It has been a year since Dad passed away on 5th June 2011.
I still remember the time leading up to his departure – the flurry of text messages and phone calls from my sisters, informing me of Dad’s worsening condition and urging me to keep on praying. They told me that his condition wasn’t improving and that I had to prepare for the worst. Somehow I knew that he was leaving – my prayers didn’t contain desperate pleas for God to heal him, but for His will to be done.
It was on the Sunday that I was also scheduled to lead worship at church. I got a phone call in the morning – one of my sisters told me that Dad had to be resuscitated. However, he was not getting any better – he couldn’t talk anymore and we knew that he was in pain, physically weary and just wanting a release. My sisters told me to keep on praying. I told Yani about the news but there was very little that she could do. Having dealt with my brother’s death in 2008, I welcomed the onset of the emotional numbness that started to descend upon me. Perhaps if my ministry at church was some kind of a secular performance, I could have asked for somebody else to replace me. Somehow I just kept my feelings inside and continued on with leading worship at church. I didn’t tell anybody that my Dad was in a critical condition at that time.
Just before the service started, I got a call again from my sister – telling me that his departure was imminent. I asked repeatedly whether there was somebody from church ministering and praying for Dad. I wasn’t pleading for God to heal him. All I wanted to know was whether he was in the right place with God. My third sister assured me that Dad prayed along with a minister when he was still conscious. My sister also told me that there were three different ministers praying for him – representatives of the different churches that my siblings attend. One of my friends from church noticed that I was quieter than usual, but I couldn’t share about what was happening. I didn’t want my grief to affect the church service. It was my sacrifice of praise.
Then I got a call during the service – when the pastor shared his sermon. Dad had passed away.
I couldn’t cry at that time – maybe because I had been preparing myself for this for a while now. Maybe it was also because I knew that Dad was alright with God. I was just so sorry that I couldn’t be among my siblings to say goodbye to Dad or to comfort Mum personally. I didn’t get to experience seeing him in pain or hearing him call my late Grandma just like a little boy. Later on I learned that Dad was in so much pain with various tubes running into his body – the internal complications also meant that Dad should not be given too much to drink. On the last days before he passed away, he would beg for water and my sisters could only put moistened cotton buds on his lips as he wasn’t allowed to drink.
I don’t want to remember him that way.
Some years ago, when Dad was still strong enough to be stubborn but already affected by multiple strokes, I saw the look on his eyes when he needed to be assisted in and out of bed. I saw a glimpse of embarrassment – there he was – a proud, stubborn man, rough on the outside but with a golden heart for his family, having to be assisted to do even the basic things. I remember that look. As I mentioned in a post last year – I want to remember my Dad as somebody strong-willed and stubborn. Somebody who was extremely proud of me because I excelled at school but emotionally inept to show his love for all of his children. Somebody who would grunt in his disapproval when I deliberately waved my arms around him whenever he smoked (I could be very annoying too!).
To tell you the truth, I had never been that close to Dad but I know that he loved his family so much. I had seen him at his worst temper and I know how childish he could be, but never throughout his whole existence that he abandoned his family. He worked hard to get all of his children the best opportunities in life. Comparing how I grew up with how my nieces and nephews lead their life now, I know that Dad had accomplished his dream.
In a year of turmoil, confusion and cross-road, I am about to embark on a higher step in my academic life and I owe it all to my father. He gave me an ever curious mind with a streak of stubbornness. I wish I could tell him on the phone that I had sent my PhD application last month and imagined his smile, slightly smug but beaming with pride about his children’s accomplishments – not just mine, but also the others’. Oh how I wish I could hear him brag about his children again to my extended relatives and neighbours who would nod and smile politely.
It was his way of saying, “I love you” … and I miss him.