24 May 2020 | 300 Days On

Rest in peace, dad.
Rest in peace, dad.

“It is the way of the world for a child to bury a parent. But that doesn’t make it any easier.”

That’s how I began eulogy for my father who died in 2019 because of kidney failure. I worked long and hard on that speech, trying to memorize as much of it as I could, so as to make eye contact with everyone, reassure them and keep it all inspirational. My dad would not have approved of a ceremony, but of course, there was no way my mother and I could just leave his passing as a mere notice. We kept it simple, unpretentious and, hopefully, elegant.

My cousin asked me afterwards, at the obligatory lunch, if my dad had any last words for me. I was bemused a bit, knowing of his own difficult relationship with his dad, and replied that such things only happen in the movies. We did not have any final words, or any dying declarations. As the toxins began to build in his body because of his withering kidneys, the time for any conversation, lucid or otherwise, had passed.

But I have thought about my cousin’s question since then, now 300 days on. Should I have thanked him for all that he did? Should I have asked him any soul-probing question? There were only two questions I had, one metaphysical and the other practical. Before we transferred him into hospice care, I looked at him and said, “This isn’t exactly the life we had in mind, eh Dad?” No, he assured me. It wasn’t.

It’s hard for anyone to imagine how their end will be. I try to think of the scope of his life and see him as a boy, and then as the elderly man slipping away in a hospice bed. This is where it ends, I thought. I tried to keep the images of the room fresh in my mind, trying to remember the poignancy of the vigil my mother and I kept in that room, and the fading of the light through the window as another day came to an end as we were unsure that we would get through another one.

I know I’m not the first child to bury a parent and I certainly won’t be the last. Such a thing is its own rite of adulthood, I suppose. I was not overcome with grief, nor did I yearn to hear my dad say “I love you.” He did that in his life, and with the things I did not lack for while growing up. While it might have been nice, I guess, I don’t feel like I missed out on some final understanding. I didn’t need a Hollywood moment.

I am curious as to how I will look back at it all when the days number over 600, then 900, and then in the thousands. Unlike so many other memories, I don’t think this one will fade or become mixed up with other ones, as often is the case with human memory. But if they do, and I truly think, “He told me how proud he was of me at the very end,” well, that’s something I can live with.