Recently, my friend loss both parents- within a span of less than a week from each other. Both parents passed away from cancer. No one saw it coming and it was a shock. This remind me of a personal tragedy that I have experienced about 12 years ago. To me, it was so tragic that it changed my entire perspective in life forever….till today. Something that I would not ever wish to happen even on my worst enemy.
I decide to share this story as I meet more and more people who undergo personal tradegy in their lives. Watching how their lives shattered right before their very eyes….if you are experiencing this, I want you to know that I understand how you feel.
Here my story goes…
I did not grow up in a well to do family. When I was young, my parents don’t spend much because they wanted to save for our education. Even though we live in the town, our house was so old – that when it rained, both the front and the back leaked with water. The car we drove was manufacturered on the same year that I was born. So naturally, many people looked down on us. My primary school teachers treated me badly (because I was a poor girl in a prestige school).
During high school, I was sent to a school well know for gangsterism problems. I fit it- because most of my classmates also have issues of their own- broken families, etc. No one judged one another. In that school, I achieved results good enough to land me in a local university.
I became very ambitious- I told myself that I will do well- I will come out and open my business and become a successful entrepreneur. Even though I have no money, I devised my own path to achieve my goals. I was going to do it and prove all those who looked down on us wrong.
After years of working, both my parents retire when I was in university. But my mom still took partime nursing job and my dad used the money he had saved up to renovate the house.
Finally, after more than 20 years of living in a rut house, we finally have a nice house to stay in. After graduation I landed in a job with a top company with good future. I also took courses to be a public speaker. I bought my first car- and we need not travel around in the old car which could not get far. Things were looking well….my dreams were within reach. Things were looking well. My ego was at its all time high.
And just as things seems to go on well, tragedy struck.
During a chance checkup, my mom was diagnosed with tonsil cancer which the specialist insist for an immediate operation. My mom was wheeled into the operation room at about 9.30am to what was supposed to be a 2 to 3 hour operation. But it turned out to last almost 12 hours. She was wheeled out about 8.30pm.
She looked to be in a bad shape. I stayed by her side- and as I watched her, I was so afraid of losing her. When I go reached home, I was emotional- my dad was worried. He was never a man of a lot of emotion- he had always bottled up his feelings- in his own way he cared for my mom but he never shown it and did not visit her in the hospital.
Anyway, 3 days later, I bought dinner and was eating with my dad (I was going to visit my mom later that night) when I noticed my dad had stroke like symptoms. Immediately I rushed him to the hospital (it was a different hospital than the one my mom was in). When I sent him to the hospital, he could alight from the car- so I had thought that like the first stroke (where there was no outward complication), he would surely survive this one.
But the xrays shown that the ruptured vessel was too big- about the size of a thumb. The doctor said the hospital lacked the facility- he had to be moved to the main hospital. But as the ambulance were sending to the other hospital, he slipped into a coma and they had to turn back. He was placed on life support machine. The doctors told me if he ever wake up, he would be a vegetable (I later found out that he secretly stopped taking his high blood medication for about 6 months. At first it was okay because he was eating home cooked food and life was not stressful. But when my mom was faring badly and I was at home crying most of the time, it triggered his condition) .
My relative (from my father’s side), my mom’s friends and my friends knew about my father’s coma. But when we decided to keep this a secret from my mom. Many of my friends visited my mom at the hospital- all try to put up happy faces.
Both my parents were in different hospital- I would get up early- visit my dad at the hospital, then drop by to see my mom, go to work and come back to see my mom, then drop by again to see my dad. Each day, I was dead tired by the time my head hit the pillow.
My mom had lots of friends. Her hospital bed was filled with hampers and flowers. Her nurses friends (some who have not retired and still work in that hospital) came to visit her in droves. Having people to visit helped cheer her up. People who knew about my dad never told her anything because we did not want to aggreviate her recovery.
On the contrary, my dad do not have many friends. His so called best friend of many years never came to visit after my dad got the stroke. So his hospital bed was empty- no hampers, no gifts. So barren, so sad.
That one evening, I eyed at a red carnation flower basket of the many baskets that my mom had on and around her bedside. I requested for the red carnation basket that looked cheerful-giving the excuse that I wanted to bring the flower home. But actually, it was to bring to my dad’s bedside.
I arrived the hospital where my dad was at close to 12am. I placed the basket with red carnations by my dad’s empty bedside, held his hand, talked a bit to him. My dad was in coma- totally not conscious. But there was a tear that flowed down from one of his eyes. That time, I did not realize it…but I think he was telling me goodbye. (I want to tell you that don’t think that people in coma cannot hear you. Don’t say negative things in front of them because there’s a chance they can hear what you are saying, just that they cannot communicate through gestures, words or movements).
