Father suffered a fall and was unconscious at the hospital.
My heart was wrenching, dripping blood, wishing that Papa could pull through, but he was not responding to anyone.
From childhood to early adulthood, I had been antagonistic towards Papa. We had been like enemies, bristling in each other’s presence.
Eight years before Papa was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, he had mellowed, and due to gnawing guilt, I too had become less hostile towards him. The first time he collapsed, how I had wished I could have borne his pain. Miraculously, he had pulled through. Another stretch of five years passed, and except for a little difficulty in walking, Papa had been, every inch, a picture of health.
It had happened on a Sunday when my sister and I had left Papa alone at home for dinner in town. In the midst of the meal, suddenly, my sister said, “By tomorrow, it will be the fifth year papa has survived his first collapse. Something is telling me God will take him back any time.”
I said nothing and continued scooping rice into my mouth.
After sending me home, my sister went to Papa’s house and was shocked to find everything completely dark in the house. She had found Papa lying on the ground in the backyard, his head bleeding and his breathing jagged. She quickly called an ambulance and phoned me to go to the hospital by myself.
History had repeated itself once more. While doctors were trying to rescue Papa, my sister kept thumbing through the Rosary. My mind was blank, unable to say a single prayer.
Looking at how small and fragile Papa was in bed, his body full of dangling tubes, I worried if he could make it this time.
I recalled an old photo – Papa was holding me in his arms, full of love.
And then, out of the blue, a blackout.
Fortunately, there were standby batteries. So, the medical rescue efforts could continue.
I stepped outside, looking up at the sky, and a brightly shining star caught my eye.
To the star, I sang hymns, hoping to evoke God’s mercy. But then, the star did not shine for long. It seemed to have suddenly switched off, I could not track it anymore.
And the electricity was suddenly restored.
On 27th December, at 8.51 am, Papa breathed finally his last.
For three days, Papa’s body was placed in a rented hall for the wake. Many friends had come and paid their last respects.
I only attended the wake for one day. Moodily, I had scolded some of Papa’s friends for their alleged hypocrisy and vowed never to set foot in the place again. I had to leave my sister and brother from Kuala Lumpur to deal with the other remaining guests.
That night, I decided to go out for a walk. Too many complicated feelings had been stifling me. I looked up to the sky again, asking God if everything was truly happening.
Up there, a puff of cloud slowly changed shape into something that resembled a face.
I rubbed my eyes and gazed up at the cloud once more. It was really a face, with holes in the position of eyes and a larger one where a mouth belonged.
The mouth, to my surprise, was curling up on both ends. It was smiling.
I was shaken. The cloud looked like Papa. I could not have been wrong. I burst into sobs.
I cried for a long time, burying my face in my hands.
The expression of the face in the cloud seemed to soften, become milder, as I cried even harder.
At that moment, it was just me and that puff of cloud, together, alone. All noises had fallen mute.
As the winds picked up, the face up there started to blur. It merged into other clouds and gradually grew larger in size.
At last, the face became lost inside a mass of speckled clouds. And among them, a clear moon shone.
I wiped my tears, again and again.
“Goodbye, Papa,” I said, finally letting go.
Cover image sourced from RODNAE Productions. The copyright of ‘Goodbye Papa’ belongs to Lo Sin Yee.