Friend Request

I hardly use Facebook these days, but I have not deactivated or deleted my account. I logged in once in a while to catch up on friends and family members. I also checked Facebook to see if there were any death announcements. I wanted to share the pain and the grief.

Then there was a friend-request pending. I don’t know the man. I never met him, but I heard a lot about him. He used to own a car garage and my sister befriended him. Even when he closed up shop and retired, he still fixed her car. He even helped her fix things around her house like unclogging her sink, replacing her toilet flush or changing light bulbs. He was the handyman that she needed.

My mother spoke highly of him. She said he was kind and generous. She told me he had a good heart. Whenever I visited my mom, she always asked me to buy chả lụa or bánh bột lọc so she could gift him and his family. I hadn’t had a chance to meet him, but I had tremendous respect for him through what my mom was telling me.

One day he came by to fix my sister’s car. They worked on the car in the street parking out and neither of them wore a mask. Later that evening he fell ill. A few days later my sister fell ill. A few weeks later my mom passed away after her fierce battle with Covid.

In retrospect, the entire situation could have been avoided. She didn’t have to end up that way. I didn’t want to accept it, but she did. Even at near the end of her life, my mother never blamed him or my sister for spreading the deadly virus to her. Even as she was getting worse, she still asked if they were getting better. Her unconditional love for her daughter and others was what I remembered the most in those painful moments.

After several weeks, I finally accepted his friend request. I hold nothing against him or my sister. They were also the victims of the global pandemic. During the lockdown, I could not have imagined how close it would hit home. Cases were up, hospitals were packed, and people were dying, but everything felt so far away. Then it struck the person I loved the most and nothing I could do about it. It gave me a different perspective on the space between life and death. It is much closer than I thought.

Bonjour Vietnam