After that visit, I went back home- dropped down to bed. I think I was asleep the moment my head touched the pillow. So dead tired.
The hospital staff decided to pull out my dad’s life support machine that early morning itself. I thought they were supposed to get my consent but they went ahead and did it anyway- because they said there was not enough hospital beds to meet the demands. They tried to call my home. I was asleep but you can imagine how dead tired I was that when the phone rang, I could not even hear it. The phone just rang and rang. That time I don’t have a mobile phone.
I’ve written my best friend’s mobile number as the emergency contact. So the hospital called her and managed to reach her- she send her boyfriend (now her husband) to my house immediately. He came and knocked on the gate but no one answered. It was the bark of my dog that woke me up and he told me to go to the hospital. When I went there, I saw my father’s lifeless body- wrapped in white cloth.
It was then we had to inform my mom. I had to arrange my father’s funeral all and make all the decision- my mom was too weak from the operation to attend the funeral. Fortunately my mom’s relative came and help with some preparation and cooking.
I never forget that moment- even until now. Never. As I stared at my father’s lifeless body….in that coffin I literally feel my entire world crashed around me.. That feeling… I cannot describe it…..it’s so sad, so tragic, filled with unspeakable sorrow. I did not know if my mom will survive because she looked so weak from the operation. I knew, without any doubt that no matter how successful or rich I might be, it meant nothing. Nothing. It’s worthless because I cannot even buy the life of my father back with all the richness in the world.
Many people came to my father’s funeral- not my father’s friends ….as he did not have many friends. But most of them were my friends who came and show support. But the pain is only carry by the grieving. No one can shoulder the pain. That moment, I was brought to my knees.
I could feel a total emotional breakdown coming. I was on the verge of losing it….but you know what, a strange thing happened.
During university I had gone for a once a week meditation class. There was once during a session that I’ve learned to disassociate from the physical pain during meditation. Just that once only. And that insight came to my rescue at the time I needed the most. My mind knew the pain but I could disassociate it- I needed to or else I would probably become hysterical. And I had lots of responsibility on my shoulders.
The months that came after was tough. Once I was in the washroom when I overheard two of my superiors discussing how sorry they felt for the tragedy that befallen me. My mom had to undergo 36 doses of radiotherapy- when it got too weak for her to travel to and fro from home, I had to hospitalized her. As it turns out, the busy activities of the third and later the second class ward (she was entitled to first class but all places were filled) helped to distract her a little. It’s better compared to staying at home all alone with the four walls and chance to think a lot.
Even though this was so unfortunate, it made me realized that my priorities were wrong. That power, money and ambition meant nothing – our family is the most important thing in life. We never know- and we should never take them for granted.
People who were my juniors or were working same level with me in the past are today managers, department heads and VPs of big companies. My past bosses always tell me that I have the capability and talent. They wanted to push me upwards- recommend me for promotions and I was offered higher position that they think would suit me. Yet I thanked them but politely decline. They could not understand, why I don’t want to climb the corporate ladder and get high salary?
Maybe it’s my fate, but my job even though not being high ranking carries lots of responsibilities. I had to use my skill to take care of lots of people, indirectly. It’s tough, but it gives my life meaning- because whatever gifts or skills I have, I use it to earn a livelihood that benefit others. Over the years, I travel to remote places to search for life’s answers and after a decade, I can say I am discovering the answers…. to questions about life that had plagued me even as a child.
It’s been 12 and a half years. But until today, I never forget that moment as I stood behind my dad’s coffin- stared at that lifeless body there…. and felt my entire world crashing down and that all the material gains and fame that I was chasing then was totally and absolutely meaningless.
Does time heal? Not quite. For some people whom we have lost, we’ll probably never stop missing them.
But I overhauled my priorities. Till today, I never regretted my decision of not climbing the corporate ladder or to seek out power and richness. I am not rich but I can live within my means. If I earn from my blogs, most of it goes out towards a worthy cause.
Cliché as it may sounds- bad things in life happen for a reason. We cannot go back to the past to undo past regrets. Perhaps you could not live with the remorse of what that should have been done or said but now there is no chance anymore. Yet there are many more people (including those who have yet to come into our life) whose life could be touched by us. If we want to help them or show them kindness….that we never quite did with the one we have lost.
Live our life in such a way that you can honestly tell yourself that you’ve done your best with your life. So that if it’s our turn to be called (which we never know where or when), we would leave this world without much regrets. We would have the satisfaction that we have put our time on Earth to good use.