Christmas is a day of remembrance. But, a remembrance of what? To the Christian, it is a day of remembrance to commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a day of celebration and get together with family members from near and afar. It is a day of lots of good food and drinks. It is a day of big parties. It is a day filled with laughter and fun. It is a day when people take a short or long journey to someone’s home for a big gathering. But, to some – it is a day of “Just another day”.
To me, it is a day of remembrance of my belated father’s memorial. Three years ago, exactly on December 25th about 1:30am in the morning, I received a call from my sister back in Penang. I was in bed, after a lovely dinner at our dearest neighbour’s home, Helen and Ted, to celebrate Christmas evening. It was very sudden. I remembered the phone rang next to my bed. It rang a few times. In the dark, my right hand reached out to grab the phone. I answered “Hello”. On the other end, I heard my sister’s voice. Her voice was quivering. She was in tears. She could hardly speak. She spoke in Hokkien. And, she said “Ah Pah Si Liaw”. That was the word – the word that grabbed my heart – “Father has passed away”. My heart sank. I was in shocked. It was just an hour ago that I came home from a lovely dinner at Helen and Ted’s place. It can’t be true. I must still be asleep. But, no. My sister passed the phone to my mum. She was also in tears. She was very shocked of the sudden demise of my dad. She explained to me what had really happened. I still could not believe what I was hearing. Mum told me that dad passed away watching the news. She was in the toilet. When she came out to join dad, the TV remote was on the floor. She saw dad slumping to one side on the chair. She knew what had happened. She screamed for help. She was all alone in the house with dad. Some neighbours came running over. They put him on the floor and tried to revive him. But, it was too late. It was all too late. My heart sank a thousand miles away. There was no tears in my eyes – I was trying to remain strong and calmed my mum over the phone. Eventually she said she had to hang up – my brother and his family had just arrived.
After I hung up the phone – I went to the other room. I switched on the PC. I searched the next available flight out of Australia, from Melbourne. The earliest I could find was two days later. It took me an hour to work out my flight time, from Hobart to Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur to Penang. While I was sorting out my flight home, my partner was sitting on the couch to keep me company. There was no time for me to shed tears. It was 3 am. I was like, I need to get home. Forget about the cost. Then, everything sunk in. I sat down. Now I have a moment to take all in. My tears started to roll down my eyes. I tried to fight back. But, I could not. My partner hugged me tightly to comfort me. He was in tears as well. My dad likes to joke with him, and always share a glass of wine at a dinner table when we get together. My dad had stopped drinking after he retired – because of his health. But, he drank with my partner as a symbolic acceptance of him into our family. We never stopped shedding our tears until we eventually went back to bed. We were emotionally exhausted. That was three years ago.
Today – my life moves on without my father. My mum has finally accepted his soul is now free. My mum called me yesterday to wish both of us a happy christmas and new year. My mum told me that she had a dream the night before – a dream of dad saying to her in Hokkien, “Wah Kah Lu Lee Hoon Liau”. That means, “I am divorcing you now”. My father’s spirit will now move on – leaving my mum to carry on her life in our world. In our tradition – we have to commemorate the deceased over a period of three years. Praying and worshiping – wishing our deceased a good and peaceful life after death. On the third year memorial service, the spirit is set free. And, follow the path of Buddha’s chants.
Even on this day – writing this post and reflect back – I still grieve quietly for my dad. And, when I looked at the photos I have taken at the funeral service – I feel a part of me is empty. I am dedicating this post to my belated father – who has supported me through my years of education. Without his support and hardship, I won’t be here – reaping the reward of a good job and career over the past years.
Have a happy after life, Dad!
Your memory will always live in us.
Love from all of us.