Stitching Together the Pieces of a Broken Heart

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My name is Mai. I am probably one of the tallest Asian women you’ll ever meet. I was born in Vietnam after the war. Shortly after my mom gave birth to me, my dad built a boat for us to escape from Vietnam. The country was ruled by communism and the living conditions were desperate. No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land. By pure luck, we made it safely to Malaysia – many other boats were lost at sea or intercepted by pirates who would rob and murder Vietnamese refugees. I’m giving you this back story because it’s the reason why I’ve always believed I’m one of the lucky ones.

I believe that a higher fate is always watching over me and my family.

When I was one, my family came to America and we moved to a suburb of Oklahoma City, OK. My first day in America was November 11 (or 11/11) – ever since, I’ve considered that a lucky date. I also make a wish everyday at 11:11. I’m very spiritual, which I’ve acquired from my parents.

I knew how much my parents sacrificed to bring me to America and give me a better life, so I always felt a lot of pressure to make them proud. I was Valedictorian in High School, graduated from a prestigious college, and went on to marry a doctor. After marrying someone well-established, I could tell my parents were less stressed and felt more secure. Then I continued my education and went on to get my MBA degree.

I spent so much of young life worrying about making my parents happy, that I sacrificed much of my own happiness.

The truth is, I was in a loveless marriage with a man who didn’t respect me. He thought he could control me and tell me what to do since he was the main breadwinner. But my parents didn’t believe in divorce and wanted me to do whatever I could to make it work. So when my husband landed a new job in San Diego, I relocated my life with him. Although I wasn’t happy in our marriage, moving to San Diego was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I loved the weather, the beaches, and the beautiful views.

As the months went on, my marriage continued to go downhill.

I remember one night, I was so sad that it hurt to hear myself laugh. I gave everything up to support someone who didn’t even love or cherish me.

My poor heart had been ripped into pieces. I was desperate for an outlet or for someone to listen. That’s when I came up with the idea to post on Craigslist under the Missed Connections category. I began to frantically type out my feelings and  couldn’t stop. I don’t know what I was  expecting in return, but it felt therapeutic to pour my heart out. I didn’t include a photo of myself and posted it anonymously. I know nowadays, Craigslist has a bad reputation for meeting strangers on their site but at the time I only knew it at as a community of people who helped each other.

I was shocked to receive so many messages of encouragement and support. One in particular was from a man named Kyle. He told me the sweet story of a prince who’s heart had been broken and then stitched back together. He explained how the prince’s new heart was even more beautiful than the one before because it had been pieced together with all his different life experiences. His new heart was built with strength, vulnerability, and love.

Kyle was sweet, insightful, and caring. But he was younger than me… 12 years younger, in fact.

I was 36 at the time and never imagined my soul mate would end up being someone with whom I had such an age gap. However, we started out strictly as friends – Kyle was there for me and offered guidance and support. When my husband walked out on me a few months later, Kyle gave me a shoulder to cry on. Since Kyle also lived in San Diego, we agreed to finally meet in person and the pull bewteen us was magnetic. I knew I had finally found my true destiny.

Three months later, Kyle proposed in Laguna Beach.

Kyle helped to heal my heart and put it back together. And just like the prince in the story, my heart became stronger than it was before.

At first my parents didn’t approve of our relationship – they didn’t think it was possible that someone so much younger could love me. They didn’t realize I had met my true match and that age is just a number. But in time they came around and grew to love Kyle. Unfortunately, around the same time as they began to accept him, my mother became very ill. And she declined quickly. Within months, she could barely walk, had a hard time breathing, and was getting blood transfusions every couple of days. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

Then, in May of 2016, my mom was rushed to the Emergency Room in Oklahoma. I was on the next flight out to be with her. She was transferred to three hospitals before a correct diagnosis was made- HLH – a rare blood disease where white blood cells attack red blood cells and the survival rate is small.

When I told Kyle my mom wasn’t going to make it, he drove nonstop for 24 hours to Oklahoma to be there.

He helped to feed her and care for her, and in the last few days of her life, my mom told me she felt Kyle was my angel. I think she was at peace letting go knowing that Kyle was there to look after our family. As my mom took her final few breaths, me, my dad, and Kyle were the only ones at her bedside. The following November 11th (11/11) – Kyle and I went to Maui where we released my mom’s ashes at Haleakala National Park (which she once described as “the most beautiful place on earth”)

Although we’ve been through a lot, Kyle and I have shared many happy memories and beautiful experiences as well. We have traveled to amazing places such as Hawaii, Alaska, St. Martin island, and New York City. We also have a trip planned to visit Italy this year.

We are living proof that even though life is hard, love can make you whole again.

Having someone to support you through the tough times is a true blessing. From pain, we find strength and reasons to grow and we never take anything for granted. We continue to love each other through the good times and the bad. I’m so lucky to have this amazing man in my life. He continues to make sure that I never lose my smile.