The pain is indescribable and the resultant loss a sore feeling. The gnawing effect on the heart has untold misery as a companion.
The day 29th June 2012 enveloped us in its darkness when you breathed your last. A part of me had warned me that this moment would come but it’s never an easy situation to deal with. Seeing you in that hospital bed and noting the breathing motion perhaps gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, you would make it back to us.
Alas on this day, it dawned that you would not be making it back. Instead you had crossed over to the other side of life.
Memories of an ever present father
All I have left, as the rest of the family has, are the memories of the time we spent with you. I have had the joy of calling you daddy, observing your life, learning from you and appreciating what you went through or endured for all of us.
Yes you were human and had your faults, don’t we all? But I remember a man that had humour, a man that held it as priority that his family was provided for, a father that did not rest until he knew his children were in school.
Throughout my childhood, to my teens and early adulthood, you have been a consistent presence in my life. Being my father, guiding, providing and teaching in your own silent, sometimes unknown, ways. As I grew older, you even entrusted me with an advisory role, preparing me for my responsibilities as a man. Whether you deemed it deliberate and fit to usher me on that journey or it just fell in place, I do not know. All I do know and cherish is that you taught me.
I hold so many things dear that your presence taught me. The value of family even when things failed. The essence of marriage even when tested but still keep the vows. The unmatched attachment to family and ensuring to the last drop that all hope is not lost. The importance of investing in your children’s heritage through providing an opportunity for an education.
I can go on daddy to outline all the cherished moments and what they mean to me. From the small to the enormous. I still remember that I drive today because you taught me, patiently so, as I got behind the wheel for the first time under your fatherly gaze.
Not all were good times but that matters less because what remains overwhelmingly vivid are the good times shared with you.
The persevering man
When times threw you off and subsequently all of us, giving up was the easier option. But even then, you got up each morning to earn a living and keep smiles on our faces. I never realised how stressful and burdensome it was until later in life when I had my own responsibilities to face.
Respect was the only thing I had left in me. For a man that endured the battering of life’s doldrums and did not throw in the towel. Just so an extra kwacha could support our education, put a meal on the table and at least just try not to concede defeat. Little did I know, all this was a drain on you even as you muscled your way through this treacherous episode.
Images are still so clear of you walking home with a plastic of goodies on a good day, haggard and drained on a bad day or even with a newspaper bought with your last monies so I could read something when I was jobless.
When times were rough, we hopped through different homes and leaking roofs in an incomplete structure we came to call home. But even in those moments, you got up and carried us along, one more step, one more try.
I have looked back to those years and moments with a lot to learn. There is no giving up in this life. You didn’t have to tell me that daddy. You lived it and I saw it.
The best friend I should have had
Now I have valley moments when I kick myself for the time lost. The time I should have worked on deepening our relationship even more, so we could be closer friends. I do not want to regret some of the formal father-son interactions we may have had. They too had their place.
I do wish though that we could have made the most of what we had to be more personal, have more laughs, watch a game of soccer together, have a drink and take a drive going nowhere.
But I opt not to wallow in those regrets. Instead, with a sob and wet eyes, I smile as I recall the precious times we did share. The laughter, chats, visits and even in your weakened state, I hold dear our visit to the Chishimba Falls. Sitting there and just watching the waters pound the rocks was such a joy. There should have been more of those but what we got we are grateful for.
It may not have been as my mind fathoms but you were a pal in your own right daddy.
Failure and the pain of lost opportunities
What hurts me the most to this day is what I never had chance to do. Or perhaps I did but never did enough. You did all you could to provide for us but I don’t feel I have ever come close to paying you back if there is such a thing.
In my mind, I wanted you and mum to enjoy a comfortable life as you aged. With no anxieties about what to eat or what the following day offers, resting well and knowing your children will take care of you.
Alas, life has dealt us a heavy blow. This vision and dream has not come to life. You departed before it could come alive.
The last year and half before your last breathe is even more painful. When external family elements came in, taking you away from home and I could not fight it. Neither could any one of us for the sake of family ties and unity. Little did we know that somehow, it would be you it all hurts in the crossfire. Or maybe we knew but were helpless.
I was ready to challenge it but elderly wisdom implored me not to. That was not the life I had wished for you. That was not what I had wanted for the man I owed and owe all that I am and can be.
But that is what came our way. It had no effect on our or my love for you. Through it all, it gave us opportunity to embrace you and all you had come to represent in our lives. The way you had nurtured and provided for us was what your situation called us to do. The roles had been reversed.
It hurt to imagine you away from a familiar home for a prolonged time. It came close to depression seeing you struggle with memory and recognition with the slurred speech as you communicated. But seeing you each time diluted all these negatives. At least you were there and we could come over and see you.
You recognised me and chatted in your own unclear way last November when we visited. And you expressed your delight as did I. Little did I know that would be the last chat we’d have.
My heart bleeds each time I ask myself why I did not do more. What I could do more than I did. Could I have influenced things to make your latter days better? To alleviate any reason for misery or feeling of neglect you may have dealt with being so far off. We all did what we could for you but deep in my being, I will never be satisfied. For all you did for me, for us, I will always feel I should have done more.
As I saunter through each day, even though now you are gone, I keep wishing I had one more day with you. One more chance just to give you some rest from life’s battering and offer comfort that would reward you for all the burdens carried on your shoulders for our sake.
