Gates, Kingsley & Gates Smith Salsbury Funeral Directors
4220 South Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA
Kristen Khue Tran
August 15, 1966 – October 1, 2019
A Tribute to My Sister
This letter is to commemorate, remember and mourn the life of Kristen Khue Tran, my sister, and the beloved daughter of Tran Xuan Thao, Kristen’s father and Nguyen Thi Hong Buu, her mother. Both of Kristen’s parents are deceased. She is the middle child in a family of three children. Kristen’s surviving siblings include by one older sister, Lea, who resides in West Hills and one younger brother, Sidney, who is a resident of west Los Angeles.
Kristen was born in Da Nang, South Vietnam on August 15, 1966. Da Nang was also known by its French name Tourane when Vietnam was known as French Indochina when France rule Vietnam as a protectorate and colony of the French Empire. She lived there until April of 1975 when the pro-Western country of the Republic of Vietnam dissolved and ceased to exist as an independent nation. My family and millions of other people are the product and living legacy of the 20th Century political conflict and turmoil in that region.
Not a lot is known about that period of my sister’s early life. There are only few fragments of that life exist. There are few photographs like an elementary school portrait of her and her sweet gentle smile. Much was a loss when a whole country disappeared from the annals of history. Kristen attended the first two years of elementary education at a French run school where the instructions were in French and the teachers were French. It was a language she forgotten when she came to the United States as a child.
Kristen was a scholar and was always a highly motivated student. She excelled academically. She graduated high school ranked in the top 20 in her class of over 500 students. She was a member of the National Honors Society. Her excellence in academics allowed her to win a scholarship to a private university, Baylor University. She attended Baylor University from 1984 to 1988. At Baylor she was a pre-Med, Biology and Chemistry major. She had the special distinction of being named on the Dean’s List for academic excellence at Baylor. Kristen was involved with campus life by doing volunteer work. Some of her volunteering activities included visiting terminally ill and infirmed senior citizens at a senior citizens home. On these visits Kristen would talk to these senior citizens at the twilight of their living years to provide comfort and companionship to these lonely adults. She also read bible passages and sung hymnals with these older individuals who were stricken with various illnesses, which inhibited their quality of life. My sister always had this sense of compassion and caring for people who were afflicted. The activities that Kristen was involved with were an indication of her caring nature. It was an outlook, which complemented her goal of becoming a doctor and a missionary. That was her motivation to attend and choose Baylor. I think it was a period, which she was the happiest. I visited my sister on several occasions when she went to Baylor. She took me to a few classes she took. She introduced me to her friends and professors. It was my first exposure to college life. This experience influenced me to further my own education. I’m forever grateful for my sister for instilling me the value for learning and seeking knowledge. The highpoint of her life was when she was a young undergraduate student at Baylor filled with youthful idealism to make a difference. I will always remember her that way. Her future was bright, hopeful and full of promise! When I think of those hopeful days before the dark cloud of illness descended onto my sister’s life, I can only feel sadness. All of her hopes and aspirations were unfulfilled and derailed. Her life was marked with personal tragedy and human suffering. This tragedy was the burden of illness, which she had to endure for the rest of her life. The illness that changed the trajectory of her young life was schizophrenia and autoimmune disease. The first one robbed her of her mind and personality. And the second one robbed her the independence and control of her body. These illnesses not only changed her mentally, they also transformed her physically from what she was before. Even though my sister was so sick and unable to fulfill a normal life, the core of her being was still intact. Her sweetness, gentleness, thoughtfulness and caring would last the remaining days of her life. She became a shell of what she once was. Her self-confidence, clarity of thought, single-minded purpose and determination, and ambition were gone. Every once in a while I can still see a glimpse her life before the illnesses ravaged her body and mind.
The illnesses, which plagued her life, did not define her. It was an undeserved fate, which she did not choose. Such is the tragedy of life that some people have to endure the endurable. I write about my sister’s illnesses because I want people to know what she had to endure and to publicize the need for people to understand the illnesses she suffered. She had no control from the illnesses, which robbed her of a meaningful life. Schizophrenia is the disease of the brain. It is a brain disorder that is passed down genetically but also has environmental factors, which produces the illness. It’s a cruel illness because it robs the person to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. The illness cuts down a normally healthy person at the cusp of early adulthood into a vortex of madness and despair. The onset of this illness manifested itself during Kristen’s last year at Baylor. Her mind and thought process deteriorated and she never recovered from this brain disease even though she still had the fortitude to complete her degree in biology. I often think a part of her died much earlier with the onset of her mental illness. I remember to well how I wish that amazingly bright, self-confident sister would come back and awaken from the years of darkness. But she was never the same. I still mourn for that young sister I grew up with before the full force of mental illness changed her mind completely.
My sister’s short life also contains many beautiful memories. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins on both sides of my family loved her very much. Their memories, recollections and photographs have filled the emotional void of loss. They remembered my sister as someone who was a voracious reader. Books filled her world and imagination for a long time. Those are the same memories I have of her as well. She read great classics by Shakespeare along with Wuthering Heights and Little Women. She also enjoyed popular novels like the Great Gatsby, Thornbirds, Shogun, and the Far Pavilion. I remembered the details which she would vividly describe these books. She traveled the world from the books she had read. She was entranced by the exotic locales where the stories took place. She was enchanted with the characters in the sagas and the complicated lives they lived. She also liked the stories in Greek Mythology especially like the ones told by Edith Hamilton. I remembered her telling me vividly the story of Psyche and Cupid in Greek Mythology. It is one of her favorite stories in Greek Mythology. It was through my sister’s passion for books that I share the same passion for the printed word.
