Araya Suntharanund Phuriphan
(1946 - 2008)

Araya Suntharanund Phuriphan

Bangkok, Thailand
July 2, 1946

California, United States of America
October 22, 2008

This site is dedicated to Araya Suntharanund Phuriphan. A Memorial Service was held at her home in Alamo on Saturday, November 22nd, 2008. The Phuriphan, Suntharanund and Chansanchai families would like to thank everyone who joined us that day. Your love and support means so much.

By Athima Chansanchai (daughter):

My mother, Araya Suntharanund Phuriphan, came to rest on Oct. 22, 2008 at the age of 62. I was there. She was not in pain. I know she is at peace. As she let go of her last breath, her spirit left her body and slowly rose like a kite that becomes more distant in the sky.

It filled the room, surrounded me and became a part of the universe forever.

My mother’s life was filled with love – love for me and my brother, Anute, and sister, Mananya; love for her husband, Dr. Thomas Phuriphan; love for her friends; love for her work as a healer; love for art and nature; and love for others, who she sought to help all her life.

She spent the last years of her life in reflection, recording her thoughts so we could remember her and to help us live better lives. She wanted us to know she was happy and that she lived a complete life.
Her greatest joy and success, she said, was motherhood.

“The moment I held this little creature in my arms, my life changed forever,” she wrote. “I never imagined I could love another human being that much, even more than myself.”

I was her first child, born in 1972 when she was 25, and I can’t remember a time in my life without my mother; but she had a vivid memory of being without me, between the time I was three months-old to when I was 2 ½. She left me in the care of her in-laws in Thailand, while she continued her medical training in the United States.

Once we were reunited in New York, she vowed never to leave me again. And, now, as an adult, when I think about how much of her is a part of me, I know she has kept that promise.

She is with us in our memories, and in our hearts.

In 1975, she had a baby boy, and in 1979, a day after Araya’s birthday, the baby of the family came along, a girl.

As her only son, Anute shared a special bond with my mother, who was so proud of raising such a considerate, well-mannered and sharp-minded man. In return, he was equally as proud to be the son of such a well-read and independent woman who also knew how to laugh and crack jokes.

Mom's will was so strong, a debilitating accident couldn't keep her from the wedding of her baby girl in September, the first of her children to marry. She gave us a gift in that precious memory.

Mom was always there for all of us. Every injury, every setback, every triumph – she was our anchor in a sea of change. She was a constant in a dynamic life that took us from Thailand to New York to Maryland to Mississippi to Florida, and finally, to California, in a move that showed true courage as she started her life over after divorcing our father, Dr. Malut Chansanchai.

In 1996, she married Tom, who she was proud to call her spouse and an intellectual inspiration. Even though they did not marry each other until later in life, they were college sweethearts.

Together, they saw the world. They traveled to Japan, Italy, Austria and Canada and countless other nations along with regular visits to their native Thailand. Everywhere they went, Tom recorded their experiences in photos.

Weeks before her death, they went to one of my mom’s favorite places, Westport, N.Y. She loved her lakeside home. She loved to surround herself with beauty, filling her gardens with roses and her homes with orchids and Japanese style flower arrangements, creations she was proud to display and give as gifts.

Mom didn’t talk about her professional achievements but throughout her life, I always remember that she held the respect of her peers and the gratitude of her patients.

Throughout her life, Mom had many close friends. The scrapbooks she compiled are filled with photos of smiling and laughing women. Some photos – taken decades apart – show how friendship blossoms and endures.

In her last days, Mom wrote about her other journeys, too. Her journey as a mother; her journey from student to physician and how it changed her life; her journeys after arriving in the United States, including an essay she titled, “My Journey With Cancer.” She philosophized about her battles with her own illnesses, breast cancer since 1997 and its spread to the brain more recently.

Even in her darkest days, she always sought the bright spot.

