Golden slumbers | Inquirer Opinion
YoungBlood

Golden slumbers

/ 05:05 AM September 02, 2022

When I was a girl, I thought the world of my dad.

We lived in a pink house with overgrown yellow bells, and on weekend mornings, I would wake up to him playing the Beatles on the speakers he fixed himself. He liked fixing appliances and building furniture, watering his plants, taking us to school, and picking out movies with us at the VHS shop.

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To him, the ordinary, everyday things were meaningful, important things. It was enough for him to spend time together—watching TV over ramen dinners, cheering for the Golden State Warriors, driving miles of freeway singing to John Denver, laughing over Heineken beers and ginataang kanduli, looking quietly at empty skies from Signal Hill or a beach in Baler or the Blanco tree. It was enough for him to be a dad.

And he is a good dad, the best that there is. He would say he was proud of me, whether I was going on humanitarian missions, riding a bike for the first time, or failing college biology for the third time. I never had to be anything, just a good person, and a kind one.

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These were the memories that came to me as we sat for 13 hours holding his hand, waiting for him to pass from this life.

How is he doing this, I thought, as I watched him take deep, staggering breaths on that hospital bed in the intensive care unit, machines hooked up to every part of him, skin and bones wrapped in a blanket because his body couldn’t keep him warm. Even if I could take him home, it would be more of this pain and this suffering, more of his hurt. I couldn’t bear to see him like this. I hadn’t been able to bear seeing him like this.

This was not his body, not anymore. It hadn’t been for a while. That body was too small, too weak, too sick to hold his spirit. He can still fight, and he wanted to (“I feel fine!” he declared, “I’ll live 10 more years!”), but that emaciated receptacle couldn’t take any more. It was worn down, trying to keep up with his enormous will and his boundless hope. It couldn’t bear what he was ready to subject it to, what he had subjected it to.

“I haven’t lost hope,” he said, on the very day the doctor called to say this is it, we had done everything we could. When Dad was first diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, we packed our bags and flew to Los Angeles at the height of COVID lockdowns in late 2020. We sat in doctor’s offices as he underwent eight hours of surgery and two months of radiation before he went into remission for three weeks. And then there we were again, six hours of chemo every Tuesday for six months, only to come to this day anyway.

The doctor said he had a year. We had two weeks.

There is a moment when we take a fixed, final step from youth and childhood, knowing there is no way back. The day I watched my father die for 13 hours was mine.

Dad taught me that to face one’s death with such grace takes courage. To take all of that fear and despair, to turn it into something beautiful, it takes strength. And to hold on to hope with reckless abandon, it takes an unwavering faith.

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It was a gift to witness his journey, to have walked this road with him.

In the government records, he would be tallied as one of the 90,000 casualties of the Omicron surge and flu season in California, and one of 600,000 to die of cancer this year alone. I refuse that he is reduced to this statistic, that this is his life and story, that he is known only by what he did not survive.

What he survived was 15 years as an immigrant in America, 15 years away from his family and his home. He is the strongest person I know, and the kindest. He takes pride in a job well done and cares very deeply for people. He has this unique ability to sit and listen and make you feel seen. If you gave him a gift, he would make sure to use or wear it until it fell apart, and then he would keep it some more. When he gave gifts, it was always something thoughtful, something you only mentioned once but he remembered.

He has the biggest heart and the brightest spirit. He is a good man, and he is so loved. He is remembered in good ways, in beautiful ways, and it makes me proud that so many people can bear witness to the best of him and the best in him.

Last week, on what would have been his 58th birthday, I wanted to tell him: Daddy, you are sunlight to everyone who knows you, and I am so proud you’re my dad.

I know you are here. You are in every song and every movie and every square inch of this city. I will find you in good music, good films, and good friends. I will work hard and live well and love more, and I will know that this part of me is you. I carry you with me. I will go with your kindness and your laughter and your light. Thank you for your love and your life.

I may no longer be a girl, but I still think the world of you.

—————-

Kara Medina, 28, is a humanitarian and development professional specializing in gender and disaster resilience. In the last two years, she read 27 books on grief and loss, only to find what she was looking for in “Abbey Road” (1969).

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