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Death of the Father : A Tribute
......   when the phone ring and I picked it up, upon hearing my sister’s voice, even before she could say anything I knew DAD is no more. He’s gone. It was the first day of Chinese New Year. We managed to get the flight back home, just Ashwini and Me. Hubby said he will come later on by car to follow up. I didn’t cry nor do I feel any sadness. Somehow suddenly I felt empty and whatever emotion I’ve been keeping for the past few months suddenly evaporate. I tried to search for them, just like an empty cupboard, they are all gone. Don’t know what has happen to them.  

On the way from Changi Airport to Sembawang in the taxi received SMS from elder sister “They’re on the way to the cemetery now. If you wanted to see dad for the last time, go there straight away”

Why? Would this bring him back? But I do not want him to come back. It’s time for him to go and he should go. That is how things are. He knows he is going…. I know he is going, he has been telling me for the past few weeks “3 Friday from now…”
he said “once everything’s done… I will go” but I never thought that it will be this way.

So I headed straight to Sembawang where my step mother is. She is the person I should be with at this moment. As I entered the house several of my relatives as soon as they saw me remarked “oh! You poor thing, you didn’t get the chance to see your father for the last time”

“I’m okay” I wanted to tell them. “Good you all didn’t wait for me. It will not do me any good. Why keep the dead unnecessarily” were my private thoughts. Would they understand anything at all?

That evening when the men came back from the cemetery, sitting on the floor, side by side with my brother, there was silence. We’re the youngest daughter and the youngest son. Ironically he is the one who have been playing the major role in my father
well being. He took all the responsibilities especially the major decisions. It must be really hard for him.

There’s nothing to talk about. He refused to drink or to eat. His cloths is still slightly wet and the traces of the red earth on his shirt. I’m told he volunteered to go down and dig the grave. Because of the raining season, they make it a ruling that only when the body arrived in the cemetery ground, they will start digging the hole. I could imagine the feeling of being there 6 feet underground and as you look up, it does stirred what ever emotions embedded inside. During the Japanese Occupation, I’m told, the Japanese made the Chinese to dig their own grave and thereafter shot them one by one. Maybe one day I should
disguise myself as a man and volunteered to be one of the diggers, only then perhaps I would understand what it will like.
As we both sits there side by side, I’m deep in my own thoughts and trying to reflect back on the sequence of events replayed like a tape recorder before my mind. Suddenly all these make sense to me. Two weeks ago, I was with Dad. He was sitting on the lazy chair. He looked weak and drained. I could see the changes that are taking place in him physically. As I held his fragile and cold hand on my face, he looked at me and said “I will be going very soon. Physically I will not be here anymore.” And I replied “no dad, you may not be here physically but your soul is in me and it’s alive. You will be remembered just as I have remembered mum.” He smiled at me. Before going back to KL, I could see he’s holding back the tears. We knew that will be the last time we will be seeing each other. “3rd Friday from now” was the only words keep on coming back to me. His last words to me…

He was just an ordinary man. He’s not from a rich family, but he is lucky because his father send him to an English school. His studies were interrupted during the Japanese Occupation. All the students were made to study Japanese instead. Every morning they were force to pay homage to the Emperor of Japan and to what I understand now as the lingam, the Japanese version of the fertility God. They sang Japanese folk song and played Japanese games. I remembered in younger days dad would teach us several Japanese songs he could still remember. He can play a Japanese musical instrument too but I can’t remember the name of the instrument. My father love music. He can play the guitar and the piano. He told me he used to be in a band member in the local village. He likes to play badminton and have played in several tournaments in local circuit.

He is not just an ordinary but a great man. He began working in the Housing department as a messenger boy, but he worked himself up. He spent his time taking night classes to improve himself academically. He retired as a senior research clerk in the legal department of the Housing and Development Board. We stayed in a not so small village, comprises of Indian, Chinese and Malay families. The villagers have been staying there for generations, mainly immigrants. I remember our house being the centre of activity. Children from the village and neighboring village will come over for tuition. With whatever knowledge he has he used it to help the villagers. He helped them to apply for low cost housing and to draft letters to apply for jobs in the government. Later on he was appointed as the political secretary to the Member of Parliament of our constituency for three consecutive terms. He never stopped serving the community. People back from the village still remember him even after we have move away from each other especially after they relocate the whole village to make way for new housing estate.
His words keep on coming back; hunting me during my silence moment “we must try to help others, but never for our own selfish needs. Whatever I have, will go to you and you must use it with care. You must use it for the good of others and never for evil means. You must never hurt anybody and never to get angry. Anger is our greatest enemy, remember this!”

"Nora, I'm sorry to hear about your father" A close friend I had known through the chatline.

"sorry? Why are you sorry"

"He's your father."

"He is... so?" There were silence. I guess my chat friend is shock to my confession. "I sounded so indifference don't I. I should feel sad...but you see I am not. I am glad he is gone. He is free, can you understand this...he was in so much pain. Now he is free and I am happy for him. This is what life is all about... time for you to go, you know. He accepts it... and he is in peace now knowing that somebody has already taken over his place"

"His exit is your entrance?"

"Maybe... I don't know. I have to carry on"
18th February, 2007 @ 1100 hrs, Saturday..........