“Throughout all this ordeal I am fortunate to have a very good oncologist,” she wrote, describing her former colleague, Dr. Bruce Clark. She said he was competent and compassionate. He gave her hope and comfort, but was honest and factual.

Mom was a beauty with brains who always met challenges with good humor and grace. “I lost my hair for the third time, an excuse to buy a new wig,” she wrote.

She thought a lot about her role in life as a physician and the people she touched. She graduated with an M.D. from Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, in 1970, and spent more than 3 decades practicing internal medicine at VA hospitals before her final position at Kaiser Vallejo.

Mom selected the two poems in the program. The one about kites, she said, summed up how she felt about us. Children are like kites, the poem says, you run with them until you are breathless – and you let them soar, free.

The same, though, might be said of her spirit.
Her remains, surrounded by her books and pictures of family and friends, are at the Alamo home she loved so much. We can touch her urn and tell her good morning and good night. But her spirit is in us and all around us – soaring, free.

Besides her children and her husband, Araya leaves her mother, Pimpa Suntharanund of Bangkok; her brothers, Phubest Suntharanund of Chicago and Pishnu Suntharanund of Bangkok; son-in-law Owen Rundall of Alamo; and sisters-in-law, nieces and a nephew.

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Guest Book (6 entries)
Submitted on behalf of Araya's many loving friends in Thailand:

Dear Toi, (Araya)
I am glad to have known you and been given the chance to study in the same year at medical school, all the way until graduation. Although much time has passed, we were fortunate to have such a strong friendship over the years. Because our names began with the same letter, we participated together in many activities at school. This allowed us to become close friends. Your kindness, generosity, and caring attitude, as well as your willingness to help others, will last in my and all our friends' memories forever.
May you arrive in a peaceful realm.

Chao Aruna P. Khattighavong, M.D.

Missing You - Toi (Araya)

Every time I look at our old college pictures and pictures of you from our reunions, it makes me miss you so much. When I heard that you had passed away peacefully, deep inside I felt relief because I knew you would not have to suffer anymore. You were very able and strong. I and Ti will be thinking about you, our dear friend, always.

Yo and Ti
Oct. 27, 2008
(Chariya and Chayavuth Lekprayoon)

Dear Toi, (Araya)

Wishing for Toi to rest in peace. We will miss you for a long, long time.

Chasuree Sitakalin, MD

Dear Toi, (Araya)

May the good kamma that you have done in this life provide you with happiness in the
peaceful realm.

Dr. Bichitt - Chareeya Rattakul

Dear Toi, (Araya)

Since the first year of medical school, until the last picture that we saw at Toi's daughter's wedding, Toi was always surrounded by friends who were there to congratulate her. We always thought of Toi as a beautiful, kindhearted person who had never argued or got mad at anyone. As we recalled the past, Toi was at the top of all female medical students in our class. She always was our tutor. We always encouraged her to beat the guys so she would be at the top of the class, which she did. We were very proud of her. As a medical school teacher, I always told this story to my students so they could help each other, in order to graduate at the same time.
After leaving for the U.S. for further training, we only met when Toi came home. Lately she had been discussing her illness, just like a case study. She continued to update us in prevention, treatment, and all the new technology available in the U.S. It has been an educational gift for us, until she passed away. Since that day that she left us, I believe that she would be in heaven -- happy and content with another way of life. If she can read this, she will know how much all her medical school friends, Siriraj class '75, will love and miss our best friend - always.

Prof. Chuanchom Sakondawat, M.D.

