My dearest Sombath,
Today, 17 February, is your birthday. This is the third year that you have not celebrated your birthday with me. Not having you with me is already very difficult; but not having you with me on this special day is even harder to bear.
So, to mark the day, members of your family and I went to offer food for the monks in the forest temple, Wat Na Khoune Noi, the temple that you have been so closely associated with. This is the temple where you first started the Buddhist Development Program (BDP), under the protective endorsement from Phra Arjan Sali, the Vice Partriarch of the Buddhist Sangha. Through the BDP you were able to introduce to some monks the concepts of Engaged Buddhism, a system of Buddhist teachings and practice that encourage the monastics to step outside the confines of their temples and be more engaged in issues that affected the wider community and society.
Over the past 10 year, the BDP has pioneered a number of very interesting programs, such as encouraging monks to teach Buddhist ethics in schools to school children; training them to provide psycho-social counseling and support to people and families affected by HIV/AIDS; and supporting them to work with young people on drug prevention and other youth issues. Sombath, even though you are not around to guide the BDP anymore, your contribution is very well appreciated and remembered by the monks at Wat Na Khoune Noi. And today at the ceremony they send you their prayers and blessings for your good health and safety.
Not only do the monks at Na Khoune Noi remember you, so many friends inside and outside Laos, and especially the young people whose lives you have touched in one way or another, also remember you and send you birthday blessings. This clearly shows that while many Lao are still afraid to talk about you openly, they continue to hold you dear in their hearts and minds. My dearest Sombath, even though my heart aches so badly for you, such show of love and support from so many people has given me some comfort. It is also a source of strength for me to continue to struggle to find you and have you returned to us.
Sombath dearest, wherever you are, I wish you a very “Happy Birthday”. May you be safe, and may you be blessed with good health, strength, courage and faith.
Come home soon, my love, Shui Meng