A large family relocates to another country and the bond between the members becomes stronger. But what happens when the nucleus family loses its core? This story documents the death of my grandmother Tam Thi Tang and the eventual death of her husband Hon Vo, the parents who headed this 13-person family until they were in their 1970s. Over months, I follow his slow deterioration: after the death of his beloved wife, he has trouble finding ways to fill his day and begins reading buddhist scriptures to pass the time. He has lost his will to live, he says. He has lost his will to continue his life and says it bluntly to me as I fight my tears behind the camera. Then, as if a higher power had granted him a wish, he is diagnosed with cancer. He loses his strength and starts taking his morning walks in the house. He goes through motions, brushing his teeth, eating, lying in bed and watching TV. And eventually he dies.
When cancer enters our lives, it sets us a deadline. It reminds relatives from California, from Germany, from Missouri, to finally book that ticket to Houston to visit their father and grandfather one last time. And throughout these visits, I always wondered: with a large family that has always gathered during holidays to visit my grandparents, what will happen when they are gone? What happens the nucleus family when its core disappears?
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