Looking at old photos and hearing my parents talk about my dead grandparents – those were probably the closest encounters I had of facing the thought of death when I was a young child. It caused me to believe that people who died were always old, and even though as I grew older, I learned otherwise, I never thought it would happen to anyone I knew.
When I was eight, my sole living grandfather passed away. A traditional Buddhist funeral was held for him, and in the heat, sweat and tears of the wake, I observed and learned many things – none of which prepared me for what would hit me painfully in the face about eight and a half years later. I never mourned for my grandfather or my grandparents who had already passed away. I just felt sad, that I would never get the chance to see my grandfather again, or get to speak, at least once, to my other grandparents.
About four years later, in my last year of primary school, news had spread that one of my schoolmate’s mother had passed away from cancer. I feel so regretful that I never gave him any words of comfort even when I had the chance. Selfishly naive, sympathy had not even been present in my heart. How he must have felt – how lost, how dull, how empty, I now know.
My father’s death was the most unexpected thing I had ever experienced in my entire life. To say that the realisation of our lack of control over our own lives was suddenly obvious in this period of time – would be an understatement. It was overwhelming.
Just a few weeks before, we had been back in our home country, and there had been a day when I left my parents sitting in a cafe, to go to the toilet. When I returned, they were gone. I had walked around frantically, thinking I had walked to the wrong place. I searched, but I could not find them, and when I tried calling their phones, I could not get through. Maybe I needed an extra code or maybe I needed less numbers, but either way I tried, I could not get through to them.
My thoughts went wild. They had a fight. My mother fell ill. They had an accident. One of them is injured. They might die. They might be dying. They might be de-
When I finally got a response from them, I ran, still searching frantically. I ran around, still unable to find them, and worried like mad. My body sagged with relief when I finally found them, strolling casually. My mother smiled, and jokingly scolded me for being such a worrywart. My father had a small smile on his face, but now that I think back to it, it was almost as though he was worried what would happen if something actually had happened to them. What would happen to me, what I would have done, would I have been okay? I had been scared. To the pits of my heart, I had been so scared, so worried. I had not been able to calm down until I made sure both of them were okay, and I did not keep my eyes off them for the rest of the day.
So, when my father suddenly fell very ill, I did not want to believe it. I even still felt alright, and in control of myself, but when the ambulance came, and they said he had had a stroke, it suddenly all became real. I was supposed to be in the same ambulance as my father but they put him in a different one, a better one, they said. My mother was placed in a third ambulance as she started to fall ill from grieve and shock. She was accompanied by my brother, so I sat alone in the ambulance, waiting, while they applied emergency treatment to my father. It was dark, and I wanted to cry. Words stared back at me on the notification screen in the ambulance, telling me how serious my father’s condition was. I got scared. I got very scared. My hand gripped tightly on nothing, yet was able to do it so hard that my nails made deep marks in my palm. Tears choked up inside of me, and I wanted so badly for my father to be beside me, comforting me instead of lying unconscious inside some ambulance where I could not see him.
I was driven to the hospital at a normal pace – we could not speed since there was no emergency. The driver tried to make small talk with me, probably to see how calm I was and if I was okay, but the thing is, sometimes I can act so well, I fool everyone. During the week in which his body was left alive and breathing, I did just that. I fooled everyone that I was okay, that I was still hanging in there – but I was going crazy. I snuck to the toilets just to cry, and I cried when I was the only one by my lifeless and unconscious father’s bedside. When the doctors and nurses kept telling us the same stupid line, that he was definitely going to die and that there was no longer any hope for him, I just wanted to hit them. I wanted to yell at them. I wanted them to shut the hell up. I nearly did yell at them, but I did not.
When I could not take it any longer, I kept bursting into tears; time after time, in public, in front of everyone. The first time I did it, my brother spoke to me, disappointed. My sister pulled me into a hug, and I tried my best to stop crying. My mother was inside the ICU with my father, but I would not have wanted her to be present either. I had made an unsaid vow to myself, never to cry in front of anyone, especially my mother. My father had been the only one who sometimes caught me crying, and tried to comfort me, which is why his sudden fall hit me so hard; probably more than anything else could have hit me.
Nobody ever expected him to go like that, so suddenly. Everyone expected him to pass away when he was old and I had expected him to have seen me graduate, get married and even given birth to children, but we took it all for granted. My mother was always the one who was sickly, and I never hoped, but expected her to go before my father, however early that may have been. Even so, I had wanted to watch my parents grow old together, and I wanted to be able to buy them a nice little house for them to live in when I was older and had enough money for that. He worked so hard for us, for me, but I cannot even pay him back now. How I wish that I can.
I do not really know a lot about my father. Never asked him about his dreams when he was a kid, or if he was interested in anything other than the few things I already knew. The last time I hugged my father was when I still considered myself a child, and our relationship went up and down over the years. Still, he was a man I respected and admired, whose words affected me greatly. He always worked hard, trying his best to look after us and give us the best he could. He was strong, kind and generous; cheerful and easy to get along with. It was just unlucky for him to have us who would not help him as much as we could and give him as much as he gave us, but we were extremely lucky to have had him, as our pillar and our stronghold.
My father passed away earlier in the year. Death had hit me in the face like nothing else I had experienced before, and ever want to experience again, but I know I will. His death triggered so many other events that I will not mention, but know that they mattered. I know why God had taken him away from us, and it is because we were depending on him way more than we should have. I call myself a Christian, yet I was straying, and was unbelieving. Now, I find myself emptier, yet stronger. I am seeing all the similarities I have with my father, and I am drawing strength from him – I am not the only one. We all are changing, little by little because of what God has done, and what He has planned for us.
Right now, I am tired, and I am lost, and I do not know what to do with my life. So, I am just going to keep trying my best like my father did, to be strong, and to be brave, and to live, hoping that I will help change the lives of others for the better, even if it is just one person.
To all of you who are reading this: Please, do not give up and drown in your grief. We have to live for our loved ones who have passed away, and we have to be happy, knowing that is what they would have wanted for us.
P.S. Daddy, I really miss you.