Myanmar: In My Father’s Footsteps: A Journey of Rebirth and Remembrance
by Pauline Hayton

Traumatized and physically depleted from aggressive cancer treatments, Pauline Hayton decides an adventure in Myanmar, formally known as Burma, will make her feel more alive. She takes along her husband Peter, and a film crew, students from Boston University, to capture her travels on film to help her grandchildren remember her should she develop further cancers and die, as expected, from the harsh radiation treatments. She explores remote regions where tourists rarely go and travels the famous Ledo road, visiting the places where, in WWII, her father participated in The Burma Campaign, as a Royal Engineer in Britain’s Fourteenth Army. Hayton’s jaunt in Myanmar turns into a journey of self-healing and remembrance of Fourteenth Army soldiers who suffered tremendous hardship as they fought to retake Burma from the Japanese. It is not in the spiritually charged atmosphere of the golden Shwe Dagon Pagoda or at the top of Mandalay Hill that Hayton starts her healing process, but on the shores of the great Ayeyarwady River as she recounts a twist of fate in Fourteenth Army’s 1945 river crossing while under fire from the Japanese. As dawn breaks, she finally faces her fear of crumbling to dust and disappearing from this world as have thousands of Bagan’s ancient pagodas. In Myitkyina, Hayton discovers a temple donated to the town some fifty years after the end of WWII by a Japanese Army captain, who fought under siege there and lost many comrades. Hayton realizes that she is not the only person to be carrying wounds from past traumatic events. Then, during a visit to Taukkyan War Cemetery, Hayton discovers her father’s friend’s name listed in the memorial book. He may have been part of “The Forgotten Army” but he is not forgotten here. Surrounded by row upon row of graves and the more than 27,000 names engraved on the Rangoon Memorial of Allied soldiers whose remains were never recovered from the jungle, a revelation hits her. Most of the graves belong to men who died in their twenties, and she has already lived more than thirty years longer than these young warriors. Gratitude for those extra years floods her whole being and the emotional pain from battling cancer and fearing an early death dissolves. [more]

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