Vietnamese wife crosses the ocean to bring her husband back to the motherland

With terminal cancer, Mr. Robert longed to die in his hometown of Canada, so Da Thao overcame obstacles to bring her husband home in time for the last Christmas.

Over a year ago, Le Mai Da Thao, a poor woman in Ea H’Leo, Dak Lak, attracts attention with her turbulent love story with David John Robert, a retired Canadian civil servant in Nha Trang.

They met in 2016, when both ended their marriage 10 years ago. Realizing David’s love for her and her children, Thao could not overcome the 37-year age gap, so she chose to hide.

The Vietnamese woman’s refusal made David sad and returned to Canada. Eight months later, when he heard that she was back in Nha Trang, Robert flew over again. This time, they are determined to overcome all scrutiny of people to be together. A wedding was scheduled to take place in 2020, but because of Covid-19 it should be postponed.

One night in July 2020, Robert appeared to have intense chest pain, the doctor announced that he had stage two lung cancer. Wanting to return to her hometown for treatment so that Thao wouldn’t suffer because of her, Robert was afraid of the last days of her life without Thao. The pandemic made the way back home difficult, so he chose to stay for treatment. To encourage her lover’s spirit, at the end of October 2020, Thao proposed to get married and shave her head to take wedding photos together.

Thao and Robert in the November 2020 wedding photos in Hoi An. Photo: Characters provided

These levels of happiness are easy for outsiders to understand, but there are sufferings that not everyone understands. From a handsome man, illness made Robert unable to eat, his body was only skin and bones. Thao quit her job to take care of her. One for the other, day and night struggling with the disease.

In mid-October 2021, the doctor announced that Robert had reached the end stage. Knowing the complicated procedure for foreigners to die in Vietnam, David wishes to die in his hometown. Da Thao began to contact the visa parties to bring her husband back home.

Also from the time to the end, Robert was constantly hospitalized and used morphine to combat the pain. His body could no longer tolerate the food. No matter how many injections, so many tonics, Robert was still hopelessly weak. He could no longer walk, all activities depended on Thao. Feeling guilty when looking at that scene, Robert once said: “If I knew this disease, I wouldn’t have married you”.

On December 22, 2021, the couple was granted a visa. Thao flew home to Nha Trang and packed up all night. The next morning, she went back to Saigon and took care of all the remaining formalities. At 10 am on the 24th, Da Thao followed her husband’s wheelchair and landed in Vancouver (Canada). Robert’s children greeted them with tight hugs and warm clothes. Back home, three daughters, one son and grandchildren were gathered. On the Christmas table were many of Robert’s favorite dishes and even a giant turkey.

“He had the party he wanted for so long. I also fulfilled the responsibility of bringing him back to the motherland”, Thao shared.

Two days later, Robert was hospitalized, Da Thao was only allowed to visit hourly every day. Also officially from here Robert stopped eating, can only maintain life by infusion of nutrients. Every time she entered, he looked up with tired eyes and asked: “Did your family treat you well?”. Da Thao nodded continuously, looking at her husband blurred in tears.

On January 4, Robert called his children again to inform him that he had no more stamina, so he asked for the right to assisted suicide (the right to die voluntarily). That night, Robert’s children asked Thao to stay at the hospital. Most of the time she sat next to her husband holding hands, unable to sleep because she knew she would lose this man forever tomorrow. At dawn, Robert said, “Honey, hold me.” Thao lay beside me, Robert whispered: “Last night, I was very lonely because I didn’t have you by my side”. The couple hugged each other and cried.

The next day, the extended family gathered in large numbers. Robert thanked his ex-wife for giving him good children. He thanked Thao for marrying him when he was suffering from a serious illness, and apologized for letting her stay when he had only been married for a year and three months.

“I have a diamond heart. I don’t blame you for being old, I don’t blame you for being poor and sick. Thank you for bringing me back so that I can die with my family and have you,” he said. The whole family cried like rain.

Then he raised his voice to sing for his loved ones. The first is the post You Are My Sunshine Thao’s favorite. Then sing another song for the children and reminisce about old times.

At 5:00 p.m. on January 5, the fateful moment came. Again the doctor asked if he had changed his mind, but Robert remained steadfast in his desire to be freed. The doctor took 10 minutes for the family to say goodbye. One by one relatives came to hug Robert. Thao walked to the last step and heard him say the last words: “I love you very much”.

The last photo of Thao and her husband Robert, at a hospital in Vancouver, January 4.  Photo: Character provided

The last photo of Thao and her husband Robert, at a hospital in Vancouver, January 4. Photo: Characters provided

The hymn music sounded, and Thao fainted. Meanwhile, the doctor injected an injection, just a few minutes later Robert’s heart stopped beating.

Because of the language barrier, Thao did not understand the funeral process for her husband, so everything was according to his children’s wishes. During those days, everyone in the family still took advantage of Thao’s hugs, handshakes and care. Condolences to Thao on her personal page, Robert’s ex-wife wrote: “Robert is really lucky to have you. Thank you for sharing his last days with me. It really means a lot. I I think you also agree with me that he is indeed a good husband.”

Before his death, Robert did not forget to tell his children to buy tickets for his wife to return to Vietnam. Da Thao intends to return home after receiving and scattering her husband’s ashes in the next three days. At the age of 36, she wants to return to her hometown of Dak Lak, open a small fish noodle shop to feed her children and elderly mother from the support of two friends in the US. They didn’t know each other, but were touched by the love story of Thao and Robert, so they organized a donation concert.

During the months of being with her husband and fighting cancer with her husband, Da Thao realized that this life is all about losing, fighting, and even losing money to death.

“From now on I will live a light life, going back to my hometown to eat rice and fish is also satisfied,” Da Thao said before taking two sleeping pills to be able to take a nap.

Phan Duong


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