I woke up at 7:15 to a surprisingly quiet morning. There were no sounds of kids playing outside or lively chatter on the other side of the door. What a treat! I thought. I got dressed and opened the door. I smelled an unusual aroma as I stepped out. Smoke. No, incense…
Taing Heng (Dong Heng), one of the older Palm Tree kids, had died. He was living in Siem Reap and was on his way to pick up his little sister from work on his moto. He was almost there when he turned the corner and got hit by a bus. His neck was broken. There was no chance of survival. He was 24 years old.
|Taing Heng wearing his hat hanging out with friends|
Days like this help me understand the saying “heavy heart.” It truly feels heavier than other days, as if sadness, held in the heart, literally weighs more. It’s as if you can feel gravity’s pull more on days like these.
Taing Heng was one of my favorite Palm Tree kids. I first met him in 2007 when I was in Vietnam on my Semester at Sea Voyage. He came and performed a Khmer dance on the ship. He was always smiling and had a contagious sense of humor around Palm Tree. His constant laughing and joking made me laugh loud and often. I was looking forward to seeing him return after the Khmer New Year. He was the one you went to if you needed something done, or simply just needed a favor... and now he's gone.
We lit incense that morning and held them as we prayed silently together. The smell of sweet smoke filled the air, and though we had no walls or priests or alters, we made a temple with our presence. One by one we placed the incense in the small pagoda-like box. Stopped our busy world to remember the important things lost.
It’s a sad irony that I learned of his death on Easter morning, a day that is suppose to be a celebration of life over death. A day of resurrection. But what seems to be a double-dose of Good Friday is still Easter for me. If I can make sense of anything between Easter and Taing Heng, it’s the hope that death isn’t the end. It’s a part of life that everyone must partake, a transition that for Taing Heng came too early in our eyes.
I’m not justifying what happened. I’m not pretending to understand it, to reason my way out of this sad reality because I don’t understand. It just happened. But I’m thankful for his life. During our silent prayers I thanked him for sharing it with me and making my life more joyful.
In memory of you, Taing Heng. Your presence will always be at Palm Tree… and with me.
|Srey Art praying for her friend|
|TH on the far right. Our first meeting on SAS in 2007|