Today marks the anniversary of my dad’s passing.

Traditionally, we would celebrate and honor him at temple. However, COVID-19 has us celebrating a little differently.

It’s insane how much has changed in a year. My days on the ICU floor and the triggers are getting somewhat better. Although from time to time, I do catch myself in a daze when I encounter an a critically ill/actively dying patient. I hope it continues to get easier with time.

Looking back, as crazy as it was, I’m glad I got to spend those three weeks in CCU with him. It was like a mini critical care rotation. That experience gave me a new perspective and appreciation for my critical care colleagues and it certainly has helped me as I’m seeing critically ill COVID-19 patients.

There are several days throughout the year that we typically honor our ancestors (To preface,  I don’t generally consider myself as a religious person). In Vietnamese culture, during these special days, we honor our ancestors with a meal and prayers.  


The spread consists of the deceased’s favorite foods, fresh fruits, and flowers. We burn incense, pray, and ask for guidance of good health, fortunate, blessing…etc and then you invite your loved ones to have a meal with you. Once the incense burns to the end, you then “ask” for permission to eat and enjoy the meal (haha so for those that love to eat hot food, consider reheating the meal).

I’d like to think that my dad is a lucky guy. He passed away on the same day as his actual birthday (although the dates are different, technically, it’s 12 hours early in Vietnam, making it the same birth and death date). 

Joining the #deadparentsclub wasn’t something I asked for. Especially not before I turned 30, married or have kids. But here we are! I often think of what life would’ve looked like for my dad if he were to have made it out of the CCU. There were some discussion of having him on an LVAD. Seeing how our world is now, especially during these times of COVID, he would be grouped in with those special vulnerable populations. I’m not sure this is the life that he would’ve wanted any ways. 

So what’s changed in a year?

  • I’m now an aunt to an adorable nibling!
  • My poster presentation was accepted to an international conference 
  • I moved to a new city
  • And started a new job in a pandemic!

Some major life changes that’s for sure. It’s also been tough having to spend many firsts without my dad this year…

  • My first birthday without a father
  • Holidays
  • New year/Lunar New Year
  • Father’s Day 
  • and now his first birthday without him

We all grieve our losses in different ways. Americans have a poor way of dealing with grief and acceptance. Rarely do we talk about death in society, and certainly not for someone with a loss so early on. Some would argue that I never properly took the time to grieve as I returned to work almost immediately. I think, my situation was a bit different as I was forced to have that closure early on. I just wanted to share my story in the event that you needed to have someone to talk to. I’m here for you.

You won’t hear me say, “I’m sorry for your loss”, but rather, “My heart is with you.”


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