Each of us has those brief moments in life which change our trajectory. For me, that moment came in my early twenties on a spring Sunday. Something happened that I could not foresee. If I could have, maybe life would have turned out differently.
The preceding day was Saturday. It'd been like many other Saturdays in our home. A friend came to visit me in the afternoon. My mum was running errands. And my dad had a health check with a doctor: the doctor said he'd live for another hundred years.
As day turned to night, I settled into binge-watching House of Cards.
"Your dad can't get up from the floor", my mum exclaimed from the stairs. I awoke in a daze. It took me a few moments to react. I jumped out of bed and rushed downstairs.
I vividly remember my dad on the floor, helpless. The basic first aid that I knew came back to me. Unsure of the situation, I was careful not to move my dad. But I made sure he was comfortable. All whilst, my mum was on the phone to the emergency services.
Swiftly, an ambulance arrived. Two personnel rushed into the house. One assessed the situation, asking us how we found my dad. The other tried to get a response from him.
Suddenly, they started CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). They orchestrated a two-person resuscitation, switching positions systematically. I could see glimpses of life. However, a feeling of unease was sweeping over me. The situation didn't feel positive.
As my sister arrived, my dad got rushed into the back of the ambulance. Meanwhile, the personnel kept my dad alive with their two-person resuscitation method.
My mum and sister went in the ambulance with my dad. Alone, I was unsure of what to do with myself. I paced around the house for a few minutes. Then, I got the call.
"Dad has died", my sister said weepingly.
Adrenaline pumping, I ran to the hospital in what seemed like a blur. It's the same hospital I was born within. Flustering through the hospital doors, I got the attention of the first staff member I could see. Discreetly, I asked where I could find my dad. The nurse kindly escorted me to the room where my dad lay, lifeless but peacefully.
As the nurse left the room, a doctor entered.
"We tried everything we could", the doctor said.
The doctor expressed his condolences. He told us to take our time: my dad was in the adjacent room. As the doctor left the room, the nurse returned with a bunch of flowers in a beer glass. Ironically, emblazoned on the glass was my dad's choice of beer brand. Using humour as an antidote to sorrow, I remarked that the beer brand on the glass was his favourite. Baffled, the nurse asked if we needed anything before leaving.
My mum, sister, and I spent time with my dad. I'm not sure how much time passed. But, after a while, we walked home. We walked in silence. It was a strange sensation.
My dad immigrated to England from India aged twenty-four. Thirty-eight years later, my dad died suddenly from a cardiac arrest: the week before his mum passed away.
You get expected to show certain emotions in the build-up to a funeral. Many who came to pay their respects showed their sadness by crying. I didn't or couldn't. Such an environment makes you question your ability to show emotions. I've come to appreciate that we all experience emotions (in this case sadness), in our own way.
A relation said the most encouraging words to me without knowing.
"How are you?" he asked.
"Alright", I replied. That's my reply to everything.
"I know you're not, but it's okay", he said.
Sometimes, that's all we need. Some need unwavering support. Others want to be left alone. Me, I preferred those few words of unintentional understanding. However, we shouldn't expect the people around us to know what to say. It's likely you don't know how you feel at such a moment. Hence, you can't expect others to know how to react.
Inevitably, the ifs and buts will arrive.
What if we phoned the emergency services a minute earlier? What if I had better first aid training? What if I reacted quicker? What if the personnel continued doing CPR?
Those hypothetical questions will keep you awake. You'll be trying to find the answers. It'll seem preposterous to those around you. Yet, you need an answer. The search for it can become unhealthy because hypothetical questions have no definitive answer. Hence, you'll need the counsel of someone who doesn't mince their words.
The time will come when you have to say goodbye. For many of us, it will be too soon. Even if we're not ready, we must do it. We must at least say goodbye physically.
I said goodbye by preparing my dad for the funeral (I have much respect for funeral directors). Plus, delivering the funeral speech was another way for me to say goodbye. Others said their goodbyes with tears. The flower shop adjacent to our home said goodbye by creating the flowers for the funeral at no cost.
Everyone will say goodbye in their way. Though we say goodbye physically, I don't believe we ever say it mentally. A piece of that person will always be in your thoughts.
My dad died a few months after I turned twenty-one. I wish I could've shared more of life with him. I can't remember the last conversation I had with my dad. I wish I could.
You'll feel like a different person when the inevitable happens. Nothing can prepare you and those around you for the death of a loved one. It remains a difficult concept to grasp: the thought that you may never see someone you care about ever again. That thought should be enough to make you want to create cherished memories.