Bittersweet memories…’s how I would describe the first months of the year 2011.

The beginning of this year I got a very grand New Year cum advanced Birthday surprise. I got a work promotion which came quite unexpectedly. Surely, I am hardworking and an achiever but I didn’t expect I will be promoted this early. Upon learning about it, I immediately informed my parents of the good news as I know they will be proud of me. Since it was not officially announced yet I had to keep it to myself and my parents only for quite a while.

With the fruits of my labor already being reaped, I started to plan something good for my family, my parents in particular. I have traveled to many places, seen how beautiful the world is and I want my parents to enjoy and experience the world that they would just usually see in postcards, magazines or Television. I wanted them to have a grand holiday. By Grand I really meant GRAND. We had few good holidays together and all of these occasions had been memorable to them and they would have countless stories about these trips. There was a slight hindrance though on my plan…around August of last year, my Dad had undergone a major operation because of cancer.

His Bladder was removed and the Doctors had to attach an artificial urine bag so he could function like normal. He lose weight and became a bit weak which led to him mostly staying at home as he could barely do long walks like in the past. He  would skip events or occasions being held far from home. However, I am still positive that the planned trip would push through soon. Don’t know exactly when but deep in my heart I know it will happen.

Just right after New Year, my Dad complained of severe stomach pain and he had difficulty doing bowel movement. At first the doctor thought he lacks sodium and it seemed not a very serious case. However the pain persisted so the doctor thought it is due to something else. He ordered my Dad to undergo CT-Scan.

True enough, when the result of the CT-Scan was released it was something the family dreaded and hoped not to hear. The cancer has spread to the stomach with many tumors in the area. He was confined in the hospital for more than 2 weeks. One of his Doctor advised the family to just bring my Dad back home so we could spend more time with him. Upon learning this, I immediately decided to take a trip back home to spend time with them. I was in the hospital helping to take care of my dad until the day he was discharged and sent home to recuperate.

My youngest nephew will be celebrating his 2nd birthday and also my birthday in a few days time plus my Dad’s return home so we had a small family gathering/dinner arranged last minutely since my Dad was released from the hospital almost 7pm. It was January 30 then…the next day I had to fly back to Bangkok.

The Doctors did not say how long my Dad is going to live but all of us are hoping for the best and wishing for a miracle to happen so our Dad could be with us longer. We continued praying.

Upon my return to Bangkok and just after Chinese New Year, my promotion was announced in our office and various overseas offices. I was really glad and immediately informed my parents that it was now official! A lot of my friends and colleagues congratulated me as well.

However, it was a temporary happiness. Just 3 days after my promotion was announced, I received a very early (around 4 am Bangkok Time) phone call. Hearing my phone ringing at that unholy time I already had some thoughts that something bad may be happening. It was my brother on the line.

At first he tried to sound a bit cool and ask me if he woked me up and if I am still sleeping, etc. Since it is unlikely for them to call at that time, I went straight to the point and asked, “What Happened to Papa?”

“Papa is now gasping for his last breath” my brother replied.
I was caught off guard with what I heard. “What happened? Why it happened so fast, I just checked Mom about Dad’s condition and she said he was OK?”.
“It could be what God wants for Papa” my brother tried to comfort me though his voice is breaking.

I later learned that almost the whole morning till afternoon of Feb 09, my Dad showed some upbeat feeling and looked stronger so the family thought he started to feel well again. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated towards the evening and was even unable to eat dinner. He just looked at them with very faint response. He held my Mom’s hands and touched her face as if saying Thank You and I love you to her as he cannot utter any word. Same goes for my siblings and other family members. All of these were happening while I am hundreds of miles away and totally unaware of.

Around 2 am, he had difficulty breathing and so they rushed him to the nearby hospital. His breathing became fainter and have longer gap, his blood pressure dropping and heart beats once every few seconds. It was during that time that my brother called me to inform me what was happening. I was so frustrated and anxious for I am so far and not able to be with him until his last breath.

After a while, they told me my Dad was gone..It seems I was in denial and cannot believe what I just heard. I started packing my bag but my mind was blank. I wasn’t even sure how I was able to reach the office. I informed my boss about it and ask permission to go back home. I was fortunate to be able to get a flight on the same day.

When I saw my Dad in the casket I’m still in denial. I shed tears but I tried to control it. Cos it seems to me what I saw is not real. For my Dad had always been there, very strong, very supportive. It is not likely for him to be laying still and will never wake up again. Though its true everyone of us will eventually die, we are just not prepared for it to happen to him that soon. Our only consolation for which we really thanked God is that my Dad did not suffer much on his sickness compared to other people with Cancer. Or maybe he tried to conceal his pain to us so we will not worry. There were several occasions that it seems he was in pain but when we try to ask him if there is anything painful, he would deny it.

During the funeral, the family broke down to tears. My Eldest brother was tasked to say his last words during the Church service while at the cemetery I had to say my piece. I was unprepared but what I said was all coming from my heart. I know Dad lived a full life. He is only 72 when he died…he could have lived few more years but we know he died peacefully and an accomplished man. As I saw all the relatives and friends who went to the funeral, while weeping I can’t help but be glad to realize that my father had helped and touched a lot of people’s lives. He is not a politician nor a religious leader he is just a simple man but is well respected and emulated..The love and sympathy poured in to my family by well meaning friends and relatives is just overwhelming.

Truly it was such a bitter sweet memory at such a short span of time. The year is still early so I am praying for the best not only for myself but for my family.