“You know how they say, bad things come in threes? I now believe that. Last summer my uncle-in-law passed away from a sudden heart attack; then our family dog was put down; and that June, my mother was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma – non-smoker’s lung cancer – stage 4. The doctors gave her six to 12 months to live.

One day, while waiting for my mom’s diagnosis, I was at my in-law’s house and walked past their piano. I stopped suddenly and stared at it, and it was like we had a silent conversation with each other.

My family is not musically gifted. None of us can really hold a note, but the pull I felt was too strong, so I decided to start lessons. For Christmas, I wanted to give my mom something that could not be purchased, something from the heart: her favorite song. When I showed my teacher the piano piece I wanted to learn, she had this terrified look in her eyes. It was very advanced, especially for a first-time student. But, I was determined and got to work. I practiced and slowly learned the piece line by line.

I finished learning the last note three days before Christmas. My mom was able to be home, and with the entire family present, I played the song. It’s called “Lòng Mẹ,” which means “Mother’s Love in Vietnamese. It was the first and the last song I ever played for her.

I devoted so much time to the piece so that my mother could know how much I loved and appreciated her. It was as if the music grieved with me. All the pain and anger, all the feeling that I could’ve possibly felt, was flowing out of my fingers.

My mom passed away in March. Learning the piano allowed me to live, while a part of me was dying. Now, I play for my mother. I play for what I lost. For my emotions and my recovery. I had a fantastic support system. But it was the piano that helped me with the journey of grief.”

— Tina Nguyen , University of Utah Information Security Office

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at