Summer 2014

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

We arrived at Ho Chi Minh cancer hospital for the first time, full of determination. The moment we entered the hall, a scene captured my eyes: young children (between the ages of 4 and 9) lying prostrate in the aisle. The countenance of the very first child that I saw was deformed due to pervasive cells. A very dark bruise took over his entire right eye; it looked as if his head would fall off at any second. We sat down on the bed, and his mom greeted us with a welcoming smile. She started telling their story: her only child was diagnosed hydrocephalus and his head was a ticking bomb that could blow off at any moment. Hydrocephalus took away their home, their normal life, their happiness.

After a while, with her hands in mine, she burst out crying and urgently asked for my help. I looked over to the child, and he, too, was looking me straight in the eyes, but with the brightest smile I have ever seen.

The summer brought sweltering heat, expanded its suffocating air exhausting everyone’s taxed spirits. We wanted to breathe a new life, create a caring and warm environment for those children. Sitting quietly at the end of the hall, I turned on music to tear off the heavy silence in the hall and waited for my appointment with the Vice President. I lifted my head. Out of nowhere, a boy and a girl sprang up. They danced happily and gracefully: the two were holding hands and synchronizing in every move to, I daresay, a choreography that could have been fitted to professional dancers. I gasped at their every twist, every nimble change of footsteps, and the girl even spun around while holding the boy’s hand up. Their faces were beaming with smiles. Those two angels of dance came and flung themselves in my arms, although they had never met me before.

“Where did you learn those dances?” I asked

“She taught me,” the boy laughed and pointed at the girl. She giggled and blushed.

“What’s your name?”

As we were speaking, she sat on my lap as if I were a comfortable sofa and gently put my hands around her. My friend was sitting next to me, embracing the boy too. Yet I could feel the pain in the girl’s face. The boy and the girl were defying the Reaper, the cancer, and the uncertainty that a child can hardly endure. She even dreamed of becoming a pilot. As for her choreography, she was so talented that she had picked up those dance moves on TV the day before.

At last, I could feel the three dimensions of existence mentioned by Luther Martin King: the length, the breadth, the height of life. The two dancing angels studied very hard and had very high grades. The boy’s left leg was amputated but he still ran around with the girl and enjoyed his life with every other sense he had left. That’s the length of life. They came to comfort me because they thought we were sad and asked us many interesting questions. “Why do you come here? Why do you look so sad? Let me read you a fairy tale!” That’s the breadth of life: helping others. And the boy’s mother kept a positive attitude that her son would be saved. She clung to her belief so tightly that we could sense her conviction in every single word she uttered. That’s the height of life: belief. Together, those ideas ignite an unexplored strength, a struggle against all odds. The fire grows and spreads, burning red with passion in my eyes.

Two years later, I came back to the Hospital. There was not one familiar face there.

Leave a Comment