On the 40th year since the Cambodian genocide began and the 23rd year of her death, I remember Soy Song Lao. My aunt was an orphan that survived the violence of the Cambodian genocide with her siblings. We were 10 years apart, but our spirits connected.  She was like my sister. I love her. She bought me my first roller skates, taught me to love literature and most importantly to be kind. I witnessed her joy of reading, her heart break, and her desire to fight for what’s right. Her life was cut way too short and I lost a sister too early.


She was a USC student, 21 years old, and 7 months from graduating to get her BA in International Relations. She was ready to travel the world when she died. She was murdered. It is painful for my family to lose her to the same violence we escaped from. Just as we were beginning to distance ourselves from the trauma of the genocide and adjust to life in America, we were reeled into it all over again.


I remembered the day my mother received the news that her youngest sister was brutally stabbed 35 times and not likely to wake up from her coma. Grief racked my mother’s body and all I heard was her wail. The pain of the loss of her sister was more than she could bear. We were all stunned. Aunt Soy never escaped the killing field, it came to her.


Grieving and mourning is healthy. When I think of her, I take that moment to grieve by acknowledging that she is gone. I no longer let her loss lead me in life, instead, I let my love for her sustain me. Ultimately, It is love that leads us to healing.  

You can read about what happened in the LA Times: