Ova Saopeng wrote -
My birthday. My birthday. My birthday. I've had many a birthdays but this upcoming one is my 43rd and it's very significant because I'm still standing. I'll tell you why. This is a father and son story. This is a love story. This is a legacy story. When I was 14. My father, Nouthak Saopeng, died in his sleep. He died at the age of 42. He died in mystery. I remember that day quite clearly. I was sleeping in the living room on a cot. We were a family of 5, my mother, father, two sisters and I. We were refugees from Laos and lucky to end up in Hawaii. Paradise, right? Well, that night paradise turned to panic. In the middle of the night I was startled from my sleep to hear my mother screaming. I ran into the room to see my father struggling to breathe and my mother trying to revive him. We didn't know what to do. We had only been in the U.S. for nine years. When the paramedics came I was the main interpreter. I was the one that my mother looked too for answers. I had no answers. It was chaos. They tried to revive him but couldn't so they took him in an ambulance to Kuakini Hospital. At the emergency room they tried to revive him. No luck. Next thing I see my mom collapsing to the floor and hear her wailing. That day my mother lost a husband. That day three children lost their father. The autopsy report had no answer. He died of an unknown sleeping death syndrome at 42 years old. My father was a simple man. He grew up poor in Laos. He joined the military because he had no choice. He fought in the Secret War in Laos during the Vietnam War era. He was captured and spent two years in a re-education camp. When he was released, he risk life and limb to leave his homeland and bring his family to a better place...only this place couldn't revive him. He left too early at 42. Because of his unknown cause, I have always wondered if the same will happen to me. As as father now of a beautiful son, one of my worst nightmares is that what happened to my father would happen to me. I would die in my sleep next to my loved one and leave my child fatherless. Today, I am 43. I celebrate life and many more years to come. For this week leading up to my birthday consider a donation to TeAda Productions in honor of my birthday, in honor of my life, in honor of my father. I get to celebrate my 43rd year in the neighborhood I grew up in. The same neighborhood that holds the memories of my father when he was alive. He gave me this opportunity to become a better person and use theater to make a difference. Through TeAda, I have been able to honor him, to create, perform and take a stand.