7:00pm Thursday, January 14, 2016
Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai, India.
Don’t go pa, don’t leave me and go. His organs were beginning to fail. Lying in the transplant ICU bed, he looked into my eyes as I looked into his, and said, without words, “I’m struggling and suffering. I want to go. Let me go”. I’m thinking to myself with tears in my eyes…I know you need to go and it is tearing me into a million pieces. I thought you would hang around longer for me. It has only been a year since amma left us. But I will let you go and I know for a fact that mom will take the best care of you up there.
If he was articulating his pain and discomfort, it meant that it was pretty intense. With an extremely high pain tolerance, he was an extremely easy patient in some ways and a very difficult one in others. A fair skinned, petite, open minded, honest, straightforward, meticulous, generous, short tempered man , he had streaks of OCD with respect to cleanliness:) Dad would get angry in an instant, but would also get over it, apologize and move forward the very next moment. He was a true firecracker:)
I came out of the ICU crying. I had to. I know I had to let him go. Another best friend. The man who gave me astute pieces of advice that would indeed determine the rest of my life in many ways.
“Marry anybody you want to, be it an African American, or a white guy. But I have 3 conditions, he needs to be a good human being with the same values as you, needs to be well educated, and have the ability to take care of you as well as I have, or better”
He said this to me when I was 17 years old, ready to embark, on a journey, in a country that I had never set my foot on. Those words were like the holy grail to me, and choosing the right life partner is one of the most important decisions I have ever made in my life. I still remember my mom saying, “Why can’t she find an Indian? What kind of advice are you giving our 17 year old daughter when she is leaving for college ?!!!”
But dad trusted me implicitly. He trusted my ability to make the right decisions in life. He had equipped me with everything he could, in order for me to go out into the world and shine.
The words he uttered the first time we met Sam’s (my husband) folks still keep ringing in my head. “Let’s conduct the wedding of our children, like we are all part of the HUMAN RELIGION”. This is in fact the religion I believe in today . THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY. The universal religion of love, kindness, compassion, honesty, integrity, respect, harmony and peace.
I would have to live without him. I had seen him the last 2 months, and while I saw glimpses of the man I knew, I was seeing sides of him that were difficult for me to see.
4:30pm Saturday January 16, 2016
DNR signed. Dr.Bala, the man who has conducted the most number of heart transplants in Asia, wraps his arm around my shoulders and says, “I know how you feel. I was in my 30s when I lost my parents”. Dad is unconscious and it is a matter of hours before he will be gone. A part of the transplant ICU was converted into a private space so his loved ones could bid him goodbye.
Tears trickle down my face. Dad was my warrior, my fighter and it was my turn to be his. If I didn’t have his fight for life, I would be nothing. His fight is one that I admire more than anything in this world. He survived 1 heart attack, 3 invasive heart procedures, and a few heart failures among other things in his life of 72 years. Every time he recovered from a heart procedure, his words were “My engine just got rebooted! It is going to be better than ever”.
His personal evolution from the day he was born to his last day on earth is the most remarkable one I have encountered and been so closely involved in. His idealism and his unrealistic optimism put him in various precarious situations, but yet all he did was strive to overcome as much as possible. But on that day, he was telling me in not so many words that Mom was calling him from wherever she was. And he wanted to go be with her. He had an inherently optimistic view of the world, and the concept of destiny was engrained in his brain. He was the most hardworking human being that I had ever met, and was constantly ready to sacrifice his needs and wants for mom and myself.
7:30pm Chennai, India
A flat line. I knew it was coming and it came. He was gone. He would now be with his favorite person in the whole wide world. His Rajimma. The End of an Era. The end of my life as I knew it. I’d have to start a new chapter, which was going to be extremely different than all previous ones, because this time around, the people who gave me life were not going to be part of it. But guess what, Kichami and Raji had raised a survivor.