The 19th of March was never a day consequence, it wasn’t a loved one’s birthday, it isn’t a public holiday, it held no special importance and yet it’s become a day forever ingrained in my life. It’s the day my Dad left this world and joined his creator.
My Dad was a colourful character. He had a flair for fashion and you’d always find him dressed in his finest. He had a wicked sense of humour, teasing my Mom incessantly from morning till night. They had a rock-solid marriage spanning 50 years. When my Dad spoke of my Mom it was always with a twinkle in his beautiful brown eyes. A striking characteristic he possessed was a heart of pure goodness. He loved making us happy, went to great lengths to please us, even running errands for all he knew. I recall him being very strict when I was growing up, but as the years took its toll, he mellowed and his grandchildren got to see another side – a calmer, kinder, loving grandparent.
When my Dad fell ill, he suffered immensely. He spent nineteen days in hospital in the intensive care unit. During that harrowing period I watched his health deteriorate, his organs slowly fail and him finally conceding he wouldn’t return home. I was powerless – constantly praying for a miracle but knowing deep down he was tired of suffering and couldn’t fight anymore. When my Dad passed, I wasn’t there, I’d returned to Cape Town three days prior for work purposes. Once the call came to say he had a few hours left, I knew I wouldn’t make it on time. This is the biggest regret I carry, not being at his side during his final hours.
I recall the funeral as if it was yesterday. The neat temple hall with white plastic chairs lined up. My Dad’s treasured Ganesha statue decorated in marigolds standing tall at the altar marking the spot where he would lay. My Mom sitting forlornly comforted by my aunts. My sisters huddled together anticipating the moment my Dad would arrive, my brothers chatting to the priest on the proceedings. As my Dad was wheeled in it seemed as if he was taking a nap, looking dapper in a pink shirt and pin stripe suite. A hush fell as quiet cries from my Mom and siblings peppered the room. Customary tamil songs filled the hall and a sea of family members approached paying their last respects. Two hours flew by, the priest chanted a prayer and the family offered their final blessings to my Dad. When the time arrived for him to be taken away to be cremated, it finally sunk in that I would never see him again and I was broken.
I returned home to Cape Town soon after the funeral wanting to feel the comfort of my home, wishing to resume my life. Unfortunately, that was not to be. The world was moving swiftly along while I was trapped in a whirlpool of emotions. Grief is exhausting – it has a way of consuming your existence for months on end. I couldn’t write, didn’t feel like reading, running didn’t bring me joy and all I wanted to do was stay in isolation.
During this time I reached out to my family. I knew the pain I felt, my Mom felt a thousand times over and I wanted to support her as much as I can. I booked tickets for her, my sister and brother to spend the Easter holidays in Cape Town. It was a blessing having my family around, exploring the city and just enjoying each other’s company. Most importantly we spoke about my Dad, keeping his memory alive and together we helped each other gain strength.
Months passed and the regret I carried waned. I realised I had done everything I could to be with my Dad, that I was not meant to witness his final moments, that I had said goodbye to him many times and voiced my love at every opporunity. I had to forgive myself, let go of the bondage, and once I did, acceptance came.
My Dad has become a driving force in my life. He has reached the status of my Higher Power. When I pray and meditate, they spring to mind. I’ve asked for their guidance, I’ve cried when I felt the world was ganging up on me and I truly believe they’ve worked in unison to pull me to the other side – wiser and stronger.
A one year ceremony was held in remembrance of my Dad on 7 February 2016. I was not keen to return to Pretoria, I didn’t want to relive the memories I had of my Dad and his passing. My Mom was adamant that she wanted me there and I abided. My fear was unfounded – I needed to go back, needed to be with my family, needed to honour my Dad’s memory. My Mother went all out and arranged a beautiful ceremony. The prayer marked the moment when my Dad’s soul is set free to rest in peace. I was fortunate to visit the location where his ashes was scattered, the breath-taking Shree Ayyappaa Kshetram temple in Erasmia, Pretoria. The prayer blessings and a lit clay pot was released into the Apies river by the priest and I bid my Dad a teary farewell. I was glad I’d returned home, the experience was spiritually uplifting and brought closure, especially for my Mom.
I’ve stayed in contact with my Mom as I always do and I’m in awe of her never-ending strength, courage and positivity. There has never been a time when I’ve seen her down or even reveal how tough life is without my Dad; she just soldiers on day after day. I have immense love and respect for this matriarch of our family; she continues to inspire me with her unconditional love and kindness.
My sister and I are very close. She’s the one my Dad called when he needed to be rushed to hospital. She’s the one who was there in so many ways, the one who drove and sat at his bedside during every hospital visit. She collected me numerous times from the airport without complaint, taking me to see my Dad, keeping me updated on his condition. She was the one he chose to express his final wishes, the one who was present till the very end. She took my Dad’s passing hard, understandably so, but in the same vein she was highly trusted and few receive such a blessing from a parent.
A year on and the 19th of March 2016 was marred with another loss in our family. My beloved uncle passed away on the 18th and his funeral was taken on the 19th of March in Pretoria. It was a tough day for my family having to relive the death of my Dad and saying farewell to a beautiful soul. My heart bled for them. I spent the day remembering my Dad, sympathizing with my cousin, praying and meditating. I patiently waited until 10h45pm, the exact time my Dad passed and with tears streaming, I expressed my undying love.
Dad, your passing has forever changed me. I didn’t realise how losing a loved one could cut like a knife. I wish I’d had more time to spend with you, that I could have erased your pain, that your health and life could have been prolonged. I miss you so much, more and more with the passing of time. You’ve taught me the valuable lesson to show those I adore how much they mean to me at every encounter, to always do good and do everything in my power take care of my family. Your memory burns bright, you will never be forgotten and one sweet day we will reunite <3