Dear Toi, (Araya)

... How long has it been since we sent each other email...
... From now on, we cannot send anything, anymore ...
... I don't know what to write to you, it has been very confusing. I can't type correctly, my eyes are filled with tears and I can't see the keyboard very well ...
... We studied together, had fun together, and sometimes got sad together.
... We were in the same pre-med class since 1964, then the same medical school group at Siriraj. You mom made dinner for us when we studied for the last final exam before we became doctors.
... When you first went to the U.S. we got to write regularly, even more so afterward with email.
... When you went through hard times, you always let me know -- thanks for trusting me.
... When you had the first brain surgery, I remember visiting you and staying at your home. You even took the time to drive us around.
... Every year when you planned to come home - to Thailand, you would let us know and we planned trips, talked about shopping together. I remember how you enjoyed shopping with me, since we shared the same taste in things. Every time we would also plan ahead for the trip you would take upon returning in the next 6 months. We won't have that kind of fun anymore.
... My memory about you is still clear in my mind. It will stay with me until it is my turn to follow you ...
... "Goodbye, Toi" ... whenever I've said that to you in the past it has always been followed by "we will meet again in 6 months." This time it will only end with a goodbye.

Love, Tam
Rucha Sevikul, M.D. 10/28/08

Dear Toi (Araya),

I did not think that I would have to write this memorial note for you this soon.
I took out the old pictures when we were young, and also when we all turned 60. I re-read your emails, all of which I kept, including the article that you wrote. I became teary with all these memories and it made me miss you.
I got to know you for the first time when we were in college. You were one of the ‘Rajinigirl’ who was pretty polite, and very smart. We continued our journey together in medical school. You were very talented, you could study very fast, and finished quickly while we all were still copying the lecture notes. You were a good tutor who helped us study and also graciously supplied us with your mom’s delicious cooking while we studied for exams. We separated for 2 years after medical school and reunited again when we were the interns in the same hospital in the U.S.
That first trip to the U.S. was memorable and we all laughted every time we reminisced on it. Remember the time someone drank the soy sauce thinking that it was coffee? Or the time that we watched an entire Japanese movie without knowing that we could have changed the language to English. I remember when we arrived in LA, we got on the bus to Disneyland. We didn’t get off at the right stop, so when the bus came back around we thought that Disneyland was so huge that it had its own airport. I won’t tell anyone who said this!
We were very close during the internship since we were roommates. We had to adjust and struggle very hard. It was not easy to talk to patients in a language we were just starting to learn. We were also far from home and we had to learn to cook for ourselves. It would get very cold and travelling to and from work was not easy. The hospital was not in a safe neighborhood so the security guard had to accompany us, even when we ate at the Chinese restaurant across the street. I left the U.S. after 5 years, but you continued to live here – moving around from place to place until ending up in San Francisco.
You always welcomed us whenever we visited the U.S. After your first brain surgery, several of us were very concerned and came to visit you. You were well enough to take us to your house at Lake Tahoe. It was a very memorable trip.
When your illness got worse you always updated us through the email. You accepted it well. Whenever you came home, we always took fun trips together. You still were the pretty, young looking lady who loved to shop and lived a happy life.
This turned out to be a recall of our past, about good things and happy moments that we shared and not a memorial note. I was lucky to have you as my good friend - you were always a helpful person. I saw how you adjusted to the difficult things in life, including your illness, without giving up or being depressed. I really admired your strong spirit.
May your journey end in a peaceful realm.

With love from your friend,
Sangchandra Uuthiganond, MD

“In memory of Toi”

When we last met in June 2007 at Tom (Yolvilai)’s house in Bangkok, Toi told everybody that we won’t meet like this anymore because her tumor flared up. One of the sentences that caught my heart until now was when Toi said “Whatever I did, I did best… in each role. I don’t regret.”
What a lady, what a character she posed. I still remember Toi clearly on that day until now and know that Toi will be with us always.

(Mor) Pimpa Vajarabukha, MD
Oct 28, 2008

My condolence to Toi

My deepest sympathy, a sense of loss
On your departure from us and this world.
No matter how much preparedness,
Yet I still find myself an emptiness.
Another good friend, dear classmate
Has gone forever, However in my memory
I suppose you have led us
Getting ahead to a better place, a better world.
Surely a better choice for happiness.

