Remembering My Parents

A hundred days since my father passed away. He had stage-four pancreatic cancer. I was sad, but I had prepared three months before when my sister broke the news. I accepted the fact that we could not do anything to save him.

When he died, it was time for him to leave this earth. He had lived 85 years of his life. The life he had chosen. He didn’t raise me much. He shifted the responsibility to my mother. When I was a kid and needed him the most, I was furious that he was not around to teach me to become a man. When I grew older, I got used to my life without him.

I still loved him and I didn’t hold any grudges against him, but our relationship was never strong. We could not stay on the phone for longer than five minutes. He had no interest in my life except if I had taken good care of my mom.

On the other hand, I felt the distance between us physically and emotionally. I wanted to have a frank conversation with him about his situation, but I was told not to bring it up. He was my father and I shouldn’t be afraid to ask, but I didn’t know him well enough to understand his feelings. Maybe he didn’t want to know about his conditions.

When he passed, I didn’t shed a tear. Not because I was heartless, but because I didn’t do much for him when he was alive. I will always miss him as my father and he will always have a place in my heart, but his passing was not too hard to deal with. With his condition, age, and taciturn, he made it easy for me to let go. That’s a good thing.

Sixty days since my mother passed away and I still am deeply hurt. The pain is excruciating every time I think of her dying days. I could not hold my tears when I remember her beautiful, smiling face when she was younger in contrast to her distorted, buffed up face when she was on the ventilator.

The reality is that there was nothing we could have done for her despite having access to some of the best medical technologies and physicians in the world. I accept the fact that she would have to leave this earth eventually, but it is still hard for me to accept how she died. I am not putting the blame on anyone or pointing finger at anybody, but her death could have been prevented. She didn’t have to die this way.

My heart is still heavy and my mind is still burning every time I look back at the daily screenshots I had taken on my phone on our virtual visitations. She was deteriorating and I could not see it until one day a nurse put the camera up close. I just couldn’t believe my own eyes. She did not look like that the day before.

Although she had gone, I still can’t be at peace with myself for letting her stay all alone in that hospital bed surrounded by machines. In her previous hospitalizations, I was able to stay by her side. I slept next to her on the couch, talked to her, and even shared her hospital meals. She was sick, but not lonely. Her body was weak, but her mind was strong. With her loved ones by her side, she recovered quickly.

This time was different. It was more brutal. She was suffering and she could not have any emotional support on her side. Nevertheless she had fought on, as my friend Linh has observed:

I believe that your mom hung on as her last loving gesture to you, to let you grieve and come to terms on your own. I’m sorry to see you going through everything, but I think your mother’s love stays with you to the very end.

She held on for me and even saved her last tear for me. When the ventilator was out, I asked her to forgive me and to just let go. A lonely tear rolled down her eye and her heart stopped. I didn’t cry in front of her, but I broke down whenever I was alone and thinking about her.

I tried practicing Buddhism and listening to Buddha’s words to see if I can overcome my loss, but I have not. The suffering is still burned in my brain. The pain is still too much to subdue. The truth is still too hard to handle. Carrying on this burden does not do me any good. My mother wouldn’t want to see me doing any harm to myself. As much as I am feeling down, I am not out. As much as I am holding on to this grief, I am still moving forward. I just need more time to battle it out in my own mind. If I can still write about it, I will make it through.