My dearest Sombath,

Today, 17 February, is your birthday.  Today in celebration of your birthday I and a small group of family and friends went to Na Khoun Noi Forest temple to offer food to the monks and nuns, and also offer blessings for you – blessings that wherever you are – you will be healthy, happy, and well.

Sombath, the monks and nuns of Na Khoun Noi temple remember you well, especially Mae Kao Keo and Phra Arjahn Sithone.  They remembered that you have been a strong proponent of the concept of Socially Engaged Buddhism and you have been the one who introduced this concept to the temple and through the temple to many other communities in Laos.

Today, Na Khoun Noi temple continues to be the space to train young monks and nuns in the principles and practice of Socially Engaged Buddhism.  Many of the monks and nuns trained are now using their spiritual leadership to help build and improve the spiritual well-being, physical, and economic wellbeing of the community.  The monks and nuns have led the education of young people and guided them to internalize Buddhist teachings into daily life, such as respect for all living things, starting with the elders in the family and their teachers, to everybody around them, including all living beings.

Na Khoune Noi temple has also continued with the practice of organizing summer ordination for students, teaching them practice of meditation and mindfulness.  Through spending time at the temple and medication practices, many young people have been helped to develop strength of mind and greater awareness to avoid falling into drug and alcohol addiction.

My dearest Sombath, today as we celebrate your birthday at the temple, I am once more reminded of your strong belief that we are body, mind and spirit in one.  You have always believed that spiritual practice is very much part and parcel of developing the total well-being of the individual and the community.

Over the last few years, even I have learned to be more spiritual and mindful.  I recall the times in the past, when you have asked me to be less impatient and less reactive, and to use meditation as a means to calm my emotions and anger.  Well  Sombath, after you have been so rudely taken away from me, I have finally learned the wisdom of your words.  Over the last five year, I have had time to reflect on your words and your actions.  I have now finally gained greater understanding of why you have taken to meditation and building mindfulness so seriously.  I have also recognized that your spiritual growth has been part of the journey in shaping your vision and mission for your work.  Now I too try to practice meditation as a way of coping with your absence and loss.  More importantly, your words have also guided me to gain strength to continue my campaign to find you and seek truth and justice for you.

Sombath, today at the temple, I have felt your continued presence and your spirit in and around me; comforting me, and giving me renewed strength, hope, courage, and faith that you may have been disappeared, but your wisdom, your spirit, and your work can never be disappeared.

My dearest Sombath, Happy Birthday to you.  We celebrate your birthday today, and we celebrate you life and work everyday.

Love you so much, Shui Meng