I miss you!
Amdaeng (Hansa Sanguannoi)

Mananya Chansanchai (Daughter)
January 17th, 2009
Hello, my name is Mananya and I am the baby of the family. Many of you know me as Art, or Art, as it is said in Thai. I was born one day after my mother’s birthday. She used to joke that I must have wanted to be an individual because I wouldn’t come out on her birthday and didn’t want to come out on the 4th of July; I came out right in the middle. With both of us being Cancers, we shared a special bond, although in the past 10 or so years, we almost never spent a birthday in the same town, sometimes not even in the same country. But as she wrote in one of her emails: “Sorry we are in different part of the world on our birthday but our heart always connect from the day you were born.” Most of time we were apart on our birthdays because of our mutual passion for travel. As has been mentioned today and as you can see from some of the beautiful pictures you see here at the house and in the slideshow, she and Tom had the good fortune of traveling all over the world. Whenever we were apart from each other, no matter if we were on opposite sides of the world, my mom would always send these great, often very funny, emails, which luckily I kept the majority of, talking about all the fun she was having, the shopping she was doing, all the food that she would be enjoying, even karaoke with her friends. And of course all of the dirty jokes and late nights chats with all of her friends in Thailand. But without fail, she’d always end the emails reminding me to make sure to water her plants!! She loved her plants and orchids and it brought her a lot of joy to work in her garden and more recently with her flower arranging, especially ikebana.

Mom enjoyed a lot of things, so many of them so simple. She loved watching her CSI and Law and Order dramas on TV. She even stayed up every night to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Mom also used to love getting her massages. When I was a kid, I remember crawling into bed with her at night and she’d always want me to massage her legs. These last few months of her life, you can ask my sister Tima and my husband Owen how she would still ask for leg massages on a daily basis. She loved music and told me often how she was perfectly content after she retired to just sit and listen to music. She’d always sing along, sometimes listening to her ipod with her headphones on and singing aloud, oblivious to the fact that no one else could hear the music she was listening to. Memories like that make me smile and I often like to think about all the times my mom would make me laugh, which she did all the time.

Some of you may know, I live only three streets away and in the last few months of her life, this was truly a gift to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with her. But as I drive around town, it’s hard for me not to think of my mother. I had the great fortune of seeing her almost every week, at the very least, for the last 7 or so years since I graduated from college. So much of my daily and weekly routine revolved around my mom. We would go out to eat, go shopping, get spa treatments, go see movies, especially romantic comedies. I feel sorry for my husband because now it will be up to him to go see all those romantic comedies with me! I drove her around a lot because she hated driving. She would often say, “I’m so happy you all learned how to drive so I don’t have to anymore!” But I caused my fair share of drama for her when I first learned how to drive, crashing two cars within three days. Her friends used to tease her that her teaching her kids how to drive was like “the blind leading the blind.”

In addition to driving, my mom taught me a lot of things. She taught me the values of an education, pushing me to enter business school. She wanted me to get into business school before anything happened to her and I’m just sad that she passed away before she could see me graduate. She also taught me the value of true friendship. She took so much pride in her friendships, many she had for over fifty years. Here today, are three of her friends whom she knew from as far back as grade school. I’m sure they each have countless memories with her and along with them, I feel so lucky to have countless memories of my own. And finally, she taught me how to be the epitome of cool. Even in these later stages in her life, she still wore her Prada glasses, her beautiful leather jacket she had made, especially for her, in Florence, Italy, her Puma shoes and her signature pink lipstick. She always used to say that life wasn’t that bad because she still got up everyday, wanted to put lipstick on and could still watch TV, listen to music and eat good food, and that was enough to keep her happy. Maybe it was because of her deep spirituality in Buddhism that she was able to stay so positive. She stressed the importance of making the most with the cards that you are dealt in life and even when she would tell us of recurrences in her illness, she never let it get her down and stayed strong, if not just for her but for us as well.

