In April of 2011, just before Cambodian New Year, Sinuon and I took a short trip to Kep. A small town, on a rather unimpressive little beach, on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Where small mountains come up against the sea and the water is warm. We stayed there only 3 days but in that time we visited a beautiful little island called Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island). It was one of Sinuon’s favorite trips that we ever took. We returned home and she described everything to her mother. The quiet little town, the beach, the island, and all the delicious crab she was able to eat. Sinuon’s description was so wonderful that her mother wanted to come see it.
After we had children we never seemed to have enough time to get away. I had work obligations, our children were difficult to travel with, things just kept coming up. On the rare occasion we did have time we never seemed to have enough money. The house needed improvements, we needed to build a bathroom, unexpected expenses kept coming up.
Finally this year we said we were going to go all together. But then Sinuon’s mother became ill. We promised her that as soon as she was well we were finally going to take the trip to Kep all of us together. Even when we found out she had HIV, we kept holding on to whatever hope we could find and kept saying we would go all together to Kep. We expended all our money, the money we were saving to buy a car, mainly to help Sinuon transport our kids but in the back of our minds we were hoping we would be able to drive that car on our family vacation to Kep. When suddenly we found ourselves nearly without any money, God put so many amazing and wonderful people into action. They helped us to buy a car and continue paying for Mom’s care. And we kept on telling her that as soon as she was well, we’d go to Kep.
Mom didn’t get well though. She got worse and worse. We called every doctor we could, tried our best to get her admitted to the best hospital we could. Finally on the morning of March 6th, the hospital called us and said that Mom’s blood pressure was dropping, that her body was no longer accepting treatment. We brought her home, and at 3 in the afternoon, she passed away.
I have always maintained that Romans 8:28 is my favorite verse in scripture. I continually watch and hope to find what God is trying to teach me through every experience. When I can’t see the lesson right away, I trust that He has a plan in mind and wait patiently to find it.
For we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.
Mom passing was not the ending we had hoped for, but it is an ending. In that we are grateful. Mom’s suffering is over. Her life was one that was full of struggle and hardships but we celebrate that she persevered through all of it and was around long enough to let us get married and to see her grandchildren. And out of this we already are beginning to see God’s plan in action, and the blessings He is giving to us for His work in our lives.
Sinuon has a brother. He was adopted a long time ago. As Mom told us, one day before she met Sinuon’s father a woman was walking around a village asking for someone to buy her baby. Feeling pity for her, Sinuon’s father took a gold chain he had and gave it to her and took the child. When they were married, Sameth and Mom called this boy Samnang and raised him as their own. A lot has happened in his life as well, a lot that is not so great as well. Many things have caused a deep rift between him and Sinuon, so painful that for a long time she was not willing to admit she had a brother. However, when Mom was sick, he and his family came to our home daily to help care for her and help around the house. When Mom was in the hospital, they were the ones rotating to make sure there was always someone there to watch her. They watched her, talked to her, cleaned her, and fed her. While there is much trust to rebuild, Sinuon is joyful to have her brother again and say it to everyone. For now at least, and we hope maybe longer, we have taken in two of Samnang’s children to stay in our home and help them go to school. Even though Mom is gone, our family has grown.
Also, through this whole ordeal, our church, Battambang Church of Christ, has come around us in such amazing ways we can hardly describe it. They came to visit Mom in the hospital and pray with her. When Sinuon was overwhelmed by stress and had to stay at the clinic, they came and stayed with her so I could stay home with our children. When Mom passed, they were the first ones there to comfort Sinuon and help make funeral arrangments. Through this Sinuon has found a group of women that she loves to be around and with whom she can study the scripture.
I’m sure there are more lessons to learn or that I may realize we’ve already learned, but for now we took the car that so many people helped us to buy, put our children and nieces into the back, and drove, all of us together, to Kep on Monday. Today we took a boat out to Koh Tonsay and spent the day on the beach there. Before she died Mom asked us to pour her remains into the sea there and so today in the waters just off the island, we poured her ashes into the sea and gave thanks to God for the life of our mother and all that she gave us and taught us.
Thank you to all of you for your help and your prayers throughout this time in our lives. Thank you for helping us buy the car and care for Mom. Although she is gone now we were thankfully able to pay for the funeral and are prayerfully planning to use what remains of the donated funds to support HIV care in Cambodia.
As I said, it’s not the ending we were hoping for, but it is an ending and it is the one which God will use to challenge us, to push us, and enable us to share His love and make Him known. It is knowing this that we say our last goodbye to Mom and we are at peace.