So I haven’t updated in six months. Where did I go, what did I do, where has life gone?
Four days after my last post, my dad passed away. From lung cancer on 20 April, at about 1.15pm. It’s been six months, but I’m still tearing as I type this.
It’s hard to believe that a man who’ve I seen every day for the past 26 years is gone. I was still expecting him to walk me down the aisle, talk to me about my jobs / changing jobs / moving houses etc etc. Yknow, like what adults do. The truth is, it was only in recent years that we actually got to learn more about each other. Due to our age gap, and the part where my family’s not affectionate (and I dislike people touching me)…
My thoughts are everywhere. I can’t seem to string a coherent story together. Do I miss him? Yes, of course, and small things still can trigger a flood of tears. But I can’t say I miss his ‘fatherly presence’, simply because towards the final two months of his life, he wasn’t a typical dad to me. No fatherly duties, conversations… our roles had reversed. I became a caregiver, worked at night instead of the day. In that sense, I didn’t have a typical father figure, so I can’t say I miss that.
Because I was awake for about 20 hours each day, I ended up tending to many needs. Giving him water, cleaning his teeth and face, fanning him, making sure the oxygen tube didn’t disconnect, and even injecting him ~10 times day when things got bad. Did it hurt? Yes. What hurts more is when I remember his most painful moments.
When he asked me for help because he couldn’t breathe. I ran to the kitchen to get the injections, and slowly injected him. “Char, help me, I can’t breathe”. I burst into tears in the kitchen shortly after giving him the injection, knowing that there was nothing that I could do.
On Monday, he told my mother he was afraid. She stood by him, praying. Instead of holding his hand, I hid behind my computer, like a coward. My dad would have never done that. He would have held and prayed with me. Can I ever forgive myself for being such a shitty daughter?
On Tuesday, there was so much mucus/secretion, he was croaking as he was breathing. Breathing was strenuous. I went to sleep at about 7am, but was awoken at 7.30am because dad couldn’t really breathe, and I had to inject him again. At 8am, my mum went to shower, and I took the chance to say goodbye. Asking if he was ready. (Not really, he said). He said it with so much clarity. I asked why, and he just smiled. He couldn’t string long sentences then. He was just too weak. I was telling him that even though we never said ‘I love you’ to each other, I hope he knew that I did. I told him about how much I appreciated him giving me everything in every sense of the word, sending me to school even if it was a 5-min walk, turning on my heater and fan every night. I miss the latter so much till this day. For weeks after he passed, I always went to my room, anticipating that my heater and fan would be turned on. But of course they were never. Things like that, my dad did out of nothing but love for me, hoping I’d have a nice warm shower after work, and a room that had been cooled. He’d nag at me to use the air con, but I wanted to save money and would use the fan. I’ve never reciprocated my gratefulness, perhaps I didn’t know how.
Did our talk make me feel better? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just how I console myself. Does it work? No. Having that one talk will never make up for my lack of action as a daughter. Me looking after him 24/7 during his final days will never amount to anything close.
On another day, he said, “I think we should keep a dog”. I asked him what he wanted, hoping he’d tell me, just so that I could pick a dog up from the pound and keep him happy, even after he passed. He never told me. I never looked for a dog. His response was, “char, I think I’m doing crazy”. Perhaps he realised his thoughts were all over the place?
On yet another day, my sister brought him one of her toys, and she asked if it was cute. He held it, and said ‘for you’, and passed it to my mum. We all broke down. During one’s final moments, you really cherish shit like this. How he loved my mum but couldn’t tell her.
He passed away on Thursday. To say that we were absolutely wrecked would be an understatement. We all took turns staying up, friends and family brought food for us. We didn’t want to send him to a hospice, we wanted to look after him ourselves. Our bodies were so battered, we could barely sleep due to anxiety, stress, fear of the inevitable.
Let’s face it. You will never know how to say goodbye to anyone. Nobody can teach you how to do that, and there’ll never be enough time to appreciate the person. How did I face it? I don’t know, but I don’t have much of a choice, do I?
Is there guilt? Every. Single. Day. How I didn’t tell him that I love him enough (I said it just once when I was saying goodbye to him).
I don’t know what has happened, as my dad has never been a looker. We have his photo on our piano, and sometimes I catch myself looking at his photo, thinking that he looked handsome in it.
I usually distract myself to fall asleep, I work until I’m exhausted, I do everything I can to sleep. On nights where I lay in bed, thoughts creep in and I’m a wreck. I hate feeling this way, but at the same time, it feels good, knowing that my guilt also means I won’t forget the sadness when I think about my dad. Sounds morbid, but it’s my way of coping.
