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The DIOP Circle V.12

September 8th, 2019


Linh Nguyen

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, Linh Nguyen is holding it down. She modeled our first collection but overall thinks Cashew is very unique. And she's going to share how she keeps the spirits of her loved ones close.

My house is the epicenter of my family.

Growing up I was constantly surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. My house is the first stop when my relatives immigrate, where family holds parties, and where you go to hear the gossip. At the center of everything stands our family altar, a memorial to our deceased ancestors.

Although I didn’t have a religious upbringing, the tradition of ancestor veneration is a spiritual practice I have known my whole life.

On the anniversary of each person’s death, our family holds giỗ, a memorial that celebrates and commemorates that person’s life. Giỗ for my grandmother, a popular lady and longstanding matriarch, has always been my favorite celebration.

On this day, we prepare all her favorite dishes for the altar; my mom arranges fruit and tea, and my dad picks flowers from the garden. Each and every family member and guest lights incense and pays their respects at the altar.

We wait for the incense to burn out, signaling that my grandmother has received our well wishes and offerings, and then the living dig in. Giỗ for my grandmother is a raucous affair; she had eight children, six remaining, eating and arguing and laughing together in her honor.

When our family isn’t celebrating, the altar is still a quiet, central force. I grew up in a house filled with people, but also with spirits. My parents never explained the concept of death or ghosts to me, because they were ingrained in my life from the beginning.

One does not take a nap on the couch with feet facing the altar, because it’s disrespectful. One doesn’t question a door slamming, because it’s probably a spirit moving about, checking on the descendants.

I also grew up going to many funerals where the family recites prayers for seven weeks to usher the deceased spirit into the afterlife peacefully.

At one hundred days after the death, we celebrate the spirit’s successful passage into the other world. Then, we look to the altar as a reminder that the afterworld is separate, but just adjacent to ours.

When I started working in oncology, I again found myself surrounded by death. I watched patients fight death, deny death, accept death.

I brought patients out of death, I pushed the morphine that led to death, and then I struggled to grieve.

I started asking myself: what spirits am I living with now? It is impossible to fully absorb the weight of every life lost when working in healthcare.

However, sometimes the loss of a patient crosses that clinical barrier and I don’t know where to put all my complicated feelings.

I looked around my five hundred square foot studio apartment, realized I was lonely, and created my own altar.

Every time there’s a sale on fruit at H Mart, someone swings by the house with a case of mangoes; half to put on the altar and half to slice up and eat with tea.

Gossip goes well with mangoes. I missed that feeling-, the spirits being with us as we lived.

Arranging the altar is meditative; it is a mental health practice that makes me feel engaged and connected to something outside of myself. There is such stillness in arranging tea and flowers for people who aren’t there. I feel the presence of my ancestors, as well as people I met and cared for briefly.

I wanted to create a place to celebrate their lives and nourish them in the next. If I’m going to be surrounded by death, I might as well embrace it. The altar in a manifestation of my spirituality, whatever that means. I watch the incense burn to ashes, breathe in the smoke.


The DIOP Circle V.12

September 8th, 2019


Linh Nguyen

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, Linh Nguyen is holding it down. She modeled our first collection but overall thinks Cashew is very unique. And she's going to share how she keeps the spirits of her loved ones close.

My house is the epicenter of my family.

Growing up I was constantly surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. My house is the first stop when my relatives immigrate, where family holds parties, and where you go to hear the gossip. At the center of everything stands our family altar, a memorial to our deceased ancestors.

Although I didn’t have a religious upbringing, the tradition of ancestor veneration is a spiritual practice I have known my whole life.

On the anniversary of each person’s death, our family holds giỗ, a memorial that celebrates and commemorates that person’s life. Giỗ for my grandmother, a popular lady and longstanding matriarch, has always been my favorite celebration.

On this day, we prepare all her favorite dishes for the altar; my mom arranges fruit and tea, and my dad picks flowers from the garden. Each and every family member and guest lights incense and pays their respects at the altar.

We wait for the incense to burn out, signaling that my grandmother has received our well wishes and offerings, and then the living dig in. Giỗ for my grandmother is a raucous affair; she had eight children, six remaining, eating and arguing and laughing together in her honor.

When our family isn’t celebrating, the altar is still a quiet, central force. I grew up in a house filled with people, but also with spirits. My parents never explained the concept of death or ghosts to me, because they were ingrained in my life from the beginning.

One does not take a nap on the couch with feet facing the altar, because it’s disrespectful. One doesn’t question a door slamming, because it’s probably a spirit moving about, checking on the descendants.

I also grew up going to many funerals where the family recites prayers for seven weeks to usher the deceased spirit into the afterlife peacefully.

At one hundred days after the death, we celebrate the spirit’s successful passage into the other world. Then, we look to the altar as a reminder that the afterworld is separate, but just adjacent to ours.

When I started working in oncology, I again found myself surrounded by death. I watched patients fight death, deny death, accept death.

I brought patients out of death, I pushed the morphine that led to death, and then I struggled to grieve.

I started asking myself: what spirits am I living with now? It is impossible to fully absorb the weight of every life lost when working in healthcare.

However, sometimes the loss of a patient crosses that clinical barrier and I don’t know where to put all my complicated feelings.

I looked around my five hundred square foot studio apartment, realized I was lonely, and created my own altar.

Every time there’s a sale on fruit at H Mart, someone swings by the house with a case of mangoes; half to put on the altar and half to slice up and eat with tea.

Gossip goes well with mangoes. I missed that feeling-, the spirits being with us as we lived.

Arranging the altar is meditative; it is a mental health practice that makes me feel engaged and connected to something outside of myself. There is such stillness in arranging tea and flowers for people who aren’t there. I feel the presence of my ancestors, as well as people I met and cared for briefly.

I wanted to create a place to celebrate their lives and nourish them in the next. If I’m going to be surrounded by death, I might as well embrace it. The altar in a manifestation of my spirituality, whatever that means. I watch the incense burn to ashes, breathe in the smoke.


By Linh Nguyen

Follow Linh at @linniebinniebitchy

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


- Linh Nguyen


Follow Linh at @linniebinniebitchy

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.