The spirit is strong, but the body is tired.
In memory of my dad.
“Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever…”
Monday was the first day in two weeks I had not been at my father’s bedside. I joined him instead on his final journey as we drove to the grave where he was buried with grace and nobility.
A couple of weeks prior I spent each day at the hospital with my dad observing the screen with his vital signs more keenly than a competitive trader might their Bloomberg terminal.
A few days in, when he wasn’t unconscious, I managed to have a brief, albeit one way, conversation. After his heart stopped beating on the morning of October 2, he had a breathing tube inflating his lungs and all sorts of other wires doing the work his body no longer could. I asked if he was in pain. With a slight head gesture he signalled “no”.
I reminded him of when I was born. That was a time the country was in recession and the family had financial troubles. My parents were now destitute of the bountiful farm and generous community that nourished them in a previous time, and instead found themselves alone. With a grandfather who served in the British Army, but unaware they could claim welfare, raising a family of four (five with my arrival) on a factory worker’s meagre salary.
The hardship was so severe my dad had been warned bailiffs were going to take what little possessions the family had from the single room occupied in a communal house and there would be all kinds of legal ramifications. His response to this burden: “…I don’t mind. God gave me a diamond.”
I held his hand and said: “When I was born you said I was a diamond. Well, you’re my diamond.” Lying flat in his bed, kept alive by wires, drips and tubes everywhere in his body, he lifted my hand as far as he could, twice, tilted his head towards me and I saw a glimmer in his eyes. Overflowing with gratitude, at that moment, every appetite within me was satisfied. Even now – after everything he has been through – dad is giving us his all.
Being in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for two weeks I was constantly reminded of the sadness and small joys in the world. Not a day goes by when there are not floods of tears as someone new is admitted. Nearly everyday someone dies or is about to. Many of the families never manage to have any moments with the people who matter most to them. Even though it was only two weeks, I became an old-timer there. I got to know the ‘regulars’ and the new arrivals. I introduced visitors of different backgrounds and cultures so we could know each other through this; surely the most grim and testing of tribulations.
I did what I could to provide comfort, and encouragement, to not lose hope when families thought the worst. Other times I would just listen, share food, offer a smile and a hug.
I overheard a tearful lady called Jane on her phone (whose mother thankfully made a recovery). Jane was speaking compassionately about refugees and what she had seen. I hurried after her and we talked. I was able to assist the charities her Church is connected with to make life more bearable for people who suffer extraordinary hardship and pain, with little respite, week-in, week-out.
One of the many lessons I have learned over the last few weeks is this: we are the lucky ones. We have safe hospitals and kind people. We live in countries where people are able to respect life, each other and the laws of the land.
My dad has now left this land. No more medicines. No more operations. No more needles, drips, insertions or extractions. No more hospitals where – despite the visits and the busyness – he was alone, away from the people, home and books he loved. No more pain to endure and pretend everything is okay because he doesn’t want to put anyone out.
The spirit is strong, but the body is tired
Born in India in 1938, my dad was a serene and decent man who was devoted to and honoured our mother. He loved his family of four children and four beautiful grandchildren.
Our father worked hard and gave everything he had to the end. He survived many illnesses with strength and courage. He lived a dignified life and left us with dignity. We were with him holding his hand to the moments he peacefully took his last breaths for his spirit to be reborn.
Like anyone who has lost someone they love and feel safe with we will miss him everyday and everything we learned from him. A man of few words, when he did speak it was usually to share some truth or wisdom.
He once told us: “Health is lost, half is lost. Wealth is lost, nothing is lost. Character is lost, all is lost.”
As a family we will cherish the joyous moments we were fortunate to have where we felt at peace and happiness either in his company or just knowing he was there. We will honour his example of service in the work we do for the community and causes that need it.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for our father and family, Ajaz.
“Telle est la vie des hommes. Quelques joies, très vite effacées par d’inoubliables chagrins. Il n’est pas nécessaire de le dire aux enfants.” Marcel Pagnol