“Ong Tam, your grand niece is here to see you, your grand niece Victoria.
Can you hear me?
She calmly walks to another view of him laying on the hospital bed and then back next to his head.
“Victoria came to see you Ong Tam.
She brought her honey.
He speaks Vietnamese.”
My grandma had spoken in Vietnamese those words to her brother yesterday as he was hooked up to multiple machines. One pumping his heart, one pumping his lungs, and possibly one draining. I had my boyfriend (who she referred to as my “honey”) translate for me when we left. It was the softest voice I ever heard her speak Vietnamese in. My uncle had heavy drinking and smoking habits for most of his life. And his body paid for it. His heart had collapsed and his kidney and liver both failed as well. I was informed that when he arrived at the hospital he had swelled up in his limbs so much that they burst. I found that out when I asked what were the giant lesions on his arm from. His skin looked dry, scaly, and picked at – worse than I remembered. All of this from years of heavy drinking, smoking, and bad diet with no exercise. He wasn’t the most obese person, but he was strongly out of shape and always had the classic beer belly. Looking at his body laying on the hospital bed with a green patient shirt on, his skin was a yellow-green. I only looked for small moments at a time. It’s scary to say that none of this was the worst part. From the tubes stuck in his face and near his groin and in his leg, to the lesions on his limbs and rolled back eyes; the worst part was his whole body being blown up and down in waves like a bag of air that would inflate then deflate but more violently due to his size. And when my grandma went up to talk to him in Vietnamese, she noted later that his fingers and toes twitched in response. Which I remember seeing, but I couldn’t tell if he wasn’t already twitching in those areas from before she talked. It was hard to look at his body blowing up and then down. It looked like he was a vegetable being forced to be alive like a violent poison had taken over his body. And with knowing three of his organs were out of function, he was basically filling up with blood and all the toxins from years of alcohol and cigarette smoke taking flooding his internals. He had imploded and everything internally was combusting fast. I didn’t want to get emotional and so I took only fragments of the moment in at a time. One moment the setting of the hospital room. Another I moved to the sound of the machines working. Then the connections of the tubes into him and so forth. I cut out my emotions by chopping up the moment like that so that it didn’t all hit me at once. I was distant enough in relation to him to be able to avoid creating a connection to the moment like that. I was never close to him. But I knew I would quickly become emotional if I let myself become fully aware of a once alive man, who I lived with when younger, suffering viciously. If he was alive, he must have been in such horrendous amount of pain. My grandma also kept herself unemotional and calmly admitted hoping they let him off life support by the end of the night so that he could be put out of his pain. It was visibly a horrible state to be in. I was never close to him. He also never really spoke English. I later found out as we were leaving that he had only recently become a citizen and gotten a job and his first checks and had the unfortunate timing of ending up in here. I don’t know what he was doing before that as I didn’t keep in much touch with my grandma’s side of the family once they all moved out. I have very few memories of him outside of seeing him drink and smoke all the time when I was under ten. But that is the lifestyle of men in Vietnam which is where he is from. My grandma brought over some of her side of the family from Vietnam to give them a better life and to work and help send money back home to the rest of the family in Vietnam. I never clearly mentioned, this but my grandma on my mom’s side is the one who is fully Vietnamese. My grandma met my grandpa (who was mostly German with some Cherokee) during the Vietnam war and they married and he brought her and their first kid already born in Vietnam over to the US: my mom. It’s crazy when I think of my Vietnamese side of my family and how strong my grandma is. To take off with a military person and do everything she could for her family then and even now. And that’s a whole nother story. Just know until I tell her story, that she is true gangsta. A real badass. The actual hero of my family in many ways and also in a lot of ways the chaos at many times. She might not be the most emotionally connected at times, but she’s been through some crazy things. And she always has true intentions of being there for her family no matter what. She loves in her own way, as everyone does of course, but I’m lucky to understand how she has tried her best to love. That’s all we can really do for love; is try our best to love and hope the message gets heard somehow, someway.
They finally let him off of life support after being on it for around two weeks. He passed at 1:40 AM last night. May he have a peaceful, painless, afterlife. May my other family members who lived with him all these years heal softly from this passing.