Death Without Goodbye
It was a quiet afternoon at my employer’s house. A usual busy day for me in February 2019, a few days before the celebration of Chinese New Year. My Ma’am went out to buy some things needed for the house decorations, Sir was at work while Ahma and my co-helper sent our little girl for her French class.
I was alone in my room facing a load of clothes and bed covers to be ironed. I was very focused on my work when I saw my phone’s nonstop vibration, which signalled an incoming call. I had a weird feeling and I didn’t know whether I would pick the call or not since I was not allowed to play on my phone during working hours. I tried to ignore but it seemed that the caller was persistent. I reached out for it and checked who was calling me.
The first message I saw that appeared on my notification was from my nephew, “Auntie, Grandpa passed away.”
I felt numb. I didn’t know how long I stood, just staring at the message. It took a few minutes before the heart-breaking news sunk.
I sat down on the cold tiled floor, feeling helpless. I couldn't breathe. I reached out for my pink teddy and cried as much as I could to release the pain inside.
It was so sudden. I was aware that he was ill but my family always told me that he was doing good. I even spoke to him over the phone and informed him that I will be home in May and I wanted him to be well so he can cook for me my favourite “tinola” from his native chicken. He was so excited that time, but I remembered him saying, “Why can't you come home earlier? May is a long wait and I'm afraid I won't be able to hold on that long for you, dear daughter.”
I laughed and said, “Dad, you're strong and you have to wait for me.”
That was the last time I heard his voice.
I stood up and tried my best to finish my work despite the tears blurring my eyes.
I was preparing dinner when everyone arrived. I told straight away to my Ma'am about the news and she was so sad for me and she said that she had a strong feeling that this thing would happen while I was working with them because she was aware of how I was supporting my dad for his maintenance medicines.
She called the agency to inform them that I wanted to take an emergency leave and asked them to arrange my documents. The agent told my Ma'am that it wouldn't be possible to process my documents because the Embassy would only operate for half-day because of the Chinese New Year. My Ma'am tried to calm me and advised me to just send money since it was impossible for me to go back home.
I tried to accept it and be positive, but with the loss of my dad, I just couldn't pretend that things would be okay. My heart wanted to bid goodbye to him for the last time. I contacted my friend who knew about the processing of documents. I felt relieved when she told me that she had spoken to one of the embassy officers on the phone and inquired about my situation. I met her on Sunday and she helped me book an appointment to get an OEC. She assisted me in preparing the documents and I asked my Ma'am to book me a flight right after Chinese New Year (CNY). I went to the embassy the next day with so much hope that I would be able to get the documents needed and my prayers were granted.
It was Chinese New Year’s eve and I made myself busy in the kitchen preparing food for the guests. I decided to stay until the celebration finished as I didn't want to make things hard for my employer because my co-helper was still new and she didn't know much yet about the things that needed to be prepared.
It was 6th of February at around 4 in the morning, a few hours after the party when my employer sent me to Changi Airport. As I stood at the boarding gate, she hugged me tightly saying that everything would be fine.
I walked inside with a heavy heart remembering that I had dreamed of this day to happen, to be home, to see my family, but I could not have imagined that I'd be going home to mourn the loss of the pillar of our family.
My plane arrived in Manila at 10 in the morning. My elder sister, youngest brother, nieces and nephew were waiting for me. We hugged each other hoping to gather strength for our tough moment. We waited for my sister from Canada who quickly booked her flight upon receiving the news. She came out of the airport at around 11 in the morning and we started our journey back home using a hired van from someone in our village.
I tried to take a nap on my seat because I felt that my body weakened as a result of the sleepless nights and the pressure from the CNY celebration. As we reached the boundary between my province and its neighbour, I felt cold wind blow on my face and realised it was dark and that I had slept for almost 3 hours.
I saw the familiar buildings when we entered my hometown. The road going to my village was cemented and made it easier for travellers. I still could remember back in high school how hard it was to go to town especially during the rainy season because the road was muddy and slippery. I felt my body shaking as we were approaching the house. When the car stopped and they opened the door, someone hugged me so tight that I felt like losing my breath. It was my nine-year-old daughter. I held her hand and walked straight to the house. Everyone was staring at me. My eyes landed on the white coffin near a window. My feet became heavy as I made my steps towards my dad and I saw him there lying peacefully. All I could utter that time was: “Dad I'm home.” I stayed beside him the whole night and the next day we sent him to his resting place.
I went back to Singapore after two weeks. The first month was heavy for me because I missed my dad so much. But life needed to go on no matter what. I was very thankful that I saw him for the last time and I knew he was having his rest and he wouldn't be suffering the physical pains anymore. I might wake up every day without someone to call daddy but in my heart I knew and would always remember that once in my life, I had a great father who always prayed the best for me as his child.
One of the most difficult situations for us who are working abroad is losing someone we love and not having a chance to bid them goodbye.