Da Thao Ðoàn was 53 years old when she passed on April 19, 2021 after a long battle with breast cancer.
But before, under the streaming lights from cars outside her bedroom window, she would often close her eyes and recant stories of Vietnam to her daughter. Her words cut dreamy haze into precision, memories sculpted like marble set in time. Vignettes of a past filled the shared space between where she and her daughter lay hand in hand.
The blueprint of her childhood home etched within her mind. The smell of spilled propane sinking into the threads of her hair as the fishing boat swayed under the currents pushing her family from Quy Nhon to Sài Gòn. The sound of rain splashing underneath the rush of motorbikes. The city pausing, pulsing in unison as drivers stop to don raincoats. The taste of rich broth from the neighborhood bistros, how the marrow soaked into her bones. The vibrancy of first love, and second love, and familial love. Deep loss, yet frequently, karaoke.
“I don’t know how, but I can remember it all,” she’d say. “Life was hard, but when everyone around you had nothing growing up, you didn’t really know you were struggling. You were happy.”
She had a gentle, dark pragmatism to her that way. Breakdown bartered for optimism and faith, she strolled in the face of hardship one foot ahead of another. Through the aftermath of civil war, loss of her parents and husband, unfathomable suffering and fear that paired late stage cancer, her strong-willed resilience shocked even herself. Hope was the only medicine still proven effective, and it was self-prescribed.
She found purpose in fostering closeness, deep connection, with those around her. Forgiving and loving almost to a fault, she gave her whole self to everyone she knew and everything she did. “You never know when you may need to lean on someone else in the future. Even if you lose something in the moment — time, money, effort, whatever — help the person who needs it today,” she’d tell her daughter. Solid advice.
She was born March 11, 1968. Exactly 364 days before her grade school friend and life long partner, Hoang Manh Luong, who passed away on March 20, 2014. How we all hope they are reunited in a better place now.
Quietly brave, smart beyond casual expression, open and curious about the changing world around her, she left behind an example of what it means to be a good person, fully.
Beyond her memory which lives on in all those she touched, D? Th?o is survived by all her younger siblings and her daughter, Kim Luong.
A celebration of life honoring D? Th?o Ðoàn is schedule for Saturday, May 1, 2021 from 10am - 6pm PST at Darling and Fischer Garden Chapel. The service will take place from 12pm - 2pm. The family is respectfully asking for stories, memories and pictures in lieu of donations and flowers.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Maria Magdalena Đoàn Dạ Thảo, please visit our floral store.