I attended a funeral at PJ Assunta Church a few days ago. It was a heart wrenching ceremony where a good friend of mine and his family bid farewell to their loving father.
As an 83-year-old, he lived a good life, made some great friends and had his share of wonderful adventures. But most of all, he was blessed because he had his family with him up to his last breath – wife, children and grandchildren.
Being the only son in the family, my friend was a true loyalist. Despite building his own nest, he never flew far away. He always kept an eye on his ageing parents, attending church together with them every Sunday and making sure they never missed having their grandchildren around.
As I left the church after the funeral, I was deeply saddened. I remembered my dad.
My dad or ‘Vapa’ as I fondly call him, lives some 400 kilometres up north. I used to visit mom and him every month, but now, only when I have the time. Juggling numerous jobs and two teenagers, who have their own plans and schedules, isn’t easy.
Sometimes when dad calls or sends me text messages saying he misses us, I feel lousy. I reply immediately, promising to visit soon – which actually means when the three of us feel like doing it.
It’s funny because I love my dad immensely. He is an amazing man who made his children the centre of his life. He lived a very simple life, seldom bought anything for himself, and thought nothing of recycling his baju raya for years on end, simply because he wanted to give us, his children, the very best.
We were his priority.
But now, having my own two munchkins to care for, my dad and mom have taken a back seat in my life. They come somewhere in the middle of a long list of work, deadlines, school, football matches and tuition classes. They don’t seem to be my priority as I am to them.
At times when mom calls for a chat as I am scrambling to meet a deadline, I reject her call. Sometimes when the kids and I are in the mood for a short vacation, we still don’t make the trip back home despite having not visited my parents for weeks. There are so many things I am guilty of. Remembering them feels like a needle poking through my heart.
For the longest time I’ve asked myself why this selfishness, but I have yet to find an acceptable answer. I mean, the easiest excuse would be for me to say that I am struggling to raise my own family and build my career, but if my friend could shower an abundance of love on his dad until his very last breath, why can’t I?
We often think of life as an adventure. Our parents groom us for the future. Go to school, learn to be independent, hold your head up, get a degree, find a good job, learn to dress up, get a reliable and affordable car, invest in property. They equip us for every aspect of our lives. But when we have learned how to stand on our own two feet, we then soar way too high and too far away.
I know plenty of people who see their dads and moms once a month, twice a year, once every three years, once in a blue moon. I wonder if their parents too, like mine, fill the walls of their homes with memories in frames.
How sad and lonely it must feel to miss a child so deeply.
A few days ago after returning from the funeral, mom rang me. Picking up on the awkward silence, I asked her what the matter was – she said she just wanted to hear my voice. Those simple words tore at my heart.
I learned a very good lesson this week. I learned that life isn’t about seeking adventures. Life is about love. It’s about being with someone who truly loves you and whom you love back with all your heart. Life is about taking care of each other, and finding solace in the closeness and intimacy.
Life is about family.
To my dad, Abdul Kareem, who has always been the greatest man in my life, I’m sorry for the distance between us. I’m sorry for making you miss us. I’m sorry for all the times you spent looking at our pictures. I’m sorry for being so sorry.
Happy Father’s Day, Vapa. I’ll be home this weekend.