Christina A. Sharik


She’s old and wizened,
looking like a little raisin
with dark fathom-deep eyes –
She says her son never came back;
and those dark eyes still see him,
as he was then.
She sent him off
with pride and fear
25 years after the end and
she wishes she could hold
her son again.
She says if they
could find something, anything,
even teeth
she’d know if they were his –
She says he always carried
a flute with him –
She says if they only found
a broken flute and a tooth
she would know that
he was gone –
As it is now,
the agony of hope
crawls slowly on.

Author’s Note: For a Mother on the Other Side. This is the mother of the soldier who inspired me to write “The Broken Flute”, and this is her story.


Pham Kim Hy
“I’m proud that he made a contribution to freedom,” Pham Kim Hy says of her son, Dung
Pham Kim Hu still has the silk baby dress her son Ho Viet Dung wore as an infant and the slippers he used as a 3 – year-old. Now 71, she insists he is still with her. “Every time I open my eyes,” she says, “his image appears, in front of me.” In reality, she has not seen Dung, the older of her two sons, since 1970, when he joined the North Vietnamese army. He was killed on April24, 1972, at age 20, in a battle in the Central Highlands of what was then South Vietnam.

Soon after the war ended, Hy started looking for his remains. She searched 10 military cemeteries for a gravestone with his name, visited the scene of the battle three times, and combed the Ho Chi Mihn Trail repeatedly for burial sites. She carries Dung’s photograph with her everywhere, shows it to villagers, sends it to his friends. “If I can find the teeth, I know the teeth of my son,” she says. And another clue: “He always carried a flute. If I can find a broken part of a flute,” she says, “I’ll know it is his remains.”

So far, all she has found are a canteen, bullets and pieces of cloth used to wrap the dead. She has also collected soil and stones from each gravesite she visited, which she will someday bury in an empty grave near her home. Hy, whose husband, Ho Trinh, a retired Communist Party official, is ill, has curtailed her travels recently – but only temporarily. Says Hy: “We’ll never give up the search.”