This nagging feeling always reminds me what a failure I have been, simply because this dream never came true and I never did all I wanted to for you daddy.
That opportunity is now lost. But even in your eternal sleep, you teach me. I will be the best daddy for the girls, a great husband I can be , be there for the family, provide for them and also take care of mummy so you can rest well knowing you ran a good race. You left us equipped for life and nailed in a lesson not to let opportunities to do good slip away. Life can be sucked out of us in a second.
The final request granted
The fact remains that life is not our own to hold onto and it can be taken in a flash. I know this and cannot ignore this truth.
When I got the reports that you were not well, no amount of assurance gave me peace. What mattered more than anything else was abundantly explicit. I had to come to you.
Seeing you unconscious with no response to my or anyone’s presence was devastating. The only consolation I had was knowing that at least you were alive. But the emaciated frame struggling to breath on that bed deflated my soul as I could only stand there helplessly.
While all along I wanted to do something or could, this time I knew it was beyond me. Still I hoped that you would stir to life and stare at me or point out something with your gestures as you communicated something to me. Alas it wasn’t to be.
A part of me prepared me for the inevitable. What we thought was a mild stroke was not. It was severe and you were in a coma. With the previous stroke still showing its effects and your deterioration, this was the final blow daddy. The only thing that kept you there was God’s timing and your inner will to hold on.
Even as I left a day after seeing you, I broke down because I was not sure I would see you alive again. But still I took the request to God, to grant me one last opportunity to do something of extreme importance.
Thankfully, it is a request He granted and with only a day in between leaving you, I did come back. This time not alone but with little sis Nkuka. Mubanga and mum were there so all your three children and wife among others were all there with you.
Tears of hope
The one important thing I needed to do was to share my realisation. I had taken time off work to be by your side regardless of your condition. Simply because I was now convinced there were much more cardinal things in life.
One of those was what one does with their lives here on earth and where the hereafter is lived. I had come back daddy simply to whisper John 3:16 to you in your unconscious state. This was my request to God and I further hoped and still pray He wrought a miracle with this little seed. Only He can water and provide the fruit.
Rubbing your head softly as you struggled to breath or just holding your limp and lifeless hand was enough for me under the circumstances. It could not make up for all the lost opportunities in the long gone past but I was happy to be there with you each day.
That fateful Friday, I saw you first thing in the morning and at lunch. I should have known that was the last I was seeing you alive and that indeed was goodbye. Circumstances conspired strangely but I did not read what was coming.
Odd things happen I suppose when one nears the end. I visited at lunch which I was not doing, mum delayed her usual trip back at 16hrs after a bath and we were kept out of the ward later that day as accident victims were brought in. I opted to take a drive alone, listening to relaxing jazz as I dealt with the reality of your condition. Those should have been the telling signs that the inevitable appointment had come.
29th June 2012 at 17:30hrs, God brought the curtain down and you were no more.
I took it like a man. I had to. I was sad I had missed you by a few minutes. Sad I could not say goodbye. As I got back and stood at the ward entrance staring at bed # 7, it sank in that truly you were gone daddy.
I did not know whether to scream, kick something or just walk away. The man I had come to know as daddy was no more.
Lessons in death
At that moment, my mind opened to more lessons from your life and now your demise. Firstly, it is always easy to tell someone to be thankful to God in all things. My time had come to practice that and so with pain and tears, I thanked God for your life.
Secondly, we are all inherently selfish. I realised that you had suffered daddy and needed to rest. I selfishly wanted you alive but your journey had come to its end. Sometimes I had prayed that if God wills that you make it, we’d have to make amends for what you had endured. And if He opted for the contrary, He should not keep you alive in that agonising state. I guess He knows best and decided to take you.
Thirdly, I have learnt that being christian does not make me perfect. It does not take away my emotions or hurt. But it means I come to God in honest submission with the burden I carry, tears I drop, bitterness I feel and an array of emotions. And with them I realise that all the strength, encouragement and grace I need is from Him. So I have cried, I hurt and have felt so bitter but I know too not to complain but be thankful. I received the gift of your presence in my life and perhaps took it for granted all my life. I cannot drown in complaints now that the situation is painful.
Finally, we must utilise every opportunity possible to be reconciled to God and make peace. It was sobering that I had to share the essence of christianity and salvation as per John 3:16 with you in an unconscious state. This must be a priority for all of us that remain alive as we do not know when God will pull the plug. I remain hopeful that you received the message and
God has done with it what the Word can do, penetrating deep into your unconsciousness (Hebrews 4:12) and not returning void (Isaiah 55:11).
As we stared at you in that casket, shed our tears of sorrow and escorted you to your resting place, I know I did it in and with hope.
Those were tears of hope and I am grateful I came to you before you were gone. Thankful that God is who He is and granted us the gift of you.
I cried because it hurt to part with you. But I also cried because I remained with an alive assurance that you were starting another journey, a better one this time.
I have no idea what happens when one dies or where they go immediately. I do believe however that there is an afterlife. Whichever the case, I hope you are better out there daddy and looking down with pride, satisfaction and a hope that we will join you some day.
Farewell ol’ Jack. Goodbye daddy. I’ll always love and admire you.