A few years ago, my mother expressed to me her desire to have a memorial in her honor when the time came. In Thai culture, memorials are not commonplace, but she liked that in American cultures, a memorial provided the opportunity for loved ones to come together, share and celebrate the life of the person. She even chose the music, wanting us to play “Let It Be” by The Beatles. She gave us a gift by sharing her wishes with us and I am so happy we are all here to give her this special gift of celebrating her life.

To be mourned is a luxury, meaning that if someone is mourned, that means they had people that were close to them and that they were loved. Clearly today is a testament to our mother and the overwhelming amount of love she had surrounding her. Our mother was a strong woman who fought cancer for over 11 years. She wouldn’t want us to dwell on the end of her life and how this disease, as she would say, slowly took away her most precious asset, her brain, but instead would want us to focus on how she lived her life. She’d want us to remember her strength, her intelligence, her sense of humor, her beauty, and her unwavering love for her children. This is about how she would have wanted us to remember her, and that is what really matters. Thank you everyone for being here and helping us remember a woman who was truly one of a kind. I love you Mom and I miss you every day.
Mananya Chansanchai (Daughter)
January 17th, 2009
Our sincere condolences for your loss. We're here for you if you have any questions about using our service.
iLasting Staff
November 25th, 2008
I have known Toi (Thai nickname for Araya) since we were about 10 years old when we met at Rajini school in Bangkok . However I left for Triam Udom and subsequently Faculty of Medical Sciences while she went to Premed. at Chulalongkorn University. We reunited again when we went to Siriraj medical school. After we graduated we went to do internship at different hospitals and then came to the US. We would still meet once in a while and especially when we returned for Siriraj reunion in Thailand.

We kept in touch while in the US and I had seen her through some of the family crises which she came out with her head up high. We were very happy for her second chance of happiness only to be met with her diagnosis of breast cancer not too long after that. We were in touch more often after that because of my specialty as an oncologist. I was pleased that she did so well for many years, however it later recurred. We always talked about different options that were recommended by her oncologist and she always agreed on treatment as long as her quality of life is not compromised. She had periods of treatment holidays when things seemed stable. She went through several chemo regimens like a trooper, enduring some of the lasting side effects.

It was with great sadness to hear of her recent rapid recurrences through her e-mail and that there were no other treatment options left. She also anticipated "a good death". She seemed to make peace with herself and wanted to spend quality time with the family and looking forward to her daughter's wedding. I visited her about 6 weeks prior to the wedding. We went out to lunch together and reminisced about old times. Her mind was still quite sharp then. I told her that I would return for the wedding. However disaster struck and she went rapidly downhill. However she was able to hang on till the wedding. All the medical school classmates that went to the wedding were happy to see her there, but we all knew that this would be the last time that we would see her alive. I was so touched to see the love and care that she received from her children and brothers. It appeared that she experienced significant discomfort towards the last 2 weeks of her life. I felt relieved in a way since she left us,that she no longer suffered. She fought a good fight and became an inspiration to all of us. I looked at some of her pictures and knew I would miss her tremendously. Good bye my dear friend of more than 50 years. Love, Meow ( Pimpa Tara)
Pimpa Tara (Friend)
November 6th, 2008
What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful mother, Tima. Reading your letter leaves us all feeling warmed and thankful, even though many of us were not lucky enough to meet her. Thinking of you and your family, and sending lots of love... Sangita.
Sangita Chandra (Tima's friend)
November 4th, 2008
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"Happy Mother's Day Momma, we miss you. Love and miss you everyday!"
Mananya Chansanchai
May 9th, 2010
"We miss you every day, Mom. Our memories of you taking care of us, encouraging us and understanding us help you live on in us. I am so glad you found peace."
Athima Chansanchai
November 3rd, 2008
"In loving support of whom she is survived by. You are strong in countless ways and loved immeasurably."
November 3rd, 2008


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