Though to many this might seem as an elongated story, but its not just one story told. It’s the most eminent part of life, that crushed me, pushed me into the abyss of misery. It’s the story of me losing everything, and that everything being him.
A cold winter night, cool breeze stroking cheeks, while in that very night, seeing my dad strangled aback in tubes and oxygen masks, his arid body, laying on the overused hospital bed I wondered how many people would’ve been on that bed before him. People from all religions, from different sects, having varied communities. And how many would’ve fought their illness, while many would have taken their last breaths there only. Some away from family, departing from this world all by themselves, lonely, solitary, unspoken to, mistreated, and abandoned. While him, lying between buckets full of well wishers. Every second being a memory, every person he had ever met coming all the way across the world to see him. And wondering when he’d come back home with us and we’d celebrate his recovery, and fulfill his lifelong wish; to go for pilgrimage.
Leaving home, on a sunny winter afternoon, in his Corolla that he had brought with so much compassion, he took one last look at us and bid bye to his enclosure, the house that had been his for over 13 years, since he had got it constructed. His promising look made us believe that he’d be back, while his son in law’s drove him away to his departing station.
We all had a guaranteed thought that he’d be back within no time, but not one of us was correct, but a child indeed was. Zia-ta what I call him, my little nephew. 4 years old, the most beloved one for him. Just a few days after my dad got hospitalized, away from grand kids, who made him feel young even after sixty and five years of life. That very evening the kids were all grumpy to meet their grand dad who had been hospitalized for over four days, and thus they finally succeeded in their endeavor.
With three little children we entered the lobby, but as per all the rules and as per our prediction the kids weren’t allowed to go up to the rooms. While they waited in the lobby, a dead body, covered up to its head with sheets, was being taken away by his acquaintance. That’s when Zia-ta’s terrorizing remarks outbursted from his naïve mind and pure mouth. Having an in-born talent of predicting things in advance, and as all that he said always came true, it was like God informed us in advance through him, and we had to believe him with a diffident heart as he said “See! That’s Naanu sleeping under the sheets!” (Naanu=grand dad in Urdu) As the floor slipped from under my feet, I couldn’t take what truth lay about, uttered unknowingly by a kid.
None of us had ever imagined such a future. A future without a dad to look out for us, to be by our side when we get betrothed, to bid us bye every day we went to our institutes, to gift us tiny presents on our graduation day. Who knew that no such future existed. Thus, it seemed illogical believing in those straight forward words, that that might be the scenario how our dad would be discharged.
Cutting the whole tragedy, which crushed our lives, short: After days of hopes, news, remarks and medications, the final surgery was undertaken, our hopes were high, but our dad knew that he wouldn’t be able to make it. He knew every little detail regarding how rapidly cancer cells spread after a surgery and that he might not live for more than a few days but still agreed to get operated, for us. He wanted to save us from the state of “I wish we had got him operated because that might have saved him, I wish this, I wish that”. Hence, the surgery took place.
A day before his surgery: even the kids were allowed to meet him, we had filled his room, all loved ones in one medium room, all around him talking to him. Incidents took place, people, merely his foes came up to meet him, tried to bring down his hopes, but that very man still stood out, with his immaculate hopefulness. While we were all depressed he was talking hope into us, though it should’ve been vice versa.
A day after the surgery, I was the first one to meet him among my siblings, and he seemed more than happy to find us by his bedside in the ICU as he woke up from his anesthetic sleep. There was a moment or two during that drugged sleep that he woke up looking for us while he lay in the SICU, as he described his feelings to us. Telling us how much heartbroken he was and how he felt abandoned not to see any of us there, that’s when my brother-in-law informed him that none of us were allowed to see him as yet by the doctors.
He was recovering, as we all gathered him in his private room that very night when he was sent back to his room after 24 hours of observation. He took our hands in his, one by one, his weak drip-attached hands held ours weakly as he gently lay a kiss on them, for the first time since we had grown up. He had been a strict dad formerly, someone we were afraid to talk in front of, but he cared the most. As age intervened, his coldness and merely veiled love started to show, it got overtaken by unhindered and never ending concern, even on the tiniest matters like our drapery and all our gossips. He listened intently, and laughed along on all our crazy jokes. He was just a dad formerly, but time made him our best friend. And as he lay on his bed, he told us all the stories of his childhood and we cheerfully enjoyed every bit of it as his best friends joined us enlightening us with their roles and adventures with him. We laughed and laughed, till tears trickled down our cheeks.
Those very tears of laughter were converted into tears of grief the very next day as he eloped from this world to his final destination. Within those happy moments of the night before, he had been asking us not to leave him alone at the hospital, asked each one of us to stay, but the doctors would’ve never agreed, hence we took our leave as he unhappily looked away as we bid him farewell. That’s the moment that I regret the most, not listening to him then and going back home.
On his departing day, the first thing in the morning, we got a call from our brother-in-law, asking us to get to the hospital right away. He was still breathing, still alive, he could see us, but was so overburdened with all the pain. The injections, his swollen hands due to the drips, the oxygen mask that he hated as his upper lips itched from it, and the cancer cells that had spread to all his bones and body. It was unbelievable how time was ticking to fast. It seemed just yesterday that we were sitting happily having a casual dinner together, and he sat there complimenting my food. His pure soul left this world while we stood beside him, trying to hold our tears back so as not to hurt him, and reciting on and on the Holy verses so as he rests in peace.
As he drifted off to his peaceful sleep, the peace of our lives syncopated. His departure left an empty hole that can never be filled. An abyss of misery. A wound that can never heal. With every passing moment his memories grow stronger, like a true relation. And yet we live in this belief that he’d come back. Still seems that he is out for a business trip or maybe he’s still at the hospital and will be back in no time. But like his empty room, the emptiness in our lives prevails. And writing this all down, I’m literally feet down drowned with tears, while my unlucky pillow would suffer from this rain all night long. And trust me, I don’t have the guts to scroll up and even go through whatever I’ve written, the pain indeed is unbearable. As people keep on telling us, all we can do for him is try to be happy, but how? That seems as elusive as ever.