Washington, D.C February 2020
Our memory is a funny thing. Sometimes they come crystal clear and others are fading remnants of dust.
February is such a special month. The shortest month but one that is full of love: A deeper love that can change the world if we open our hearts to it.February takes me back to a cozy home on the eastern outskirts of Vientiane. I remember my father planted roses on the left side of the house and my mother planted various other flowers, vegetables and fruits on the right. My siblings and I would run in the yard and sometimes trample on some of the flowers. I remember my mom scolding us and we would move to the front of the house and climb the champa tree - my favorite pastime!
It was early February and I woke up excited for my birthday. I leaped out of bed and ran to wake my father and mother up and found that both were missing. The smell of “mee mama” soon drew me into the kitchen where I found my mother preparing breakfast for us. I demanded to know where my father was with my present - this year, he promised me a book of paper dolls and I was so excited!
My mother told me that he would be home soon and coaxed me into eating my breakfast. After that, I rushed to the front patio and waited for what seemed like forever. As night fell, I gave up and cried myself to sleep.
The next morning, my father woke me up and gave me one of my favorite treats, kao-tom, and a book full of paper dolls before bidding me good-bye to go back to work. I didn’t say a word and didn’t play with the book nor utter a word to my father for a couple of days.
The end of February came and brought two guests to our home. An elderly woman and a young girl a few years older than myself who was walking with a cane. I remember so vividly as she was missing part of her leg. . .yet, she was smiling when she saw me. In her hand was a paper doll.
The woman asked if the doctor was home. I responded “no” and went to find my mother.
My mother chatted with the woman while I clinged to her legs, staring at the little girl. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. My young mind wandered, drowning out the conversation. What happened to her?
The little girl brought me out of my reverie by handing me her paper doll. I shyly took the doll and whispered, “kop jai”.
After they left, my mother hugged me and I saw tears in her eyes. It wasn’t until years later that I realized why.
The little girl was with her parents while they were farming their rice field when the father’s shovel struck an UXO killing him and his wife on impact. The little girl part of her right leg due to the explosion. Luckily, her life was saved and my father was one of two village doctors at the scene.
My father told me that this was one of the most difficult times in his career. He had to operate on the child immediately and the only thing that he could think of was that this could have been one of his own children.
To keep her mind off the pain, my father spoke to the child about paper dolls and how he just bought one for me for my birthday.
After she recovered and was able to walk, the little girl and her grandmother brought a bag of rice, a chicken, and a paper doll to our house as a thank you to my father. My father could have stayed in the heart of Vientiane and worked in the most prestigious hospitals earninging a comfortable living but he knew he was needed most in the rural areas where the problems of UXO and other dangers affect the lives of many.
Most people couldn’t afford to pay their medical bills and my father took his doctor oath to the heart. He often just came home with rice or other food items and never refused to care for those in need.
When the first bomb was dropped, my father was 14 years old. He was surrounded by fear, danger and chaos. His overwhelming love for his fellow countrymen drove him to become a doctor and later a monk.
There were many lessons that my father taught my siblings and I and this is one that I hope to share with all of you: Love.
Here at Legacies, we have a gigantic mission ahead of us: to clear Laos of UXO and care for the thousands of survivors.
We do it out of love and we know we cannot do it alone. Your support will help us move mountains.
I'm Sera and I hope this blog spreads awareness of Laos' fight against unexploded ordnance and the plight of survivors. It also helps me share my family's story and allows me to take action and #lightnewlegacies.