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Along the shores of the South China Sea, where I was conceived by an American GI and a Vietnamese woman, Grit and I would meet for our first time. After being luckily removed in the last hours from Operation Babylift’s first flight out of Saigon, which ultimately crashed in a rice paddy and perished along with my birth certificate, I would make the next flight out. Maybe Grit knowingly chose to follow me as I made my journey from South Vietnam to the United States for adoption.
A tumultuous relationship with my father after my parents’ divorce at thirteen, leaving home to live on my own as a senior in high school and putting myself through college while working three jobs are all moments I found myself inseparable from Grit. But when I examine my life during those times, surprisingly those weren’t the times when I leaned on Grit the most.
Grit was with me as I drove alone, without my then husband, to bury my father after he died suddenly of a heart attack at Thanksgiving the year after my wedding. Five years later, it was me and Grit together, on the longest drive of my life, to say goodbye to my mother as she took her last breaths after succumbing to her muscular degenerative disease, leaving me with the title “sole survivor.” And it was Grit that accompanied me as I replayed my goodbye with the hope I gave her peace before she gracefully left this Earth. On that day too, Grit would step up to help me shockingly realize that once again I was flying solo despite technically bearing the “married” title and divorce was inevitably in my future. My long divorce battle was not kind to me, taking my children fifty percent of the time, my home and all that I worked for. Grit essentially, picked me up from that rubble and helped me recover and rebuild.
Despite all of those moments that I have just recounted, even then, I remained unaware just how strong that bond I had with Grit was. It was after returning from a three-week trip back to Vietnam after 40 years, with a man that dangled thoughts that I could love and live and regain my vision of family, when I really learned how devoted Grit was to me. I feverishly pumped on the chest of this man I loved and called 911, to have him never make it to the hospital only hours after returning from our fairytale voyage. My life shattered . My future stolen. It was then that Grit would assert it’s firm grasp on me and never let go. In the coming days, weeks and months that have now turned into years, Grit was by my side. Grit is defined as courage and resolve; strength of character despite facing extreme obstacles. Perhaps Grit is part of our genetic makeup or simply secretly stamped on our hearts or a shadow that follows us as we walk through life. No matter which, Grit is my steadfast friend. I believe to survive our grief, we each need to find our Grit.
Kim Libertini is all too familiar with grief and the Co-Founder of Goodgrief App, the social network for loss available for less than a latte, for download in the App Store, Google Play and www.goodgriefapp.com. You can follow Goodgrief App on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.