While I have freedom to write on any topic, the limiting factor is 500 words. This time I wrote on something that I’ve been wrestling with for the past few months at the same time I have become a father, and that is to lose my father-in-law. That’s him on the left holding our newborn, his third grandchild. It’s a cherished photo in our household.
Although I am not altogether unfamiliar with death, this is as close as its come to my door, and well, to be quite honest has made me sober about the time I have left and the people in my life. It reminds me that faith is concerned with the most profound feelings, joys and griefs in the human experience. While my father-in-law did not share the same religion, I prayed for him and earned his blessing to marry his daughter, which I can assure you, was no small feat as my wife is a beautiful, gifted and accomplished person. I have grown to respect my father-in-law who came from a small village in India with $6 in his pocket and carved out a life here. He has many accomplishments to his name and a family that misses him, which in my mind, is your greatest accomplishment. Rest in peace, Rama Iyengar.
The proverbial phone call in the middle of the night visited us in May. We found out that my father-in-law had passed away during his visit to India. Death came suddenly, in the middle of a conversation. They told us that his brother was talking for a while but noticed a lull in the conversation; my father-in-law never responded because his heart had stopped.
Few things set an Asian American family spinning out of control faster than the death of the father. Nobody quite knows what to say or do next. Who does mom stay with? How could this happen? Then the questions slowly turn inward: Did I say everything I wanted to him? Is there more I could have done? What do we do now? What about my own father? What about my own daughter?
When a father dies, it suddenly hits you that not just anyone can die, but the one who gave you his dimpled chin, your laugh, your sense of humor can die. The fear of death seeps in like a low-grade fever or a sixth sense. You notice death and dying everywhere. The scarcity of life becomes more apparent, and the reverence that comes with religion seems appropriate, even if we don’t consider ourselves to be religious….
Read the rest, if you’re interested, at AsianWeek…
And may you live boldly, for no one has promised us tomorrow.