This is the post I’ve been wanting to write but also never wanted to write.
I suppose it’s fitting that I should be typing this on my shiny new rose gold MacBook, the last gift from my father.
Some months ago, as he lay in hospital in unending pain, waiting for meaningless days to pass, waiting for the cancer to go away, I sat by him, sometimes in helpless silence, other times with useless chatter.
That day, I told him I was thinking of buying a new MacBook because I thought it would be nice to sit in my new garden to write when I eventually got back to the business of writing.
This was in September 2017 and Piers and I had just moved to the countryside in England, into a pretty English cottage with a pretty garden. Or, more accurately, Piers had moved to the countryside in England all by himself because I was at the time in Singapore to be with my dad.
“Let me buy you the MacBook,” dad said.
“Oh, no, don’t worry about it,” I said, “I haven’t even decided.”
“I want to buy you one,” he said.
Then he made me promise I would go home that night and use his credit card to buy it.
Six weeks after that, he left us.
I was never able to completely appreciate the grief that one goes through after the loss of a loved one, even though my mum had passed away when I was 11. Then, I just felt a little lost and a bit mad, but I got over it pretty quickly.
Now, I know.
My dad’s passing has been a completely different monster. Trauma has weaved its tendrils all over me and sunk its hooks right into my soul. The pain flares up during the most innocent moments. I would be doing something inconsequential, like maybe drinking a glass of water, and I’d suddenly remember that I would never see my dad again. Never hear him laugh, never listen to his passionate discourses on the finer points of political propaganda, never taste another meal he has cooked with love.
It is frightful.
Saying goodbye is frightful.
The biggest fear in my life had always been to lose my dad because he became my everything when I lost my mum as a child. I suppose in compensation he tried to give me and my brother everything he had and everything we wanted. He was the kind of father who would give the best parts of a chicken to his children and eat the parts nobody else wanted. He was miserly to himself but overly generous with us. He would not spend a single cent more than he needed to on himself so that he had more to give us.
I carry a lifelong scar of guilt over being frivolous with money at my dad’s expense.
Financials aside, he was also my fount of wisdom and safe haven. He could answer every question, solve every problem and cure every ill, from my perspective. He was my Google and Wikipedia before Google and Wikipedia existed. Every time something broke in the house, I just had to holler for him and it would be magically fixed before you knew it. When I got lost driving (this was in the days before GPS or sat nav), it didn’t matter where I was, I only had to call him and he would immediately know how to direct me home.
Once, I got his Mercedes scratched really badly and thought the world had surely ended, but he didn’t scream at me or ground me for two years. Instead, he bought me my own car. When I got my own car scratched really badly, he just sighed quietly and got it fixed.
He spoilt me beyond rotten, but I think I still turned out to be a good person (albeit quite helpless at times) because he never stopped lecturing us on the values he deemed important: Honesty, punctuality, gratitude, kindness, education, reliability, hard work and perseverance. He slipped these lessons into our lives every opportunity he had without being naggy. In fact, he never once nagged. He just trusted us to always do the right thing.
Even when we didn’t always make the right choices, he was always supportive. For example, he would give me lectures but he never stopped me from pursuing what to some may be considered frivolous pursuits: acting, modelling, blogging. He revelled in my triumphs and soothed my failures (often with more lectures in the art of perseverance).
The knowledge that he is gone forever is horrifying beyond words.
But what haunts me the worst is the knowledge that he really wanted to live. For two years, he fought multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, never once giving up, even when the pain was unending and unbearable, largely due to his refusal to take his pain meds for fear of damaging his kidneys.
My dad loved life and fought very hard to keep it, so it’s all the more heartbreaking that, in the end, after enduring all that suffering, he still lost the one thing he really wanted: To live a long life all the better to enjoy the family that he’d worked so hard all his life to provide for.
He was looking so much forward to coming to England for a long holiday because he loved gardens and gardening and was so thrilled when Piers and I bought our new home. I would have liked to have written this in the garden like I’d talked to him about, but it’s the middle of winter and rainy all the time. Everything is grey and drab outside, which I guess is fitting for the mood.
My dad reluctantly succumbed to cancer on 3rd November 2017. I was given the opportunity to speak at his funeral but I didn’t take it because speeches are not my thing. In an alternate world where I am not the scaredy cat that I am here, I would have done it.
In this world, though, I’m a writer, so all I have is a written eulogy.
Goodbye, dad. If I could be half as brilliant as you, half as successful as you, and half as selfless as you, I would want for nothing more, except to have you be around again. I wish you didn’t have to go so soon, I really do. Thank you for everything and I’m sorry.