I always thought of my mum as someone frail, she cried when a mole came into our house. But I’ve seen so much of her strength through my dad’s illness. Her unwavering love for him, her faith in God, everything, You knew she loved him because she’d read the bible to him, talk to and pray for him, change his soiled diapers, clean him from head to toe, and make sure he was comfortable. You wouldn’t do that if you didn’t love someone. You’d just do the bare minimal. I want a love like how my mum loved my dad when he was dying.
For weeks after he passed, I’d try to recall his voice, except that I’d hear nothing but his final few sentences to me, asking me to help me as he couldn’t breathe, or that he was going crazy. I coudln’t block those sounds out, it was like someone was screaming them into my head, and I needed a third party to shake grab me out of it physically. To distract myself from the voices. They’d hurt my head, I wouldn’t be able to cry as my nose was blocked. But at the same time, I was comforted by the voice, because it meant I didn’t forget him. It was painful to even think about it.
On some mornings, I’d cry on the way to work, sob in the office… it still happens from time to time. Perhaps one day, I’ll think of happy memories, but for now, it’s mostly stuff that haunts me. I can’t bear to look at my Facebook photos beyond a certain timeline, nor my iphone photos. I took snapshots of my sister reading to him, of grandpa holding his hand… I can’t bear to relieve it.
Dad stopped looking and functioning like a dad in February. Until this day, I wonder if him going for radiotheraphy was the right thing to do. He deteriorated so quickly, it scared the fuck outta me. Like most cancer patients, he was reduced to a shell of a human being, a skeleton of a living creature. Of course, as I saw him every day, the change was so gradual I didn’t really notice.
But I know my brother was the one who was shocked. he was bust studying, we were busy looking after dad, we did’nt really communicate w pictures. And on the morning he came home, I know he was in shock. To see my dad lying on a hospital bed in the living room, hooked up to an oxygen machine. He said hi to dad, went to shower, and probably cried his eyes out. I don’t blame him, it was too much for anyone to take.
Isaac was home for two weeks, and I’m glad he got to say goodbye. I’m glad my dad held on. He passed away on a Friday, and we had the funeral on Sunday. Isaac flew off on Monday. It all happened in God’s perfect timing. My brother stayed up to look after dad while studying. I don’t know how we did it. Mum and grandpa would look after him in the day, I’d sleep from about 9am-12pm, and work at night and keep an eye on dad. Grandpa was worried sick he couldn’t sleep much either. He’d wake up at 4am, come downstairs and just hold my dad’s hand. Sometimes, he’d cry. But that was all of us. Looking at your loved one lying motionless, hoping he’d pass soon just so he wouldn’t be in pain, feeling guilty that you wanted him to die… I’m nauseated just thinking about it.
The week before he passed, I cried whenever I had a free pocket of space in my head. I couldn’t understand how I was so cruel. Never have I once wished death on someone so much, and actually meant it.
There’s so much to talk about. The funeral (my brother chose the coffin and everything), the love from family and friends, the eulogy.. I don’t know if I still have it, but I’ll post it up soon maybe..
You know what sucks? That the world carries on. That time doesn’t pause for anyone. While I was (still am) grieving, others went about their daily lives, laughing as they do. Yes, I did feel it was unfair, that nobody talked about my dad after the funeral, or that people didn’t openly ask me about how I was coping. Maybe I needed to grieve to others, I don’t know. Maybe others don’t know what to say/do, and are afraid of making me cry. It’s a selfish thought, to want others to miss your dad as much as you do. He was far from a saint, obviously. But perhaps that’s life, and I know that people love my family and me dearly, still, even if they don’t say a thing.
I dream about my dad a lot. One time, I dreamt he was in his pre-cancer body, wearing his bull shirt tt had yellow red and green bulls on it. I asked if he was ‘okay’ and he smiled. I knew that smile meant that he was no longer in pain, and happier. Sometimes, I dream of him being ill, other times, I dream that he’s no longer there, as if my dreams mirror life.
On some nights, I ask God why my dad had a convo w my brother,but not with me. I was napping that morning, at about 4am, when I woke up and heard my dad telling my brother, ‘you coming home.. it’s the only thing i could ask for’.. but for me, all he did was nod when i asked if he knew that i loved him.. perhaps I had ‘the talk’ way too late. Perhaps my dad didn’t have enough time with my brother. I don’t know. I still ask God to send my dad to me in my dreams, to tell me how he is, or say things he should have. I can’t, and don’t want to move on from that.
On one hand, I want the crying and hurting to stop. On the other hand, I thrive in the pool of sadness. Maybe the guilt keeps the memories alive.
Do I miss him? His presence, yes, his acts of love, for sure. It doesn’t feel the same without him. On dad’s birthday (24 july), we ordered food and ate together as a family. Everyone on the table had the same thoughts, we missed him, and we probably had a good cry that night.
Perhaps in time to come, I’ll stop feeling all the negative emotions. But in the mean time, I’ll relish every moment, because it ties me back to my dad.