I was recently in Vietnam. Completely unexpected, and up to only a few weeks before arriving, unforeseen and not a priority in my life travel plans. It turned out to be an extremely special trip, I believe healing for many people, on many levels.
Strangely enough, I had always grown up with the word “Vietnam” around me – whispered, said and unsaid, consciously and unconsciously. The word carried with it pain, an energetic weight, of which the members of my immediate family could never be relieved. This was because, my mother’s first husband, father of my three half-sisters and one half-brother, was killed in 1966, just north of Hanoi.
The last portion of my trip was spent at a friend’s home in Hanoi. I had felt unwell since arriving. I was plagued by a constant headache, feelings of great weight, and I continuously slept poorly. I did not know why. After a few days, I realized that we were staying only 30 minutes drive from where the Major’s plane disappeared.
A day or two later I was visiting outside with my friend, her 80-year-old father and their neighbor, an elderly man. Feeling the weight of history, knowing that these men had lived through the Vietnamese Civil War as young men, I felt the need to express regret for American involvement, to acknowledge their suffering created by, in my opinion, misguided efforts and policies of my government.
I then explained my family’s connection to Vietnam. I told them how the plane of my mother’s first husband, the F105 Thunderchief, was shot down, not far from we were sitting, during the “Vietnam” war.
I use quotes because in Vietnam they call it the “American” war. Perspective is everything.
I passed around my smartphone, showing them a black and white photo of a young couple, the Major looking very smart in uniform, embracing three curious, eager, happy children, my mother holding their infant daughter, my sister. My companions all nodded empathetically, the loss understood.
The neighbor began to explain that his two daughters, who are around my age, are very sick from the defoliant chemical used in Vietnam during the war, known as Agent Orange. He told me how as a young man he was a soldier and was repeatedly exposed to Agent Orange via the US’s herbicidal warfare program. After the war, he married and had two daughters. His children grew to be normal functioning women, one a teacher with two daughters of her own. His daughters were my age, their children the same age as mine.
He explained how 10 years ago his oldest daughter became ill, her nervous and skeletal system rapidly deteriorated.
The neighbour asked me to visit her. I, of course, agreed. Nothing could prepare me for what I would encounter, it was by far the greatest human suffering that I had ever personally witnessed.
I entered a small room where she was lying, her body twisted and unable to speak because of her jaw tongue and teeth were completely deformed. At times her body convulsed, I felt she was constantly in pain.
I summoned my skills and experience as a Feminine Healer to hold space for this woman, her sister, her father. I spoke empathy, and I reached out with my heart space to theirs. I silently asked for this family and mine to be held in the Great Mother’s embrace of love, forgiveness, and acceptance. I prayed that I could be in some way a source of medicine, in the way my soul knows and is capable. I wished for protection and that these families would be protected.
I was struck by the coincidence of being in Vietnam, being so close to the location where my family’s circumstances had changed forever. How our two families’ history, experiences, and sorrows are entwined, eternally and inextricably, I was very conscious of my role as a witness – as a young child and as an adult – after so many decades had passed. I felt undeserving of being there, wishing that my sisters were there instead of me. But I also was grateful for the incredible way my path crosses those of others and for my training as a Feminine Healer Practitioner. It is said that healing can only begin when suffering is really seen. I will always be thankful for the opportunity and ability to facilitate healing, on whatever level possible.