I'm a simple girl with a li'l dream, of seeing her humble works in exquisite print, to share with all who feels for words, written with
an unsupressable urge. So indugle in my fantasies, and plow your way through my memories, greatly appreciated you will be,
if you can leave your comments here for me.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Turning Point

Remember in my "Octobabies" post, I mentioned that October 23 is a very significant day for me?

It was the saddest day of my life.

It was the day my dad passed away.

That was 17 years ago. I remembered the night before, I was by his bed watching him. Just like I had every night for the last 2-3 months since his condition worsened.

That night, I had severe gastric pangs. I had to be wheeled from his room to the observation ward. Lying in the dark cold room, I could not help sobbing - into the pillow so that the nurses would not hear.

I thought about my dad, painfully hooked up to all the machines, and how much he meant to me. I thought about my mom, how frail she had become ever since my dad succumbed to nose cancer. I thought about our finances, how we were almost depleted due to the numerous radio therapies my dad had to go through. I thought about myself, and how I would be losing someone I loved so much.

The gastric pains intensified.

Two hours later, the doctor came in to check on me. He pressed my abdomen, and asked if I felt any pain.

I could not speak. The pain was excruciating. But I knew my mom would collapse if another member of the family were to be hospitalized. I knew very well - we could not afford the expenses. And I knew the only place I wanted to be right then, was next to my dad.

I told the doctor I was feeling fine.

I was wheeled back to my dad's room, where my mom was waiting anxiously for my return. I told her the same lie and asked her to rest while I kept watch for the rest of the night.

I cried in the toilet when the pain got too unbearable.

The next morning, my mom decided we should all go home to wash up and come back to the hospital later in the afternoon. It was October 23, 1988.

The minute we stepped through the door into our home, the phone rang. My heart stopped momentarily, fearing the worst. My mom reached for the phone. I saw her choking, and tears began to stream down her cheeks.

She put the phone down, turned to us and said heartbrokenly, "Your father's gone."

I was in a daze pretty much after that. Death was something so unfamiliar - and I was only 12. I could not comprehend what it meant. I thought he must have gone off to some place, for a long time perhaps, but he would return one day. My mind refused to accept that he was no longer alive.

He would definitely return for me. How could he not? He loved me so much.

I was crying and laughing during the funeral, not knowing exactly how to feel. I wanted to be strong, but I was hurting like hell inside. I could tell no one, because they were either all too busy with their own grief, or running about with the funeral arrangements.

No one bothered to find out if I was ok.

The day of the creamtion, I screamed when he was pushed into the furnance. I bawled, cried, sobbed and banged on the glass windows of the viewing gallery. I called out to him till my throat went hoarse, and the pain that was running through my brain and heart was extreme. I was dying inside as the flames began to consume the coffin. I was dying with him.

But no one knew.

His death was the turning point of my life. My insomnia stemmed from the days I laid awake, anticipating his return. I cried myself to sleep every single night for three years, believing he would be back. I could not believe he would leave us alone to fend for ourselves. He was the greatest dad anyone could have. Why would Death take such a good man?


My mom stopped cooking because she claimed that she had enough of that when she was taking care of my dad. She was sick and tired, and too depressed to cook again. I began to stock up on packs of instant noodles with the money I earned as a sales assistant in Yaohan, and had that for all meals for three whole years.

I had no choice but to grow up faster than any kid. I had to be stronger than any adult. Because no one cared. Not even my relatives. Everyone was afraid we would become a burden and they disappeared right after my dad's funeral.

We were really all alone.

I was completely alone. To grief. To heal. To feed myself. To see myself through school. To earn my own pocket money.

Nothing was ever the same for me after that. I learnt what depression was. I learnt what it meant to feel hopeless and suicidal. I learnt about insomnia. I learnt about the meaning of kinship. I learnt about heartlessness of people. I learnt about total abandoment. I learnt about solitude and loneliness. I learnt to make my own money. I learnt about hunger. I learnt to gain independence and strength.

I have also discovered that a part of me has died with my dad on Oct 23.

