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Grandmother's Butterfly

By Phuong Dang, 2004 3:07 minutes

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Phoung's story is a tribute to her grandma, who remained in Vietnam. It is a story of families separated by space but not by heart. Phoung only knows her grandma through stories and photographs. She talks of the commemoration ceremonies that her family carries out to remember her grandma, who has since passed away.

Collection Recovering Hope


How do we grow up with loss and separation?

“There are no photos of me as a child in Vietnam.” That means there are no photos of Phoung with her grandma to show the closeness they experienced. Phoung must rely on stories told by her family members.

  • What anecdote indicates that she was very close to her grandma?
  • Why are stories so important for building and maintaining bonds in the family?
  • Why are photographs so important for maintaining bonds?
  • What does the birthday cake anecdote tell us about the family and Phoung’s grandma?

In many cultures people commemorate the passing of loved ones.

  • How does Phoung’s mother commemorate the death of her own mother?
  • What rituals of commemoration are conducted by people in other cultures? As a class, make a list and compare ideas. Are there similarities across cultures?

In her digital story Phoung celebrates the connectedness of family members. She feels the loss of separation from her cousins in Vietnam but believes her own child is fortunate.

  • How does Phoung believe that her own child islucky?

Approximately 42 per cent of Australians or their parents were born overseas, and many families are scattered throughout Australia.

  • Are you separated from your immediate or extended family?
  • Do you feel a sense of curiosity or loss when you think of distant relatives? How do you remember them?
  • Like the dark butterfly in Phoung’s story, what might prompt you to think of them?