|Stacy Thuy Meredith cries as she kneels down at her mother's grave.
by Van Dat
CAN THO– She read the words again and again, not wanting to believe what they told her.
How could it be?
Stacy Thuy Meredith had experienced a turbulent past, and at the heart of it was an almost unbearable mystery – not knowing who her real mother was.
Now, she had to come to terms with the fact that her mother would remain a mystery forever.
On the third page of a 12-page document that had come into her hands after years of struggle, Meredith, 43, read that her biological mother, Ngo Thi Diep, was dead.
Born Ngo Thi Ngoc Thuy, Meredith was among thousands of children sent to US and other countries in the infamous Operation Babylift, carried out prior to the fall of Sai Gon on April 30th 1975. She was three years old then.
On the website of the First Generation of Vietnamese Adoptees, an organization she had founded, Thuy expressed her grief, saying it was too late, that she would never know her mother and her mother would never know her.
Thuy had countless questions to ask her mother when they both met in Viet Nam, but none of the questions would be answered now.
Before learning of the devastating news, her heart had beaten faster as she prepared to meet her mother in HCM City, a reunion that she had longed for.
It took almost 15 years for Thuy to realise her dream of family reunion. She wanted to learn about her motherland and the place she was born, and she wanted her children and husband to learn about the place as well. Financial reasons had held her back, she wrote.
Earlier this month, in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, there was much sadness, tears, nerves and excitement as she met with her family members including her oldest uncle, Ngo Thanh Van, who'd cared for her during her first two years.
Shortly after she was taken to her mother's tomb. "I had trouble keeping myself from crying and I wasn't quite sure why I was crying."
During the reunion, she found out that she has eight uncles and two aunts. Her mother was the eleventh child in the family. She also has two half brothers. She cried as she hugged all of them.
Le Cao Tam, CEO of the Motherland Heritage Company, who helped Thuy find her family in Viet Nam, told Viet Nam News that when he interviewed Van, he gave him a paper with pictures of five orphans without their names.
The uncle immediately pointed out Thuy's photo and said she was the niece he'd lost for four decades. In just six days, Tam and his team members were able to trace Thuy's relatives with a letter written when she was given to the orphanage.
Tam was moved when he met the uncle, who refused to accept money from Thuy, saying finding her everything, that she was now worth more than a million diamonds. He did not need any thing else.
"Both hugged each other and cried," said Tam, who has interviewed hundreds women who had their children sent abroad.
He estimated that there were thousands of children sent to foreign countries in 1975. "The mothers told me they had to sent their children out of Viet Nam in fear, because rumours at the time said liberation soldiers would kill half-blooded children.
After the long ride to her mother's tomb, Thuy took a moment to pray to her mother. She picked up her mother's sandals and hugged them.
"Suddenly they were so much more than sandals and they were going to be the closest thing I could ever hold that was a part of her physical self...I held on to them tightly," she wrote in her journal.
Thuy was taken to the US on March 6, 1975 with other children. She was adopted by the family of an American Air Force pilot who had served in Viet Nam. But her life was not happy until she left home and met her husband Peter Meredith, who accompanied her on the return journey to Viet Nam.
|Stacy Thuy Meredith (middle) with her uncle and aunt at the family reunion. — VNS Photos from First Generation of Vietnamese Adoptees
In the US, Thuy had to endure prejudiced treatment because she looked different from the rest of the family. She was beaten by her adopted father and brothers over 16 years. At 17, she took a bottle of antidepressants (about 100 pills) and moved out. In 1991, when she ws 18, she met her husband.
"As a child, I struggled with severe nightmares which would cause me to scream, sweat and even sleep walk on occasion. My mom described my scream to be so horrific, that it would sound like someone was physically attacking me," she wrote in her journal.
More than 40 years ago, her mother Diep had left Can Tho for Sai Gon without permission from her family to work as a clerk in a bar. She was 19 then.
At the bar, Diep had an affair with an American soldier and became pregnant with his child.
When her father left Viet Nam for the US when the war ended, Thuy's mother hired a woman to help raise her daughter in a remote province, so her family would not know what had happened.
She sent to the Holt Nutrition Center on August 23, 1974. Shortly after, she was given to a foster family, and then was among over 3,300 infants sent to the US and other countries in Operation Babylift.
Thuy founded the non-profit organization "First Generation of Vietnamese Adoptees" to help Vietnamese adoptees, orphans and those born to U.S. military fathers and Vietnamese mothers to bond with each other.
The organisation also organises reunions for Vietnamese adoptees born during the Viet Nam War. The renunions, held in collaboration with Tam's Motherland Heritage Company, is held every five years.
Tam said that since 2008, he has organised at least five trips for Vietnamese adoptees to return Viet Nam, but added he could not remember exactly how many reunion cases he has helped with.
"Not all family reunions can happen smoothly as imagined because of the cultural differences. Without good, careful preparation, the reunion can easily become another tragedy for the Vietnamese adoptees," he said.
Recently, after getting the positive results of a DNA test with the relative after returning to the US, Thuy wrote on her Facebook page: "My heart breaks as the realisation sets in that my mother has passed… but my heart is overjoyed with my new found family…". — VNS