Weeping may endure for a night…but joy comes in the morning!
“Dad passed on this morning at about 5am.”
My brother said as soon as I picked the call.
It was about 9 am on a Sunday morning and I was getting ready for a church service and the second time I was talking to him that day. The first, I had called him a little about an hour earlier to discuss how to get mom to hospital where my dad had been admitted 5 days earlier. He agreed with my suggestions even contributing to how we should go about. He must have known then that dad was no more but didn’t let out. This time I think he had come to that decisive moment of ‘I must let them know anyway.’ “Call all our siblings and inform them.” We talked a little more, then hung up.
It is quite hard to describe the pain, hopelessness and despair that I felt the morning of 23rd August, 2015. I couldn’t stop the shaking. My whole body was trembling. I gathered myself and started making calls starting with my mom. I’d agreed with my brother not to tell her dad was dead but that he was in critical state.
Then I called my sisters who were getting ready for the hospital visit, something they’d been doing since dad was admitted. Once again I felt I shouldn’t tell them the raw truth but that they should expect a grave situation. The night before, I had two separate conversations. I had talked to one of them and she was optimistic that though dad was on life support he will pull through. I found the information rather confusing because soon after, I called and talked to my brother and he had said that my dad’s organs had failed and they were contemplating switching off the life support in the next 24 hours. So not wanting to dampen their hope I told them to lower their optimism.
The best way to describe my movements that day is total confusion. I went to church couldn’t sit for more than 5 minutes, walked back to the house and started packing then realized I didn’t know what to pack and stopped. Simple tasks like washing my 6 months old baby’s milk bottles were so exhausting or complicated. I could open the tap only to catch myself several minutes later staring at the running water, the bottles untouched. For some reason I felt this was something important to do but never got to the point of finishing it. Finally I left them in the sink to start on something else. Whatever task started, I have no recollection of bringing it to a conclusion. Either I got tired midway which would be in less than five minutes or I couldn’t figure out how to do it or would stare at whatever I was holding not really seeing it, minutes on end.
A friend offered me food, I took a spoonful and left it. It was tasteless.
I walked around in a daze. All along trying to keep a cheerful face, or so I thought, because my eyes were red and puffed up from the sobbing sessions I would hold in private. I tried to be strong for my children, and for those around me. Save for a few uncontrolled outbursts, I didn’t show any pain or grief publicly. I cried privately and alone. When I was able to get a grip of myself, I called my eldest children, 12 and 9 and told them their grandpa was no more.
I went through the motions the next two weeks like a zombie. I joined my mom and siblings and we started preparation for his burial. We relieved the moments we had when he was still alive. Mostly the jokes he used to crack.
One moment was so surreal. We watched a video of my sister’s wedding which had taken place seven months before, (for me it was the last time I saw him alive) and it was so hard to believe that the person we were watching and listening to, was lying cold and lifeless in the mortuary a few blocks away.
It is understating to mention that decision making was almost impossible. Like buying a suit for him. What size? Did he lose weight? What about the color, Should it be blue, black or gray? Should we buy cheap or expensive? Should the shirt be stripped, plain or checked? What about shoes and socks? The thought that those were the last clothes and shoes we were buying was heartbreaking. Typing this now, I can’t remember who ended up taking the decisions. I also don’t remember whether the suit was blue or black or if the shoes were bought. Probably they were.
After the burial I rejoined ‘normal’ life. My assumption was, once I resume daily routines I will forget.
How wrong I was!
Ordinary things like singing would remind me of dad. The worst was attending funerals. I became an emotional wreck breaking down in the most unusual places including weddings (after the last time I saw him alive was at a wedding!). A year later I still couldn’t handle the pain and I cut off all my hair. I can’t explain the connection between the hair and what I was going through but I just felt I should cut it. So off my head it went. I left an inch long. Did this ease the pain? I don’t know but I don’t think so. The following year I wasn’t getting any better. Then there was feeling of being lost or exposed. Many times I would feel like my covering or shield had been stripped off. It was the most scary and hardest to shake off.
I remember asking God if I will ever recover. I wondered how other people got over this paralyzing emotion. I knew many people who had gone through this and worse and yet they seemed to lead ‘normal’ lives, yet on my part I had done all I could in my will power to get well, feel normal, come to terms with or accept it.
To no avail.
(to be continued)