Another aspect that my relatives fondly remember of my sister was her fondness for cooking. She loved to cook and experiment with ingredients. She used to watch shows about Julia Childs and the dishes she cooked like Coq Au Vin. She even experimented with making homemade ice cream and bread making. I remember her trying to make La Buche de Noel, aka: yuletide log for Christmas. Christmas was a favored holiday for my sister. She loves the decorations, the Christmas tree, and the Nativity scene. These are the little things, which brought her joy.
Kristen always had a special affection for pets especially for puppies. The first pet we had was a border collie/cocker spaniel mix. We named him, Murphy. Kristen brought this beautiful pup home one day and we loved that puppy. One of my favorite pictures of her was with her beloved Murphy. Her other pets were Poopsie, Pony and Coffee. She loves these adorable animals as if they were her children.
Kristen also had a special affection for her grandparents and for the children of her cousins. She often looked at pictures of my grandmother and grandfather on both sides of my family. Her Ba Noi, Ba Ngoai, and Ong Ngoai were special to her. She also found great joy looking at the photographs of my cousins’ children. I would hear her comment about how cute they are and beam with pride as if they were her own children. She was very thoughtful and sincere. At her hospice care bedroom are pictures of my cousins’ children on display on the wall. I think it gave her a sense of dignity that she is connected by familial bond to the outside world beyond the confines of a hospice institution.
It’s hard to believe that she is truly gone. But her torment is over. The ailment, which made her bedridden, was like a prison sentence. She was imprisoned by the immobility that she no longer had control over her hands, feet and even her ability to speak. The physical and mental affliction, which unfairly ravaged her life, has been lifted. That’s the only solace from her passing.
The suffering, which she endured in this life, was not without meaning or purpose. For me it gave me the insight and understanding of human suffering as seen through the eyes of a younger brother. Through her affliction it made me know the power of compassion, empathy, unconditional love and understanding. One cannot know the full measure of these feelings without suffering. There is no sense of good without the contrast of evil. It is because of suffering and pain that humans know the essence of caring.
My sweet, gentle, kindhearted sister passed away on October 1, 2019. The only possession she had was the hospital gown she wore when she passed. It’s hard for me not to feel anguish as I see her languishing and tormented by the illness which afflicted her. I will remember her always. Life can be bittersweet.
- Visitation Saturday, October 12, 2019
Kristen Khue Tran
October 14, 2019
I have another memory growing up as neighbors in Cliffgate Dr in Alief. I would occasionally catch a ride to UH with Khue in her gold stick shift truck. Yes, Khue was very efficient with the stick shift! On the 40 minutes commute I would hear of nothing but her beloved glory Baylor days. She made sure I knew she loved Baylor!
Since the age gap was closer, khue being only 3 years older we hung out with friends. On one occasion we went to Galveston and walked the beach. Instagram and Facebook worthy , we took pictures on top of wooden poles like the Karate Kid's crane stance. We balanced on one leg on the pole while our arms flailed above our heads. 25 year old khue climbed and posed too! She walked in the sandy beach while sporting a straw hat and laughed and joked.
My cousin Khue fought hard those college days and all the while working occasionally and earning good grades.
We hope you know that toy were loved and cherished !
October 13, 2019
I remember Khue was always a bookworm and would often bury herself in a huge pile of books whenever I would see her growing up. She was pretty and parted her winged hair in the middle with oversized plastic glasses. Very academic and smart, we younger cousins would always admire her broad vocabulary and sense of humor. She would joke with us and then, when we didn’t get her jokes after a brief pause,she’d laugh and snort at the same time trying to explain the punchline. We all love her and her kind spirit and will definitely miss her wide grin.
My last and final time to visit Khue was 2 and a half years ago. At that time she was bedridden and was barely audible. Her eyes twinkled as tears welled up as she whispered and asked questions about my children. I was glad I was able to reconnect with her after years of separation.
May she rest and reunite with her parents in heaven and may she find peace, love, and happiness in the next life.
We love you, Cousin Khue!
October 11, 2019
Chi Khue! May you rest peacefully in Heaven. I will surely miss you. My fondest memory of you was when you were telling me about all the different novels you read. It was nice to see your face light up with excitement. You were so smart and I always looked up to how dedicated to reading you were. Please watch over us from Heaven! We love you.
October 11, 2019
My sister in a happier time! I want to remember her when life was full of hope and promise.
October 9, 2019
RIP Khue, We love you and missed you.
October 7, 2019
Various pics of Kristen from childhood to adolescent.
October 7, 2019
Khue was my first cousin. She was smart funny and loved to bake!
We grew up together and when we came to visit she nose would be buried in some great book!
We lost touch over the years but I have fond memories of our childhood! When she said something funny she would be the first to giggle ! Rest In Peace dear cousin KHUE
October 7, 2019
Kristen was a kind and caring older sister.
October 6, 2019
The attached photo is my sister at a homecoming game at Baylor. She was the happiest when she went to Baylor!
IN THE CARE OF