By Grace Cherian Dearest Beloved Dad, I remember you, Dearest Dad, as a thirty-year-old. Your posture was impeccable. You always carried yourself with...
By Grace Cherian
Dearest Beloved Dad,
I remember you, Dearest Dad, as a thirty-year-old. Your posture was impeccable. You always carried yourself with such excellent deportment. And you would often remind us—your children—to maintain a good posture as well.
But one terrible day in the retirement home where you were staying, you slipped and fell, fracturing your back. The doctors said your back would never heal. That caused the onset of excruciating pain. Gradually you began to hunch as you walked. First, you relied on a cane and eventually you had to use a four-wheeled walker. I no longer recognized the father I had known while you were in your thirties.
You made such immense sacrifices for your five children. While teaching in Brunei, you met some Canadian teachers who told you that teaching was well paid in Canada. Teachers in Brunei and Malaysia, where your family was staying are not highly regarded. And this is reflected in their low income. So for the sake of a better future for your children, you emigrated to Canada in 1971. Unfortunately, you landed in Vancouver, which was then occupied predominantly by people of British origin. And they were such terrible racists. You were a frequent target of their prejudice.
Dearest Dad, you never told us much of the overwhelming challenges you encountered. Or of all the many obstacles you faced one after another in Canada to support your family who still lived in Malaysia. You always did your best to maintain a very optimistic view of life.
We arrived in Canada the following year—in 1972. You had grilled into each of your children your formula for happiness: study hard, get excellent marks, go on to post-secondary education in a field that would lead to good jobs. Then, we would attain happiness. And we did as you prescribed, Dearest Dad.
You were a life-long learner. Even as a senior, you took online Creative Writing courses at Ryerson University. You refused to tell the instructor that you were over 65 years old. You didn’t want the professor to be lenient in marking your essays just because of your age.
As you approached your eighties, you were afflicted with ten to twelve very serious medical problems. The doctors prescribed tons of medications for your various ailments. Unfortunately, the side effects of many of these drugs were far, far worse than the illnesses themselves. The medications also interacted with each other, creating new problems. You had to take almost a grocery bag full of medications.
Dearest Dad, I felt extremely sad watching you grow older. You walked slowly with a hunch. But worst of all, the many medical problems caused you such excruciating suffering.
Peripheral neuropathy struck you. You had very little sensation in your fingers and toes, especially in the fingers of your right hand. But you were a very determined person. Even though you were right-handed, you taught yourself to write with your left hand. You’re one of the most positive people I’ve ever known.
In January of this year, you asked James, your first-born who lives in Malaysia, to come and visit you. James flew into Toronto on January 24th after a twenty-eight-hour flight.
The next day James and I were preparing to visit you when we received a call from the retirement home. “Your father passed away last night,” one of the staff told me.
When residents don’t show up for breakfast, the staff check up on them. They knocked on your door. It was locked.
They found your body lying on the ground right next to your bed. The medical certificate says you had died of a stroke.
Dearest Dad, your sudden and unexpected death catapulted our whole family into a state of shock and grief! James had traveled such a long distance to see you. You were both looking forward to visiting with one another but that never materialized. For reasons the Lord alone knows, He has His own sense of timing. Even though I don’t understand His ways, Dearest Dad, I believe that the Lord’s timing is always perfect.
But Dearest Dad, I feel so sad when I think that you were all alone when you died. You didn’t have a single relative by your side while you shed your mortal coil. But you knew that James was en route to see you and that thought must have comforted you.
And also, Dearest Dad, even though no relative was with you when you departed this earth, I know that angels must have ministered to you and ushered you into Heaven.
I wanted to hear your voice, Dearest Dad, just one more time on your voice mail. I phoned the retirement home but they had wasted no time in disconnecting your phone. So I couldn’t even experience the comfort of hearing your voice one last time.
Dearest Dad, thank you very much for the immeasurable sacrifices you made for your family. Thank you for overcoming the incredible obstacles that you faced on our behalf. Thank you for teaching us the importance of exercising self-discipline in as many areas of our lives as possible. Even though I’m in my sixties, I love to study all kinds of different subjects. Dearest Dad, I owe my love of studying to you. While you were teaching in Brunei, you worked fulltime and you studied part-time for four years. You earned your Economics degree through the London School of Economics International Program. That showed tremendous self-discipline on your part, Dearest Dad.
You were extremely generous with your financial resources. James and I couldn’t possibly afford to buy the house we’re living in now without your generous help. Thank you so much, Dearest Dad, for your meaningful legacy to each of your five children.
I love you very much, Dearest Dad. I look forward to the day when I shall be reunited with you, Precious Mom and Darling Wils. In the meantime, Dearest Dad, enjoy your well-deserved Rest in Heaven.
Writer’s note: Wils was the youngest of the five Cherian children. He died very tragically and prematurely when he was only thirty.