This post is in memory of Tuan. Tuan’s family was the Agent Orange Campaign’s second beneficiary. His vibrant spirit and resilience made a lasting impact on The Advocacy Project. May he rest peacefully.
We arrived at Mr. Xoan and Ms. Do’s home a little before lunchtime. There were black banners with golden lettering hanging behind the altar and around that half of the room. Mr. Vinh (the AEPD driver) lit 4 incense sticks and handed one to each of us while the family watched. This was all happening in silence.
We took turns praying and then we each stuck the incense into a small ceramic bowl where others were still burning. The other sticks were all different lengths and had been burning for different amounts of time. From what I gathered, community members, relatives, friends, etc. come to visit the family and then leave lit incense burning in the bowl after praying for the deceased. It was heartening to see that the bowl was nearly full.
We sat down with them and Ngoc (AEPD staff) and Mr. Thuan (AEPD Outreach Worker) took the lead. The couple wore black pins on their shirts. The pins will be worn every day for the next 2 years; they symbolize the loss of a loved one. Ms. Do and Mr. Xoan thanked us for coming. I expressed our sincerest condolences, how fond we were of Tuan, and that we are thinking of them. Ms. Do responded that she is so grateful to AP and Iain in particular for being such a wonderful friend to their family.
Ms. Do and Mr. Xoan took turns explaining the events but Mr. Xoan spoke with a lot of physical difficulty. Ngoc whispered to me that he has some kind of residual mental disability from Agent Orange exposure as well (but I couldn’t find anything that would suggest we knew that in our profiles of their family). Trung, their son, sat with us but came in and out of the room often to get tea, ice cubes, etc. and check on Luyen, their daughter, that was screaming outside. Both Trung and Luyen suffer extensively from the effects of Agent Orange exposure.
Tuan had been ill since the end of last year and was spending more time in Hue Hospital than out. The Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) helped support some of the expenses not covered by insurance; the family sold the buffalo calf in June for 9M VND. The calf income also helped pay for expenses. Ultimately though, his condition was worsening. Approximately 28 days ago (in early August) the doctor advised Mr. Xoan, Tuan, and Trung to return to the comfort of their home because there was nothing else that could be done. About 4-5 days after they returned home from the hospital, Tuan passed away.
To add to this though, Mr. Xoan was in such a state of shock after his passing that Trung had to take Mr. Xoan to the mental hospital in Da Nang (a city about 6 hours south of Dong Hoi). He spent 10 days in the hospital and now is receiving medication/treatment at home. The family is having difficulty paying for Mr. Xoan’s treatment though. His medications are covered by insurance but when he goes to the hospital, he has to spend money on food, transportation, etc. and it ends up costing 3M VND per month for Mr. Xoan and Trung. The doctor recommends that he stay at the hospital for 2 months but they are unable to afford it. Notably though, both parents were really thankful to Trung for being so strong and helping his brother and his father throughout everything.
Before we leave, Ms. Do brings the buffalo up in conversation. On a more positive note, the buffalo is pregnant and they are hopeful. Their plans for the calf are unclear. It was not the most appropriate time to be discussing future plans.
Regardless of what is decided, we will continue to support Tuan’s family in the best way we can.
Posted By Marcela De Campos (Vietnam)
Posted Sep 12th, 2018