Sunday, 13 August 2017

Losing Dad

-         Brian Mendonça

When dad passed away I was relieved. The pain he had been through would now be a thing of the past. The removal of the phlegm was the latest instrument of torture inflicted upon him. How he struggled, biting and snarling at the cord which was inserted. With every breath he took, a rasping guttural sound wheezed out of him. The death rattle had begun.

The doctor came in and said it could be that very night. And so it was. Around 4.27 a.m. in the ebbing darkness dad passed on. The massive heaving chest was finally still. All the gadgets in the room stared in stupefaction. Their innings had hardly begun.

But dad was at the crease for a long time. He was 55 days short of his 88th birthday. He was husband, father and grandfather. Along the way he touched several lives, including that of the family. He travelled widely, working in an oil refinery to support his family. His mission was accomplished.

It seemed appropriate that he chose that day to pass on since the reading said it all, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ (Mt.11:28)

Rest is what dad dearly needed. Almost a month in hospital had drained, drugged and demeaned him. He could hardly open his eyes when we spoke to him. Yet in his lucid moments, despite his pain, he would always ask about our day,. His one delight was to see my son Dwayne (6) and listen to him jabber.

When the hospital could do nothing, he kept pleading, ‘Take me home,’ ‘Don’t waste time,’ ‘I packed my suitcase.’

We were racing against time to bring him home. Before that a hospital bed, an air mattress to prevent sores, and oxygen had to be put in place.

Sometimes when he was fighting his condition, his eyes blazed with a red-eyed defiance. In these moments he often reminded me of Beethoven and how he raised his fist when Death came to call him.

Sometimes he used to raise his hands as though he was saying Mass. He complained of back pain often and the body grew heavy with water retention.
But through the many stints in hospital he made a special effort to be a good patient, joking with the staff, and making light of his condition.

Now that he is gone I feel a void that can never be filled. His magnanimity in fighting a losing battle, humbled us. Holding Queenie’s hand and mine in each of his hands as we stood by his side, he forced out those simple words, ‘Thank you.’
Rigor mortis set in soon. It was difficult to bend his limbs. What we had revered and respected became a cadaver. As the undertakers wrenched it away from us in a bed sheet, they flung it on the stretcher on the ground,  like a sack of potatoes. The lifeless corpse was bound for the icy coldness of the morgue.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender on Sunday 30 July 2017 

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