Last Friday we bid a teary farewell to my beloved father. No one ever told me how painful it would be to lose a parent. I feel like my heart has been ripped out raw from my rib-cage.
When he was diagnosed with lymphoma nearly two years ago, I had no idea what that meant. A Google search linked it to the dreaded ‘C’ word. Lymphoma is a form of cancer that progressively takes over the lymph system, and brings immunity to a faltering halt.
A father is every girl’s very first hero, and mine was a true warrior. He battled with the cancer with unfailing optimism, and even in the dreariest of days, his faith in the Almighty remained rock-solid.
Papa lost his signature moustache to chemotherapy, but his strong resolve kept him going. Some days he was his former self, the boisterous laughter was back. On other days, he was sinking. Sinking and shriveling into a shell of premature aging that was so unexpected for one so fit, firm and enviously healthy.
Living at the other end of the globe, it was a bigger shock for me to see this crippling degradation, one spaced-out visit at a time. At times like this, my deepest regret has been choosing to live so far away.
It was almost like he has been hanging on, waiting for me to see him. I arrived five days prior, and on that day, he was perked up with pillows on his hospital bed, counting down to my arrival.
We hugged, we cried, we laughed and we prayed and prayed. Even when the doctors predicted the end was near, we refused to believe it.
Spooning diluted soup between his stubborn lips, I felt the role reversal of parent and child. And then he would throw out a spark of ‘Papaness‘. He tells me he has to get better, as he needs to make the samosas for the annual Esplanade Day this month. When I tell him I will handle it, he says “People will complain your samosas are not as good as mine!”. His samosas were a work of art, surely mine will be mere potato pastries in comparison.
My father was an avid gardener, and had a special fondness for roses. Our front garden is blooming with his memories.
We have been inundated with calls of condolences from near and far, and from many people my family and I never knew. My father was a very loved man. I hope he realizes just how many people he managed to touch with his kindness, humility and profound love for life.
A neighbor remembers his inspirational tips on keeping healthy, a group of little girls treasure the beaded bangles he lovingly wove for them. An old friend rereads a book he diligently recommended, and this past week I have been flipping though old albums recalling my former healthy, happy, ever-smiling Papa.
Papa lives on in our loving memories. He has shaped the person I am today. When I glance into the mirror, I see bits and pieces of his genes in my features. I remember his cold, life-drawn face. After months of agonizing pain and furrowed brows, he looked so much at peace in the end.
A father’s love is irreplaceable. I feel blessed to have come at the nick of time, to get showered in his unconditional love this one last time. A mere ‘thank-you’ can never cover everything you have done for us Papa, you will be eternally missed. Rest now, rest in peace, ameen.