Today, February 2nd, was an incredibly emotional day for me.

It all started a few weeks ago when I came across a message online of another photographer announcing the passing of Yey Aek, one of the most photographed individuals in the temples of Angkor over the past 25 years. This news deeply touched me, as I realized the impact she had on so many people who had crossed her path, upon seeing the messages of support. However, my visit to the temple of Preah Khan yesterday led to an unexpected turn of events, leading to a sincere encounter that I feel compelled to share with all of you.

As I wandered through the temple yesterday, I couldn’t shake the memory of the announcement about Yey Aek. I decided to speak to one of the temple’s cleaning staff, who I knew lived in the same village as Yey Aek. To my surprise, she informed me that Yey Aek was still alive, albeit in poor health. This revelation awakened something in me, reigniting my desire to seek the truth and, if possible, to receive a final blessing from her. With a sense of urgency, I set out on my motorcycle this morning after quickly downing a coffee, determined to visit her at home and pay my last respects… but what if it was already too late?

Yey Aek at home 12 December 2022

Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Yey Aek’s 64-year-old daughter, who seemed perplexed by my presence, unable to remember our previous meeting in December 2022. Nevertheless, I immediately spotted Yey Aek resting exactly where I had left her last year.

Daughter of Yey Aek 12 December 2022

However, I did not see the same vibrant person I had met so many times before, even just a year ago. Now, this very old lady of 86 years, was sitting there, agitated, visibly suffering. Despite her fragility, she expressed the desire to give me another blessing… with the help of her daughter.

Yey Aek and her grand grand daughter 12 December 2022

I spent an hour by her side this morning, reminiscing about our shared memories. Yey Aek, though agitated, tried to communicate with me, and I found comfort in holding her hand, just as she had done for me and so many others before. She was too weak to give me a blessing alone, but her determination, with the support of her daughter, deeply touched me. I chose not to take a photograph, preferring to preserve the memory of her smile and behavior in my heart. With her daughter’s permission, I was able to take one last and unique picture of her hand, the same hand that had touched countless people to transmit her blessings.

Her hand 2 February 2024

Today, I am sad, as I may never have the opportunity to see her again. I felt compelled to share her story upon my return home and remind you all of the memories you have with her. Ultimately, since 2020, since she left the temple of Preah Khan, it has never been the same. The stone on which she sat for hours every day remains shiny and polished, a testament to her indelible presence. Let us remember Yey Aek for the remarkable person she was and the indelible mark she left on all the people she touched. I promise to return to see her again in early March, hoping that if her time has already come, she has left with dignity.

Continue to cherish the memories of people like Yey Aek, who have left an indelible imprint on your lives. Their presence may fade, but the impact they had on us will endure. Let us honor their legacy by sharing their stories and continuing to spread the kindness and compassion they embody and embodied! As the Cambodians say, “Ayou Veng” – “Long life”!


Here is in a few photos her routine in the temple of Preah Khan:

The polished and empty stone where she was sitting for years
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