The Last Moments of Uncle Ho
By Vu Ky
Translated by Duong Tuong

The following story is one of Mr. Vu Ky’s favorite memories of his life with Ho. Vu Ky was one of the eight closest aides.

Thirty years have elapsed, and our country has gone through many changes. However, the last days of Uncle Ho always remain alive in my mind.

Sitting beside his bedside, I kept massaging his stiffened, thin, bony fingers so that they could flex with ease. He lay still, eyes closed, his breathing even, and, wonder of wonders, his immense brow showed almost no wrinkles!

Only at moments when I announced some visitors did he open his eyes and talk. Ho would take the initiative in comforting the anxious callers.

“Don’t worry, I feel much better today, I’ll recover soon.”

When Brother Ba (Le Duan, then general secretary of the Vietnam Communist Party) or Brother Van (General Vo Nguyen Giap) came, Uncle would inquire about the fighting situation in the South, wanting to know whether there were military victories somewhere. With Brother To (Pham Van Dong, then prime minister), the subject would be how to organize the forthcoming National Day (September 2) and about the possibility for Ho to be present at the commemoration ceremony together with “our fellow countrymen.” Advice on the measures to take at the Paris Conference were what he would give to Brother Sau (Le Duc Tho, then Vietnam’s chief negotiator at the Paris Peace Conference) when the latter came to say goodbye before leaving to return to Paris. Receiving Old Duc Thang and Big Brother (Nguyen Luong Bang), he would try to show an appearance of fitness and ask about the living conditions of the South Vietnamese people, about the air-defense measures taken by the civilians in the North, about the evacuation of Hanoians…

Even from his sick bed, Uncle Ho kept cheering up people in good health. A cadre wrote in his diary: “Those people in good health cheered up by the bedridden president, hesitated to go, overwhelmed by loving compassion for him.”

Lying exhausted in his bed, Uncle Ho nevertheless wanted the radio on so he could be aware of the latest developments. When I reported that the water level of the Red River was rising alarmingly and suggested that he be moved to a place of higher altitude in Hoa Binh Province for safety, he remained silent. I thought he had dozed off from exhaustion. But when Brother To came, Uncle said unexpectedly: “Ky just suggested that I be moved into safety, but forget it. No. I’d never desert my people. You all must see to it that the dikes are safeguarded at any cost.

In the evening of September 1, his state was so aggravated that I thought he’d die at any minute. But he opened his eyes and asked: “Is tomorrow the 2nd of September?” I replied: “Yes, Uncle, tomorrow is the 24th anniversary of Independence Day.” Then he asked for medicine.

Ho departed this earth on the morning of September 2, as if choosing the very day he had proclaimed the Declaration of Independence at Ba Dinh Square twenty-four years before.

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