Losing Dad (2)

I was in the middle of mopping the floor when I received 2 missed calls that Sunday morning. From Dad. I thought it was not normal, because he never called me. We usually just SMSed. I put down my mop and returned his call, and heard an unfamiliar voice. Alarm bells started ringing immediately. Who was this person using my father’s phone. Then without warning, the most dreadful news was delivered without any attempt to prepare me on what was to come. He verified my identity first, then said “I am Police Inspector XYZ, and I would like to inform you that Mr XXX has passed away.” I think somebody should really put some serious money into training our police officers on how to deliver bad news. This was definitely not the right way.

Of course a million different thoughts came into my mind. My heart was racing and thumping, my hands were shivering as I tried to stay calm and take down important instructions. OK, SGH Mortuary the next day at 8am to identify the body. OK, looks like he died of a heart attack. OK, who else should I inform? Oh god, I don’t have the phone numbers of any of my father’s family. The police inspector read off the contact names in my father’s mobile. I recognised a few names of his relatives and jotted down their numbers.

That afternoon we gathered at his eldest brother’s house and discussed what needed to be done. As the only child and since my parents were divorced and my father never remarried, I realised that I had to make all the decisions. The questions came thick and fast. “Do you want him buried or cremated?” “What kind of ceremony do you want?” “Where do you want to place his remains?” “How many days do you want the wake to be?” “Where do you want the wake to take place?” “Do you want to place an obituary?”

I thought my uncles would know what to do. Then as time went on, it was evident that they didn’t have a clue or rather, they felt it should be my duty to make decisions and they must respect my wishes.

The next day we met at the mortuary and identified the body. Up till then I still hoped that this was a sick joke somebody was playing on me. It wasn’t. My dad was really and truly dead. The undertaker arrived and gave us an estimate on the costs. Nobody mentioned how we were going to foot the costs. I didn’t ask, and assumed that it was my responsibility. I didn’t have so much money of course, so I said we should keep it simple and forget the obituary.

My father’s colleagues from the security firm turned up at the mortuary with some of his belongings and $500 from their boss. They too were badly shaken by this sudden event. One of them administered CPR and tried to revive my father. I thanked them for being such wonderful friends and colleagues to him. At this point I was really just overwhelmed with emotions and all that had to be done. Everyone looked at me for directions and decisions. My mouth was so desperately dry and I asked for a drink of water.

We waited for a post-mortem to be conducted since it was an unexpected death. The body had to be butchered – not a very nice thing to happen when you die. During this time we went to his house to collect his clothes. This was yet another shock to all of us. Nobody had ever visited his home before, and were all saddened and taken aback by the state of his room. He rented a small room (without windows) in an old and badly maintained terraced house. The stench in the room from stale cigarettes and lack of cleaning turned stomachs. Balls of hair were all over the floor. A number of us cried upon the sight of this hellhole. We grabbed what we needed and returned to the mortuary.

The post-mortem was completed and we took the death certificate. We identified the body once again and let the undertakers remove him for cleaning, embalming and dressing.

I was supposed to meet my father on the Saturday after he died. Days before he passed away, we still exchanged SMSes. We were never close, but I tried my best to fulfill my daughterly duties. I visited him every time I came back to Singapore, stayed in touch through cards and SMSes.

The next few days I spent all my time at the wake. My uncles accompanied me to Kong Meng San Temple to pay for a space at the columbarium.I borrowed $5,000 from my auntie because I had no idea if we would be able to collect enough donations to pay for the funeral. We did in the end, and I returned the money promptly.

By the second day I had accepted his passing and stopped crying. Instead I comforted those who came, including his female colleague who was the first person who found him unconscious on the floor. She was inconsolable at the wake. But she told me something which gave me a lot of comfort – that is when she found him, he had a slight smile on his face. My father was a security guard and he collapsed at work.

After the funeral, I felt so relieved it was all over. To stand there as the only child was horrible. The weight of my burden was immense. I had collected JUST enough donations to pay for the funeral and the urn at the columbarium. The whole incident drained me mentally and physically. (to be continued…)

Explore posts in the same categories: Drama, Family, Life

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