My first blog post as a paternal orphan. 16th Feb, 8:40 AM.
Exactly a week ago, 9th Feb, 2014, 8:40 AM, my father breathed his last.
I flew home from Mumbai on 26th January when dad got admitted to the ICU. For two weeks, I stayed with him in the hospital, sometimes spending the night in the cold ICU corridor floor shivering beneath a blanket and waiting for any news from the night duty nurses, and other times staying with him in a private ward above, feeding him through a tube every three hours with no time for proper rest or sleep, only to be relieved by mom or one of my sisters during the day for a few hours so I could go home and shower. We kept shifting from the ICU to a private ward and back to the ICU again depending on his condition.
On 9th Feb, 2014, 8:40 AM, he left us.
Dad had always been known for his sharp witty humor, a trait I had inherited from him. And so on his funeral service, a lot of people turned up and I decided to deliver a short eulogy in the last minute to honor him. Since the funeral service was already planned by the YMA (Young Mizo Association) and our Presbyterian kohhran (denomination of Church we belonged to), people weren’t actually allowed to make any changes to the fixed program, but the leaders understood and allowed me to say what I wanted to say.
I was indeed very nervous since I had never spoken in public in Mizo before in my life, that too in front of such a huge crowd and esteemed mourners who had been close friends of dad, including the Chief Minister of Mizoram and his wife.
I did manage to bring in a few laughter during my short speech, and a lot of dad’s friends congratulated me later, telling me that I was indeed my father’s son. That was the highest honor and compliment I had received in my life.
On a lighter side, people too joked about how similar we looked and why I had put up my photo instead of his :)
I will update my blog later with the funeral process and stories of dad. I’ve been busy the past one week due to many functions and programs taking place in our house, and I didn’t have proper net connection at the hospital so I never had the chance to participate in the comment section of my recent answer at Quora: What do people of Mizoram think about the rest of India? which I also cross-posted on my blog. I was extremely overwhelmed to see that my Quora answer had received more than 1500 upvotes and 30,000 views.
It is stuff like that that brought in a brief ray of light amidst a dark cloud. For a moment it made me appreciate the beauty of life rather than mourn about it, and brought in the much needed distraction. That, and humor. During my two weeks stay in the hospital, I was updating my Facebook status with a lot of cheeky posts and photos. It’s not just about using humor as a defense mechanism, I’m sure dad would have appreciated that too knowing how he always managed to make people around him laugh.
But apart from the humor, it was not a very easy life living in the hospital. For example, we had to occasionally take him to Trinity labs to do his CT Scan since the hospital didn’t have that facility. Moving him required an ambulance and seven full grown men! Four men to carry him in the stretcher, two people to carry the oxygen cylinder, and I carry his ventilator connecting his body and the oxygen cylinder. I had to make sure the portable ventilator, the oxygen and dad stayed connected all the time. Along with the manpower, a doctor and a nurse had to travel with us in the ambulance incase of any emergency.
But it is in times like this that family played a very important role. My cousins Hriatpuia and Sangtea stayed with me occasionally in the hospital along with my brother-in-law, and sometimes my niece Eunice and nephew Sawmtea too slept over in our hospital cabin during the nights. I do not have enough words to express my gratitude for all the help our family, friends and neighbors offered, even till today.
When dad was shifted back into the ICU, I was allowed to visit him only thrice a day, for a brief moment, wearing sterilized ICU slippers and lab coats...
And every time I see him, I would take photos of his vital stats and send them to my sisters and cousins who are doctors and nurses, just to update them on his condition. We weren’t allowed to take any photos inside the ICU, but all the nurses knew me pretty well by then and pitied me, allowing me to take photos.
I took one last photo of dad on Sunday morning, when the nurses rushed to tell me that his condition deteriorated and his breathing was extremely heavy even with the high concentration oxygen mask. But I’d rather not put that photo up on my blog as that is personal. I held his hand one last time…
As my cousins, sister, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors rushed to the hospital, some stayed at home to be with mom and to start “preparing the house”. Minutes after my sister reached and rushed in to the ICU, dad breathed his last.
Even though it was inevitable that his end would eventually come one day, it was extremely hard to face the fact right then. 8:40 AM, I will never forget that time.
What was harder was signing his death certificate and filling other formalities, knowing it was time to be the man of the house and take care of mom and my three sisters…
We left the hospital in an ambulance. My sister and aunts sat with me next to my father’s body while my cousins and friends followed the ambulance in a long convoy of bikes and cars.
I’ll update my blog later with our Mizo customary funeral process. Today is the one week anniversary of dad’s demise and there is going to be a huge function held in our house again, which means I’m going to be busy the whole day…
Unlike most people, I know I’ve not been around much for dad since I live outside Mizoram. But at least having spent two weeks in the hospital for dad, facing hardships and other obstacles, feeding him when he initially came out of the ICU and making faces at him and tickling him, talking to him and covering him properly with the blankets, making him breathe through a nebulizer twice a day, carrying him whenever it is needed… I’m sure glad I got to do all that before bidding him goodbye.