Till we meet again, daddy

Since the extraordinary series of events that took place on January 14, time seemed to have stood still in our home.

The page for January 14 which was not torn off!
As the family rallied around to see to dad’s needs while he was in hospital, we only realised late one night, days later, that the daily tear-off calendar at home was not torn off since that morning.  Tearing off one page of this calendar per day was among dad’s morning routine activities like picking up the delivered newspapers from the front porch, turning off the night lights and taking the butter out from the refrigerator so that it was soft enough to spread at breakfast.

The sight of this traditional calendar, still on January 14, was both poignant and painful because we know that our home would never be the same again after dad’s peaceful passing on January 17.  While his presence is deeply missed, we are at peace knowing he’s safe in the arms of Jesus and we have a treasure trove of good memories with him.

My brother and sister-in-law had the privilege of staying overnight with dad in the hospital – one night in the general ward and another, in the first class ward – where dad was transferred after two nights in the general ward.

When I brought dad’s shaver to the hospital, my brother helped to give dad a shave.  Dad always had a shave in the morning and sometimes also in the evening, if we were going for a special event.  I knew personal grooming was important to dad and I never saw dad looking unshaven or ever keeping a moustache.

On the morning of January 17, my brother sent us a message saying that dad opened his eyes for almost half an hour and I reminded him to take advantage of the semi-lucid moments to talk to dad.  After the first 24 hours since his acute stroke, he gradually rested quietly and hardly opened his eyes.  He may not be able to respond but I was sure he could hear and understand our words.  Later my brother told us that dad even squeezed his hand in response during their “conversation.”

While my brother and his wife went home to get some sleep, my mum, aunt and I took the day shift.  As dad rested quietly, his breathing seemed to be more labored. 

I took my time to talk to dad, recounting in chronological order, from the time we left home to go to consult Dr Yap at KPJ Puteri Hospital for his shingles problem.  I told him he was then resting in the first class ward of Hospital Sultanah Aminah, his entitlement as a special grade retired government servant, and the doctors were taking good care of him.

Dad lived a long and happy life as father, grandfather
and great-grandfather
I was with dad in the first 24-hours since he suffered an acute stroke and I observed his confusion about what was happening to him.  But after 24-hours, his condition had stabilised and he seemed to have a sense of what was going on. 

I was deeply encouraged when I saw that each time I paused, dad moved his head with imperceptible nods.  I just needed to tell dad what had transpired between that time when we left home to our walk together to the pharmacy until when he was lying, almost immobile on a bed.  It was also an opportunity to tell dad that we loved him very much and reassured him of what we were doing to keep him comfortable.

Dad often talked to us about medical procedures and when we lived next door to the government clinic in Masai for the 13 years dad was based there, we learnt a great deal more about health care through dad’s patient experiences.  So while dad was lying inert on that hospital bed, I could tell him about the Ryles tube that was being used to feed him and I was sure he understood what had happened to him and would cooperate with the doctors, nurses and other carers.

Mum [Seated] with her three daughters and son,
and his family
That afternoon, around 3.45pm when the nurse came to check dad’s blood pressure, the reading was so shockingly high that we asked if the apparatus was malfunctioning.  When the doctors came to verify dad’s condition, they confirmed that dad had expired after a sudden cardiac arrest.  Dad passed on so peacefully that it seemed that someone had just turned off a switch and he ceased to breathe.

Through modern technology, news of dad’s passing spread rapidly but it failed to reach visitors who were already in the hospital compound, making their way to the ward to see dad.  They were probably more shocked to discover that dad had expired moments before their arrival!

Our lives are certainly not in our hands.  And even though we long for more time with our loved ones, it is beyond our ability to keep them when God calls them to their eternal rest.  In the 2-night wake for dad, our family was comforted by relatives, the church and friends who expressed their support and condolences through messages, food, gifts and wreaths, and being with us during our time of bereavement.

It was most reassuring to learn that our sister in the UK managed to change her flight and she arrived on time for the second wake service, and dad’s children were together for his send-off the next day.  Our nephews and nieces in the UK and Australia could not come on such short notice but we were reassured that they were with us in spirit and through the use of modern technology.

One of dad's favourite food from Niniq Bistro,
mushroom soup [Left] and grilled chicken sandwich
My tech-savvy nephews shared some of my blog posts on dad and reading them again brought on fresh tears because it reminded me that dad was indeed a very special father, grandfather and great-grandfather.  I simply choked up with emotion at their thoughts posted with Instagram photos selected from our family album.  A friend who was at the wake, told me she follows my family stories in My Johor Stories and felt our loss like she was part of the family!

We deeply appreciate the loving support from everyone who came from near and far, especially those who travelled from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.  From the tributes and messages, it was encouraging and comforting to see how my dad, a simple man who grew up in Ipoh’s Elim Gospel Hall, had impacted so many people during his journey here.

Surrounded by the love and support from family and friends, the wake period passed swiftly and smoothly.  We had to eat to keep up our strength and in honour of dad’s memory, we chose to eat food he enjoyed, like the Teochew recipe soup noodles with fish slices by Leong Kee.  And for lunch the next day, we had takeaways of mushroom soup and grilled chicken sandwiches by Niniq Bistro.  Later we also had a Village Countryside dosai meal in dad’s memory.

Dad as he looked in the 1950's
Dad was a gentleman who gave of himself with humility at every stage of his life and I know he would have felt awkward and embarrassed by the kind comments shared by various people in tributes and eulogies.  Some excerpts from the tribute by our cousin Shaun Mok, succinctly sums it up:

“Uncle was an inspiration to me because he never stopped learning.  I was both shocked and somewhat bemused to see him learning to play the piano when he was in his 70’s.  He was always keeping active, always yearning to know more and pushing himself to achieve more.  He also read widely and kept his mind alert with Word Search games.  And then he took up learning to read and write Tamil!  I believe that through this and God’s grace, he remained mentally sharp until the end.

I’ve also learnt a great deal about uncle’s faith.  The two key attributes/characteristics/values that I took from his life are prayer and legacy.  Prayer, because he knew that if his heart’s desire was aligned with His, then there was no need to worry because His will, will be done.  Legacy, because what better legacy to leave than an entire family who knows the one true Saviour and are saved for eternity.  I will cherish this for the rest of my life as it brings new meaning to the material things we strive for day in and day out.

Dad in church for our nephew's wedding
Lastly, and the main point – your dad’s sacrifices and love for family!  He will remain the uncle I’m most grateful to because he opened his home to our grandmother for two decades.  Uncle Steven is a very close second if not tied.  Each time I think of this, my heart aches but I know your dad is being richly rewarded right now.  I’m so grateful for his love for gran.  I know she was not the easiest to live with but somehow uncle made it look easy!

If your dad was to say anything to us at this time, I believe it would be this, “Go live your life, there is much to live for.  Remember, I only started to learn to play the piano in my 70’s…”

For the wake, we chose to use a vintage studio shot of dad taken in the 1950’s.  When he went out, dad always made sure he had a folded handkerchief in his pocket and often added a splash of cologne.  So we dressed him simply but smartly in the outfit he wore at our nephew’s orange-colour themed wedding, complete with handkerchief in his breast pocket and a spritz of cologne.

It really didn’t matter what dad’s age was in that old photo because in our hearts, he would always be our loving daddy, smart and handsome, sometimes serious but mostly jovial and always caring and considerate.  We love and miss you dearly daddy, until we meet again on that beautiful shore.

1 comment:

  1. He truly was a remarkable man. I miss him so..