was not. Her heart was beautiful…”

During the war, all I remember was running away from the guns,” my friend sobbed. “I was told the story by my family member that I was only 2 yrs old and my sister was 12 yrs old.

The bullets were flying. Running away, she carried me on her one good leg.  After we got separated from our family, I was crying so hard because of hunger, my sister went to beg on the street for food. If it had not been for my older sister, I would not be here today.”

Hearing this story for the first time… it carved craters into my chest. I had no idea that my friend had these kinds of memories.  It was painful to hear. In the Cambodian community, the scars of genocide remain fresh; the wounds bleed easily at the slightest irritation.  War and trauma have been woven into our history; it has become apart of us. I wiped fresh grief onto my sleeve.

Although the Khmer Rouge tried to kill, they did not conquer.

Her courage and her love for God carried her through forced labor camps, refugee camps, and resettlement in the United States where she led a new life, a new job, a new family. She was always serving others, as a loving sister, wife, mother, and grandmother.

“My mom, she was the kind of mom that if she only had $5 left, she would give everything she had left to her kids…”

I did not have the privilege of knowing my friend’s sister, but hearing her family’s testimonies, I felt like I knew her.

When you mourn, I mourn too.

~ ~ ~

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that
this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.

Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving
for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

 – 2 corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18



5 thoughts on “When You Mourn, I Mourn Too

  1. Heartbreaking – and well written, thanks for sharing. My husband and I are returning to Cambodia next weekend, this time to Phnom Penh. During our visit to Siem Reap (and Angkor Wat, of course) a couple years ago, we were so touched by the people and culture there. Our guide was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. He had witnessed the slaying of his own father but while devastated by that experience and its consequences, he chose to focus on the future and use his money (even selling his own house) to fund clean water fountains and a local school for ~200 young students. Truly inspiring. Something about Cambodia is just overwhelmingly touching. Such a horrible past, and still so many current struggles, but there is so much hope and, hopefully, promise.

    • ohh, you’re going to Phnom Penh? that’s awesome. I have a few suggestions, if you like, i’ll email you. =)

      you’re guide sounds like an amazing person. clean water fountains are rare and schools that are accessible and resourced in small villages are rare too… that’s awesome that he took the initiative to start these endeavors.

      it is so easy to feel overwhelmed/burdened by such a tragic past, but you are right.. there is hope and promise.

      • There’s so much inspiration and warmth there, from my experience. I know they face many ongoing issues, but there seems to be quite a bit of strength and perseverance, likely at least partly informed by its tragic history.

        As for visiting Phnom Penh – I’m always open to suggestions, thanks! I know most people don’t go out of their way to visit Phnom Penh, usually more of a stopover to Siem Reap. But I’ve read that it’s really developing nicely as a small city on its own, with a burgeoning arts/boutique/dining scene. Looking forward to it!

  2. Very sobering. And we, who haven’t tasted the bitterness of war, cancer, or much of anything worth grieving over really – we somehow don’t seem to understand sometimes just how comfortable we are. And we complain and grumble. Hmmmmmm. Very sobering indeed. Thanks for sharing.

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