And only two persons knew this secret - the Lord and I.


Richard said...

Wow! Yet another beautiful post from your heart. Again, I feel uncomfortable posting a comment, since anything I write will seem trite, cold and unfeeling, and dismissive, but … that is not what I want.

Maybe I should just listen and say nothing, but I fear that will only confirm your experiences of being abandoned, left alone and uncared for.

Since I once mentioned that wisdom is not my strong point, here are my woefully inadequate thoughts:

Death or tragedy of any sort is difficult for people to deal with. We feel uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say. Two and a half years ago, I discovered a dear friend had been seriously injured in a car accident (broken neck and back). In January of this year, another friend had a heart attack (he was 34 and had a 9 month old son). A week later my mother told me she had cancer.

All are still alive, I saw my friend who had the car accident on Thursday (more than 2 years after he disappeared from our lives. He looked fine, but mentally and emotionally I could see he was broken. The severity of his accident has dawned on him, the fact that he will never fully recover physically. Friends have left him. He feels isolated and alone. I think it was good for him to meet with Sally (no, not my wife) and I – his two oldest friends in Canada.

My friend with the heart attack is doing well, his wife is pregnant again, but they have a hard situation because neither works in their profession (they are immigrants) and their work schedules are not exactly ideal.

My mother has completed her chemotherapy, and preliminary prognosis is good, but we shall see in January. Her form of cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s large B-cell lymphoma, has only a 30% treatment success rate.

So why do I bring these things up? In each case, dealing with them is difficult. What do you say? How do you interact? You want to be sympathetic, but not overdo it and yet … not be indifferent. It seems that people who suffer tragedy become pariahs. Ostracized members of society. As though, their hurt and pain is too much for us to bear to look at. So we turn away from them or, instead of looking at them, we look past them with unseeing eyes, pretending that nothing has changed.

My mother commented that she did not seeing people during her illness, not because she was sick, but because of the response. Nobody treated her like a person anymore, she was someone to be prayed over or pitied. Or to have all the latest cancer research told to her. Or sit with people who were uncomfortable and had nothing meaningful to say.

My first experience of death was when I was 17. We had just finished high school, when a friend’s father died of a heart attack on his way home from work. We sat with him. But, I will be honest, I did not know what to say. I tried to treat him as always, acknowledge the death, but not to treat him differently. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. I last saw him at my wedding. Maybe I should have hugged him.

Loneliness is terrible. Especially when you most need to be loved when everyone seems to turn from you.

All I ask is to be loved
To be held without judgment
Knowing my burden is shared
And that I do not walk alone

Take care.

(You can delete this post if you like. It is probably hopelessly off target. Maybe I should have just listened and said nothing.)

Bee said...

i understand.... thanks for sharing. *hugz*

j said...

> My mom stopped cooking because she claimed that she had enough of that when she was taking care of my dad. She was sick and tired, and too depressed to cook again. I began to stock up on packs of instant noodles with the money I earned as a sales assistant in Yaohan, and had that for all meals for three whole years.

Assuming there was no exaggeration at all in the last 6 words and nothing was said out of context (eg. your mum asked you to eat out, but you yourself did not want to), this part makes me feel angry! The other things described are to be expected for anyone who experienced the loss of a parent. But this should never have been a part of your experience, with or without a death in the family. Never! period.

Life is beautiful said...

I dread the day when my daddy will leave me.

I guess the cremation part must have been the hardest. How does one press the button, sending the coffin in? It is like the ending of an end.

Many people tell me we all die one day. Oh well, que sera sera.

Till then, life is beautiful Elvina.

Guan Yu said...

Know one thing for sure, that ur dad would wan u to live well.

U r a strong girl. Much tougher than any girls I have known. Ur stories touch our very souls and make us realise how fragile life and be.

Continue ur good works. So far so good.


Elvina aka LaoNiang said...

Thanks all for the support. I will be fine. :)

Mickell said...

I sympathise with you regarding the departure of you dad.
Amen. Stay strong in the power of the Lord and in the strength of His might :)