Tell me, now that you are high above floating between the milky way and galaxies and beyond, do you see the small things within me too? Do you see the things deep inside the avenues of my heart and the history of the houses of love and sorrow that were built on the foundation of your love and devotion? Or have you gone too far? Far beyond into oblivious obscurity from dust to dust, ashes to ashes…? Now that you have faded and your eyes are closed, what can you see now that I can not see you? Won’t you send me a sign?
Have you risen with Jesus? Does he hold your hand and did you beam that big smile of yours when he welcomed you with your name? Does he cradle you in his arms like you did to me? You swung me from side to side on your lap and you bounced me up and down and you sang to me in your high tone, your voice describing the softness of your soul and the gracious honour of your heart. I felt your love. Your love seeped through me like a natural flowing stream and I had never ever forgotten it because you are a beautiful melody of a song, a ballad that I have held close even though I have been far from your embrace and the sweet beloved tunes of your faith and compassion.
My earliest childhood memory, which I savour, is of the taste and character of your noodle soup, bún bò Huế – my favourite thing! I always reminisce the perfume of pigs trotter, beef bones and zest that clinged to your brown humid skin and your doll-like hands smelled of basil and lime next to my face.
As a child, admiring every inch of you, I sat on a little table in the corner and watched you serve bowl after bowl. You worked so hard but you always smiled at the customers, and bantered with them in your chirpy merry voice. No matter what, you would always smile. You found things to smile at all the time, it was your thing.
I remember seeing you somewhere among the clouds of lemongrass scented steam – that would surround your small stall: your hair up in a bun, you were curvy and chubby and you would always capture my brother and I into your wholesome arms and you would sniff us and sniff us, over and over, taking us into your breath and inhaled all that you could of us. You would smile such a big smile that your nose would flatten and flare and became bigger; your face turned into the sun and everything on your face took shape of a smile. Your infectious giggles, like that of a young girl in love with life would make us fall deeper and deeper in love with you, our grandmother, the mother of love, kindness, strength and of all possibilities. Thank goodness you are mine!
I have eaten this soup all the years of my life without you near (London/ Orange Country). Every time, I am relishing you and hankering on the memory of us, in Saigon. I am always in search for your broth, the broth that quenches the emptiness I have felt in the absence of you and now I will always be hollow without you.
Every morning, you saved my brother a piece of beef or pork tendon so that he can grow into a big and strong handsome man. And you would save me a chicken heart so that I can be full of love, your love…which will never fade.
Are you dancing with Jesus who would twirl you underneath his arms and together are you both singing songs and hymns to your hearts content? If you could, I know you would watch over us. I know that if you could, you would protect us all with your love and power like you always had.
When I will see blossoms on the trees, a sea of beautiful and wonderful things and receive a blast of happiness I will think of you because you are those things to me, to my little brother Cu Toon and to my mother and father. I thank you for your love, your loyalty and all the nutritious goodness that you have given to our hearts and souls.
Rest in peace, our beautiful dearest grandmother, Ba Noi, we love you with all the might, the strength, the inspiration and grace you have given us from far beyond here, now, then and for always. I know you hear me. You always have.