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.