Saturday, January 30, 2010

Long Road==Jan 27 2010

 

He was supposed to be on a very different trip...climbing mountains...forging rivers...crashing through the jungles of Sabah. Instead, he flew across the world to see his sister who was dying. I picked him up from the airport on Tuesday night and we left Seattle before 3 am.

"Are you alright dad?"

"I'm fine"

We drove. At 5.15 am, he became deathly ill. We had to stop the car several times. We became familiar with the rest stops and the gas stations. By 5.35 am he suddenly- miraculously got better. At 7.30 the phone rang; his sister, my aunt, was gone...she died at 5.30 am. 

"Dad, are you alright?"

"I'm fine."

I reached across and patted his arm as we drove. As Lewis Carroll so aptly penned..."The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things: of shoes and ships- and sealing wax- of cabbages and kings."...and so, we, on our seven hour journey down to Selma, Oregon, talked, laughed and I heard my father tell me stories I had never heard before. I asked questions I've never had a chance to ask. Finally we arrived at the mortuary ...Hull & Hull...in Grants Pass, Oregon. 

"I'm here to see my sister."

I let the kind gentleman know my father travelled from Sabah to Singapore to Seattle and now to Grants Pass, Oregon to see his sister. He looked very empathetic. I wonder if you go through a special course to work at a mortuary. Do they teach you to talk in an ultra soft voice? Do they train you to lean towards those grieving and nod your head at everything they say? If so- he was trained well.

"Would you like me to prepare her for you to view her...she has just come in...."

"No, I would like to see my sister just as she is."

"Give me one moment."

We waited. We commented on what a lovely mortuary it was. We viewed every picture on the wall. My father read the motto, "we are here for your today and your tomorrow." I asked again..."Are you alright?"

"I think it is better like this..."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, it might have been better that I didn't see her struggling in pain. Maybe it is better I am seeing her like this."

"Yes, I think so."

"I needed to come, even though I didn't make it in time."

"You are right."

"How could it have happened so fast? They just told me she was sick? She was well a week ago."

The kind man returned to usher us into a small room. He carefully explained her mouth was not totally shut and her eyes were not fully closed. He paused at the door to warn us of her body being there immediately when we entered the small room. He need not have worried about us and dead bodies...my father and I have seen our share of them ...but then this time it was his sister...so it would be different.

He patted her cheek and forehead and said, "Oh sissy...oh sissy...you've gone." I stroked her arm and felt tears welling up. It was difficult for me to see my father grieving for his only sister. He didn't cry but he kept saying,"Oh sissy...I tried to come quickly."
There was not going to be a funeral. She chose not to have one. Her sons said they had to fulfill her wishes. My father sat in the car outside the mortuary and said, "Now what? Shall we have lunch?"
I said, "Why don't we go to Elmer's Restaurant...since it was her favorite place to eat." 

His face brightened up, "It will be like a tribute to her memory."
We ate at Elmer's and he told his 'sissy' several times..."we are here for you."

After eating, we headed back up to Seattle. Seven hours of more talking, and phone calls to loved ones. As I drove, I listened to my father retelling the day's events over and over to each new person he spoke with. I could tell there was a certain healing going on with each new telling. There would come a time he would weary of having to relate the events; but for this time, he needed this therapy of sorts. I listened as he told me more stories. Eighteen hours after leaving my house, we pulled back into my driveway. 

"Are you alright dad?"

"Yes, thank you, I am fine."

There will be many more days for him to climb mountains, forge rivers and stomp through the jungles of Sabah. Today was the only day he could make the journey to say farewell to his sister. I am thankful I was a part of this journey.

11 comments:

  1. The passing away of a loved one tests one like few things do. While coming to terms is about learning to let go, it is holding on to the memories that helps with the healing.

    Very sorry to learn of your aunt's passing away. With passing time, unavoidable as it is, we become poorer for the losses we live through.

    Each one leaves its mark behind.

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  2. Anil P- thank you for the kind words.

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  3. and you are a great daughter!not surprising, eh? a chip of the old block.

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  4. k- you are too kind!! Just sent my dad to the airport, he is flying back to Singapore

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  5. I'm sorry!!!! Dont really know what to say, keeping you in my prayers and hoping your father & you find comfort in the memories you have.

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  6. very sorry for your loss Con. been away from the blogs and just did'nt know. my apologies for coming here late. Please give my wishes to your dad too and I will remember you and your family in my prays. take care. God Bless

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  7. Reflections & A- thanks so much for your kind thoughts. My dad is back in Singapore now- he is doing well.

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  8. I had read it when I wasn't in a position to comment.
    I am very sorry to hear about loss of your aunt. Time is a great healer, it'll heal but memories will remain and should remain to cherish them.

    Hope you & your whole family is doing fine.

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  9. Nisha- Thank you for your kind words. My dad is doing very well and is back in Sabah now- he will head over to Nepal next week. - As for me- I'm here in Ghana.

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  10. Anjuli, very touching. I am sorry to hear about your loss. It is hard to cope for months if you were close to her.

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  11. "A"- I was quite close to her and it is strange how at the oddest times I will suddenly miss her like my heart is being squeezed inside my chest...it always sneaks up on me when I am least aware...a melody...a topic of conversation...a thought.

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