My wife came to this country from Cambodia in 1982. Most people reading this are clear on that, but I think what people may not be clear on is the amount of struggle and heartbreak it took her, her family, and many others to get here.
Phov recorded a podcast with Clay Neely and me, telling her story. She is very shy, and that was a huge thing for her to do. But she wants the story to be told. It needs to be told.
My happy place is people. Wherever good people are having a good time, that’s where I want to be. And I am very fortunate to spend many a day in many a different happy place. I have my family. I have my friends. I have the “mean street kitchen sink posse,” a group so titled because all we do is literally stand around a kitchen sink and laugh for hours at a time.
Then I have my in-laws.
“In-laws” might imply something less than family, but nothing could be further from the truth. They have been family for more than 20 years now. In fact, they treat everyone they meet as instant family.
They are people who would walk 2 miles to make sure someone they loved didn’t have to walk one. That’s their nature. When I talk about how selfless my wife is, it’s genetic. She got it honest.
My wife was fortunate enough to visit Cambodia a few years ago. It was her first time seeing her family over there since she fled to Thailand in 1980. Two of her sisters hired a driver to take them to the airport to pick her up.
It was a five-hour drive from their village to the airport. They picked her up, then made the five-hour trek back.
One of her sisters was carsick almost the entire time. Car rides are not something they are used to, and 10-hour car rides are even rarer. But they made sure they were there to pick my wife up.
When my wife left for the trip, she had the flu. Because of this, they made sure she didn’t lift a finger during her visit, even after she felt better. I remember my wife texting me that she felt guilty because they wouldn’t let her do anything. But that’s the way they are.
My wife’s older sister walked her around the countryside, showing her the places she hadn’t seen in nearly four decades.
One of the first pictures that got sent to me was a picture of my wife standing beside her sister, Phor Phorn.
On Thursday evening, just a few hours after my wife talked about her journey for the podcast, she got the news that her sister had passed away. Phor had had a rough couple of months and had spent them in a lot of pain.
She’s not in any pain anymore. That’s the only solace to take from it all.
I never met her – Phor never left Cambodia. But I knew her because she had the same heart as everyone in her family.
Loss is never easy. Loss from the other side of the world is unfathomable. And I am beyond thankful my wife had the chance to go see her sister and create memories that will help make the loss a little more bearable in the days to come.