13 February 2007

Remembering Dad 2007

Six years ago today, my Dad passed away, after about two years of fighting liver cancer. The cancer started out in the colon, but by the time he had surgery to remove the affected tissues, the cancer already spread to his liver. Dad obligingly went to all the chemotherapy sessions. He cooperated at all the various medical exams he had to go through. Mom kept recalling the time when Dad went for some scan whereby he had to drink lots of some medicine fluid provided by the hospital. The drink came with choices of artificial flavors such as banana, strawberry, mango, etc. Of course, they all tasted equally horrible. Dad didn't complain at all and quietly drank it all down. He said that the doctors were trying to help him so he should be a good patient. On the other hand, in the same waiting room, there was an old Korean man accompanied by his son. The old man was making a big fuss of it and kept shouting and yelling at his son. None of us know the Korean language, but Mom could tell from the loudness and gestures that the old man blamed his son for his troubles. Not my Dad. He didn't want to be a burden to his children and just kept at taking the pills, exams, etc. just so he would hopefully get better.

The one thing that I remember about Dad's passing was how quiet and empty the hospice room was. At the time he had been in the hospice for maybe a week already. The end was near, there was nothing more the doctors and nurses could have done other than dulling the pain through injections and such. The family took turn being with him and Mom was with him all the time. But it was getting late so I drove my sister V back to her apartment. As I was heading toward the Grand Army Plaza traffic circle, my cell phone rang. It was Mom and she said simply that "He was gone." We all knew it was just a matter of time, but when the moment come, it was hard to acknowledge it. I calmly made a few right turns and headed away from the traffic circle to return to the hospice. Dad was still there, in the same position he had been for the past few days, as he was under the influence of all the painkillers and was not awake. But the oxygen machine had been turned off and other than Mom's quiet sob, the room was totally quiet. It was the oxygen machine that was making all the hissing noises, but its service was no longer required. Sitting down in some armchair, my tears just flowed freely. "Che^'t la` he^'t", the Vietnamese phrase meaning "Death is the end of it all", but I just couldn't hold the tears back.

One consolation for Dad was my son. It was unfortunate that he couldn't live long enough to walk J to school, to see him become so articulate, still he had about six months of time with his grandson. He was there in the hospital on the same day J came into this world, and Dad was present at the banquet to celebrate J's first month of life. In the photo above, we celebrated the three generations that we briefly had. Dad had a beautiful head of hair but lost it all due to the chemotherapy treatment. I remember shortly after he became bald, I got a bald haircut, too, to show my support for him. I don't think my parents got it, even after I told them so.

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