Saturday morning I woke up to Tien climbing back into bed. “I have some bad news from the people in my village..." She went on to tell me that the father of her best friend Trinh, whose family lives across the street, was on his way back from taking his parents to the airport when he had a heart attack. Trinh and her boyfriend rushed him to the hospital where they diagnosed him as immediately needing an operation. It was an expensive operation and Trinh did not have the money, but they would not do the operation until they had the money. Trinh and her boyfriend rushed off to the bank to get the money that was needed, but by the time they returned to the hospital her father was dead.
Tien said he was a good man. Good to his family, good to the people in the village. I had met his wife, she is a wonderful woman. He had planned to take her to a tailor to get new clothes made so they could attend the engagement party for Tien and I. This family was close to Tien's family.
Trinh and her boyfriend were on their way back from the hospital with her father's body. When Tien and I headed in to Long Xuyen to take care of some engagement stuff they had just arrived at the house and were preparing a memorial.
Later in the day Tien and I went over to their house. Trinh's father was laying on the bed under a blanket, a flower in his mouth, his wife at his side fanning the flies off of his body. A table was at the end of the bed with a photo and a little shrine with many sticks of incense and cigarettes burning in his honor.
I had never met Trinh, and this was hardly a good time for introductions, so I ended up not even talking to her. Her boyfriend was nice though, he was taking care of most of the folks who were coming in to pay their respects. Tien spent a lot of time with Trinh while I sat at the side of the room and took in the gravity of the situation. I partly wanted to photograph the scene, but didn't want to actually go through with doing it. The photographs would've been amazing though because of the genuine sorrow. It was bittersweet. Clearly these people loved this man, but now he was gone.
I gave my regards to Trinh's mother and then Tien and I went back to her house. We talked about how unfair it is that sometimes money rules who gets to live and who has to die. It's interesting that this sort of thing happens in a communist country. We talked about the health of people in Vietnam and how they handle medical problems. She says that people do not go to the doctor, they just take medicine to alleviate their symptoms, and if the symptoms don't go away then they go to the doctor. She said that they do a bunch of things that probably don't help serious problems.
The world is really different over here in Vietnam. So much is the same, but so much is different...