“I’m not leaving without my mother.” Each time I hear those words in this story, the hairs on my arms stand up. It is the story of the day we left Vietnam. My brother says we are doomed to lead less interesting lives then our parents. I think instead we are blessed. Recognizing these blessings is part of this burning away of all that drags us into the mire of living the unexamined life.
I am grateful today not to live in a country where we are in fear of bombs blowing up our homes, where we have to decide what country we should flee to, or worry about never seeing family members again. This was what passed for normal for my mother and father in Saigon in 1975. My parents worked for the American military at Tan Son Nhut airbase. It was a dangerous position to be in, a liability if the wrong side won the war, a risk that could put my parents, and my mother’s family in danger for supporting the cause of freedom from Communism.
The fall of Saigon is officially April 30, 1975. A few days prior, my father came to work and was told to return to Tan Son Nhut Airport with only his immediate family–my mother and me, and one suitcase within a few hours time to insure a safe departure from Saigon. My grandmother and my mother’s 2 young sisters had come to stay in my mother’s apartment in Saigon after they could not board a boat in Vung Tau to leave the country. No one knew what would happen next, but my mother insisted that she would not leave Vietnam without her mother. And so, all of us made it onto that airplane through the grace of God and sheer force of will.
Because of this, I have always been surrounded by strong women–women who have survived war, cancer, and heartbreak. Because of this, I have always had the example of how to be a good mother, sister, daughter, and wife. Because of this, I have seen the saving power of grace and forgiveness. For all of these things, I am grateful for a mother who knows how to bend with change, who has been broken and made whole again, and is still beautiful. She is the woman who has always told me that she gave me wings so that I could fly.
As we start this 40 day journey into leaving behind fear, I’m joining others across the country who are keeping gratitude journals, and invite you to do the same. The benefits of counting our blessings, so to speak, are manifold: increased feelings of happiness, better relationships, more energy. . .The trick lies in making this a habit, of course. Let’s hope that 40 days is enough.
Check out these other blogs for help with your gratitude journal:
And check out this research on forming habits (because I’m still a nerd):