When I wrote the first post for the year “Something new for 2007”, I only imagined my life with two children and how I would cope with the changes. Somewhere in the mental picture of our home with two children, my father and my mother were very much a part of it like they were when my first child was born. Little did I imagine this year would bring me that dreaded moment when you lose a parent.
My dear father passed away on Tuesday, Jan.23.07 at 11.15pm. He was old but in very good health except for some mild fibrosis in his lungs which was not so much of an issue. He caught pneumonia that led to respiratory distress and was on the ventilator for merely 20 hours after which his life was taken away from us. Some of my cousins and close friends lost a parent in the last couple of years and while talking to them I did imagine how it would be for me if I had to face a similar situation. And now I know you can never be mentally ready for this. The loss is gut wrenching and the finality of death crushing.
My father spoke to me from the hospital on Sunday night over the phone and as always enquired about my son and about my health now since I am pregnant. Here he was one moment talking to me and two nights later he is lying in his hospital bed lifeless. How can this be?! How do I accept this? I did not see this coming at all. The doctors seemed confident until just a day before his death. Who do I appeal to and say this is not fair? I did not even say goodbye to him. He did not get to see my son who he was so eager to spend time with. My parents were due to come and stay with me this March and now my father is never going to visit me ever. If I sound desperate, it is true, I am. The abrupt ending to his life feels cruel to those of us left behind. Yes, I am incredibly grateful that he led a long healthy life, a very very successful one at that and had a sense of completion of all his duties and died without too much suffering except for the last two days. But I am not ready to let go. I still have not though he has physically left us. I keep thinking he is alive some place and will visit me some day. Living in denial seems more bearable for the moment. I realize now how hollow my words of consolation must have been to my friends who faced such loss. Only time can make the pain less acute but the void will remain. During moments of joy even more than sad ones.
When my second child arrives, I will look for my father to come and hold the baby with a beaming face like he did when my first son arrived. We have a brilliant photograph of my mother and father holding my son bursting with joy. I keep thinking I could have accepted this loss better had he come and stayed with me as he had wanted to and had his life ended next year. But it is not for me to choose, destiny has made it’s choice. It did not give me a chance to plead. My father - the man with a majestic personality, the man who lost his father at age nine and became a very successful engineer all on his own effort and enterprise, the man who could relate to both young and old effortlessly, the handsome young man he was in his youth who retained his charismatic personality and maintained his physical health till his final days, who earned all the wealth he had all on his own, who has helped innumerable number of people in so many ways, who has been a guide to so many people I have come to know through their letters and calls after his death, who along with my wonderful mother raised his six children and many more who have stayed at his household always open to anyone in need….above all a wonderful father to all of us and a very dear one especially to me his last born “Kadai kutti” as he liked to call me, who showered me with care and concern….my father with whom I have argued so much, who put up with me and loved me despite it all, who prayed for me during all the important moments in my life…that colossus of a man is no more. I hugged his face like I never have before and begged him to look at me…at that moment I felt like he was a child – pure and guileless in his sleep.
I never did openly tell him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. I look for him every where and now I am reconciled to only look for him in my son’s bright eyes and beaming smile, in the little things he does that remind me of my father. While I cry inside saying “Appa, Appa, Appa”, I would like to think he is in a better place and his presence is here, there and everywhere around me – in the memories he has given me, in all the ways I nurture my children the way he (and my mother) did, and for ever in my heart. I now pray (however selfishly) for a long and healthy life for my mother who is our source of strength in this time of loss.
I asked my friend to send me this poem by Mary Frye which I read at his memorial service. It is a nice one for a time like this.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.