If I had known what they would be facing I could never have let them go. How could I have a moment’s peace when my youngest son and oldest grandson faced such dangers? Not that I expected their journey to be easy. I just didn’t expect them to be at the mercy of men so cruel.
When you and Hue named your boy “Long” I did not know he would have to live up to his dragon name so early in his life. He had to be brave and hold onto his life with stubbornness and patience. You must have been proud to watch him, even as your heart was in your throat. Dragons had been so much a part of our Chinese heritage, and when we came to Vietnam we saw how the people drew strength from this symbol for their land. Even the shape of the country reminded people of a dragon. Yet politics had cleaved the land in two. We yearned for it to be whole, and despaired when we remained a broken and wounded people even after the “reunification.”
Through those days when I did not know what had happened to Phuong and Long, I felt such sadness that they could become dragon people only by leaving their home and struggling to find a way out. I looked into the waters of the river nearby, meditating on the flowing Great Mekong itself, always flowing one way and then another, spreading out into the Cu’u Long, the nine dragons of its delta. Though people have lived long by these waters, along which my children were now treading, they have never stood still. They have always been moving, spreading out, and finding new paths to follow.
One day I heard an old folksong carried on the breeze, sung in the pleasant, tired voice of an old woman like me, my neighbor who had lost several people to the war: “We will go on living, Though Mother Mekong Flows out to sea, Or turns back to the setting sun. We will go on loving, Though thieves and aiders Descend from hills, Or rains flood down from dark’ning skies. We will go on working, Though raging fires Burn roofs from homes, Or drought dries the rice paddies. We will go on singing, Though endless tears Fall down our cheeks, Or strong hands try to shut our mouths. We will go on. We will go on. We will go on. We will go on.”
I heard her words as if they were sung on my behalf. I realized that all I had left to do was to look out with longing and with love for the children of my heart. All anyone has to do is to love and cherish the people given to her, if only for the little while that she has them and has sense enough to pray for them.