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More than just another COVID victim

More than just another COVID victim


Her name was Duyen. Pronounce it however you like. That’s not the point.

The point is that she was not just an older lady whose cause of death was COVID-19. I had originally put her actual age in the previous sentence but then I realized she would have objected. One thing she would definitely not have objected to: being written about in the newspaper.

The point is that she, like each one of the more than 500,000 people who have died from COVID, had families and friends and influenced those around them in ways they were not aware of.

I was one of those people she influenced. She was my wife’s oldest sister and one of the things I liked most about her was that after the two of them talked on the phone, during which time they would giggle like teenagers and debate who was the handsomest new Vietnamese actor, or they would discuss more serious matters like who in the family was graduating, getting married or having a baby, my wife almost always came away feeling good, grateful, happy.

I say almost always because, well, they were sisters after all.

One of my favorite stories about Duyen was the time she was supposed to fly from her home in Utah to Paris for a family event. No one is sure how it happened but she ended up in Copenhagen. My theory about how it happened is that there was a bit of a language barrier—her English wasn’t perfect—but flights from the US to Copenhagen are frequently less expensive than flights to Paris and she did love a bargain. There is no evidence to back my theory.

Anyway, she was stranded in Copenhagen. No money, speaking a little English, no Danish, no French.

She managed to talk and charm her way onto a flight to Paris and arrived unruffled later that night. I admire anyone with those kinds of skills. Even if I could manage to get to Paris the way Duyen did I would have definitely been “ruffled” when it was all over.

One reason she was able to function in the world the way she did was that she was a street-smart observer. She knew nothing (and cared less) about American football. But she knew her grandson was crazy about the Denver Broncos. She remarked on more than one Sunday afternoon during the NFL season, “My grandson is very quiet today, so I guess the Denver Broncos must have lost.”

She loved to sing and was not shy about letting you know it. A day before she went into the hospital in January, she called one of her best friends and told her she was not feeling well and, in case anything happened, she just wanted to tell her friend what a beautiful part of her life their friendship had been. And with typical genuineness Duyen took the opportunity to tell her friend that she had recorded a CD of her singing that would be released soon.

The day before she passed away, Duyen wrote a single word on the white board near her hospital bed: “Biden.” Based on conversations that took place before she went into the hospital, we knew this was code for, “Ask my sister in Napa when Joe Biden is going to send me my $1,400.” She had plans for that money. Maybe a trip to Paris.



Davis Taylor is president and director of local advertising of the Napa Valley Register.

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