Sunday, January 18, 2015

Two Years!

Blogspot won't allow me to post my video which is probably the internet's subtle way of saying, "Nobody besides your parents wants to watch a ten minute montage of Shayna." However, this blog was initially created for my mother so I won't be deterred. Here's a link to the video. 

If these past two years have taught me anything, it's how precious life is. Twenty one months ago Huyen's mom came to stay with us in New Jersey and help take care of Shayna when she turned three months old. Having her in the states -- her first trip outside of Vietnam -- was an amazing experience. Her mom was so full of life and embraced a world that was completely foreign to her.  The two months she spent with us were truly some of the happiest in our lives. We not only had our wonderful new daughter, but Huyen also got to share her life with her mother. That's something we'll always be thankful for.

In April, when we got the terrible call about Huyen's mom's health, our world was truly rocked. We packed up our lives as quickly as we could and moved back to Vietnam to be with my mother-in-law as she battled Pancreatic Cancer. Her bravery fighting the disease was heroic. She tried every treatment the doctors would allow and never once complained about how unfair it was that she was stricken with this horrendous disease. Despite Pancreatic Cancer being incredibly painful, Dung always had a smile on her face and was able to grit her teeth and find a way to laugh. But some battles can't be won. Sadly, that's a reality that's hard to accept.

It's been a month since Huyen's mom passed and I still find myself shaking my head saying, "She can't really be gone?" It doesn't feel real that someone so full of life couldn't still be with us. People say that every day gets a little easier. I'm not sure how true that is.  Two days ago Huyen called her father and Shayna spoke into the phone in Vietnamese, "Where's grandma?" That made the pain rise up to the surface, knowing she can't fully grasp that her wonderful "ba" is no longer with us. Although her body is gone, my mother-in-law's memory and spirit will last forever. Huyen and I will make sure that Shayna knows just how much her grandmother loved her and can show her the evidence through the pictures and videos on this blog. As you'll see if you can get through the video, you'd be hard pressed to find someone with a more beautiful, innocent smile than my mother-in-law.

Although there's so much to be angry at, I also constantly find myself saying how thankful I am. I'm thankful my mother-in-law embraced me as part of her family.  I'm thankful my family came to Vietnam for my wedding and got to spend time with Dung in her home. I'm thankful my mother-in-law gave Huyen her blessing to move to America. I'm thankful we fought through the challenge of getting Dung a visa to visit America. I'm thankful Dung was brave enough to travel across the world by herself. I'm thankful Dung helped take care of Shayna every single day for two months during the beginning of her life. I'm thankful for every day she was in our home and got to see how we lived our life in America. I'm thankful we were able to pack everything up and move across the world in May. I'm thankful we got to live with my mother-in-law and take her to Halong Bay, somewhere she had never been but wanted to go. I'm thankful she got to spend another seven months with Shayna. I'm thankful that, in the end, she went peacefully and surrounded by her family.

I know this blog entry should be about Shayna but in a way it is. Sometimes in life, we don't take the time to think about each day. I'm as guilty of this as everyone else. When you first have a kid, you take thousands of pictures a week. Then a little less, then a little less...and then you stop bringing the camera with you everywhere you go. To me, we should never forget that each day is a gift and we should treat it as such. Hug the people you love and tell them how you feel about them so that no matter what happens, you'll never have regrets.

For two years we've been blessed to have Shayna in our lives. Every day's been a gift. And that's something we'll never take for granted.


Anonymous said...

You are a very wise man and make me proud every day. This blog is very special, especially to those of us who were able to spend time with Dung - whether we could verbally communicate or not, we definitely communicated with her bright eyes and never ending energy.Our tears are not enough to express the loss - our hearts will always be with memories of her and we hope to share those with Shayna over the years. Thanks for the wonderful video and of course, for the as often as possible Skyping. We miss you all sooooooo much and look forward to the day we can put our arms around all of you. Love you,mom

Anonymous said...

so sad to hear that Dung lost her fight - but so happy she spent at least a few months with you and her beautiful daughter and granddaughter.
Happy birthday to Shayna- she is the most beautiful child (but you already know that.

Anonymous said...

oh- ps I enjoyed every moment of the video and ten minutes wasn't at all too long

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben.
You don't know me. I've followed your blog since 2008 or so (on and off). I am heartbroken to hear this news. But I am glad you were so selfless and willing to pack your bags and move your entire family to Vietnam again so you could be near your mother in law in her final year. I wish your entire family only the best. You are truly warm, good people.

Bee said...

Your girls are beautiful!!!! I also lived in hanoi but for 10 years already. loved it!