It will be Ramadhan soon inshaa Allah. This blessed month means a great deal to me and to every other Muslim – it is a month unlike any other. It is a time that is solely for `ibadah and for good deeds.
Ramadhan is also the month in which my father passed away. I still remember every detail of his final days and I remember spending my first `Eid without him.
You never forget the important people in your lifeâ€¦ and you never stop loving them. My father was a devoted father and husband, always putting the family first. I used to tell him that he fussed too muchâ€¦ worried too much about us. I felt he needed to let go and not fret because we could take care of ourselves but I suppose he was just that kind of man.
When I was growing up, he pushed my siblings and I to work hard at school, sparing no expense and effort. He would buy us any study materials we needed and ferry us to and from tuition, twice a week no matter how busy or tired he was. When I started working, he would always drive me to the office. I often felt bad about this but my father would not have it any other way.
I gave birth to my daughter in September 2001 in the USA. It took three months before my husband was able to get a job transfer and we were able to return to Singapore for good. It was about 1 a.m. that January day when we reached my parents’ house. I saw as we pulled up the drive way that the porch and living room lights were on. The front door was open and my father was standing there, leaning on his cane. I rushed out of the car and took baby Maryam to him.
He smiled â€“ I had never seen my father so happy. He just stared at his first and only grand-daughter and positively beamed. He could hardly speakâ€¦ he later told me that he was so grateful that Allah had answered his prayers, for he had beseeched Him countless times to bring us back home. It was not easy returning to Singapore but seeing my father’s boundless joy, I knew it was worth it.
My father died less than a year laterâ€¦ to this day I thank Allah for giving us the means to return before it was too late. To this day, I thank Allah for giving me Maryam because I think she was my one and only real gift to my father.
Whenever my daughter and I visited him â€“ which was often for I knew he loved her company â€“ he would insist on driving us home. He would do this even when his body ached from the effects of the chemotherapy. He would drop us off at our block and we would wave at him as he pulled out of the parking lot before we made our way to our apartment.
This went on for several months until my father took a turn for the worse in October 2002. My father had gone back and forth to the hospital over the year and always returned home looking well on the road to recovery. Some of his friends used to jokingly remark, “Are you really sick? This is not the face of a sick man!” Mashaa Allah he always managed to look wellâ€¦ I guess he hid his pain well.
This time, Allah decreed that his admission to the hospital would be his last. He had had a third cycle of chemotherapy and a second bone marrow transplant but every effort the doctors made led to more complications. His kidneys began to fail and then his heart weakened so badly that he could hardly breathe without his body heaving painfully. His body could no longer take the beating of the illness and the drugs.
Word got round and friends and relatives rushed to see him. They had all just seen him a month earlier and were shocked and shaken to see how his condition had deteriorated. Many – grown men even â€“ burst into tears upon seeing him. One said, “He was FINE last monthâ€¦ what have they done to him?”
One Friday in Ramadhan, the doctors told us that my father’s heart was just not doing its job. He was not getting enough oxygen and he needed to be put on a life support machine. They tried to be as kind as they could but we were really grasping at straws. Without the machine, he would surely die and with it, he had but a five percent chance of survival. We did what we thought he would have wanted â€“ we went with the machine. Five percent was better than nothing.
We were all given a few minutes with him before they sedated him. Deep down inside, we must all have known that this was going to be the last time we would see him conscious. We asked the doctors to allow us to bring Maryam in to see him â€“ children below 10 are not allowed into the Intensive Care Unit and she was barely over a year old.
We all stood around my father giving him words of comfort and encouragement, telling him not to be afraidâ€¦ telling him all would be well. We brought Maryam in to see him and they held hands for the last time.
Then we had to go.
Saturday came and he showed no signs of improvement. After iftar at my mother’s house, my husband, brother and sister went back to the hospital. I had to go home to the flat to put Maryam to bed.
I had just finished giving her her bath when I received a call. My cousin told me that I had to be by my fatherâ€¦ he was slipping. I dropped my daughter off at my mother’s house where the maid would watch her and, dry-eyed, made my way to the ICU.
I entered and saw a crowd of family and friends. When I went into my father’s room, I saw my sister, eyes red, sobbing uncontrollably as she tried to read from the Qur`an. My mother, calm and composed told me to read and to say shahadah in my father’s ear.
The minutes passed and I saw from the machine that my father’s heartbeat was decreasing, slowly but surely. I stepped back and looked at the people in the room â€“ aunts, uncles, cousins and a few close friendsâ€¦ faces taut with grief.
Then I caught sight of a brother, Muhammad, whom my father cared about a great deal. It seemed as though he wanted to go to my father but could not as my aunts were close by. I gestured briefly at him and he nodded. I told my aunts to make way and then he took his place by my father.
He bent down and said the shahadah several times and then raised his voice, reciting Ayat ul Kursi. I remember thinking at that moment, “It is as if Abah will be going to sleepâ€¦” Brother Muhammad repeated the shahadah and then stepped back. It felt strangely calm.
I looked at the machine and I saw my father’s heartbeat fallingâ€¦ this time drasticallyâ€¦ 48, 34, 28, 20â€¦
I felt everyone stiffening. The air was thick with tension. I heard my sister catching her breath.
Then the line went flat. My father had passed away.
It took a while for it to sink in. It didnâ€™t feel final, perhaps because we had matters to attend to. The men had to deal with the hospital and other arrangements and the women had to return home to prepare for the funeral the next morning.
Later that night, I had to go back to the flat as my daughter would only sleep in her crib. My uncle took the car and sent us home. Still dry-eyed, I took my seat. It was a quiet journeyâ€¦ what was there to say at a time like this?
Then we arrived at my block and said salaam. I got out of the car and stood by the car park, just as I used to when my father drove us home. As my uncle pulled away, he turned to us.
I waved at him and he waved back.
My heart went cold as the hurt came rushing in. It was then that it really hit me.
My father was never coming back.