Where is the “good” in goodbye?

On the morning of 10 September 2012, I received the call that I had been waiting for all night.  It was my sister on the other end and she said the words to me, brief but self-explanatory “he is gone”, I gave a feeble “ok” in response and hung up… and wept.  All alone in my bed with my rather horrified cat staring at me I cried like a baby, with nobody to comfort and console me.  When I finally stopped crying, I called my brother thousands of miles away and told him “Dad has passed away” saying the words made the reality all the more tangible and I broke down again.  My father had died, not unexpectedly, but in all honesty who actually expects anyone they love to die?

The events that followed were a whirlwind and a blur, I remember coffee in the home of a caring neighbor, weeping a few more times and traveling home.  I remember the apprehension we all felt as we approached the house, the nervous laughter dying down to be  replaced with confessions of fear and a dire wish for the car to turn back and take us across the border where we had come from.  I remember seeing my mother and my heart breaking all over again, the arrival and departure of people and finally the funeral.  A whirlwind and a blur.

I do not dwell on the fact that my father died, for that unfortunately cannot be changed, and will not help me in any way. In fact I am grateful that my father passed away leaving me as an adult able to care for herself and not a young helpless child as some have experienced.  Someone said to me recently that we deal with death by removing all thought of the deceased and perhaps even living our lives like they never existed.  But how can I do that?  Pretending the person through whom I exist never existed is like extinguishing my own existence.  Instead, I have chosen to celebrate my father’s life.  To remember him with love and fondness, beautiful and full of laughter and to allow him to continue living… in my memories.

The other day I was sitting on my couch looking at the TV but not exactly concentrating and I suddenly burst out laughing, a memory of my father had entered my mind.  A memory of him instructing us on how to kill a giant moth that had fluttered into our lounge so many years ago..  “usatarise mudenga chinokupinda mumhuno” (Don’t look up it will get into your nose)  Dad screamed as we tried to brush the moth with a feather duster.  You see, my father disliked creepy crawlies of all kinds and would never attempt to get rid of one on his own but would rather get one of us to do it!  The only problem was we too had developed the same irrational fear of bugs and lizards and all other manner of creepy crawlies that wondered into our home.

More memories came to me… how we would laugh so hard in the evenings whilst cleaning up after supper, Dad would shout at us to go and laugh outside.  Of course this only made us laugh even louder and in the end, even Mom and Dad would laugh with no idea what we had been laughing at in the first place.

I remember waiting up every evening for Dad to come home.  The moment the lights of the car lit the driveway we would zoom out of the house to open the gate for him (modern day kids have no idea what they are missing with their electric, remote controlled gates) Dad would stop just inside the gate and we would jump into the car for the short 50 metre drive down the driveway!  But that wasn’t the best part, more often than not; something yummy would await us in the car, usually some chips from Royal Sunflower and in later years Chicken Inn or some delicious baked goods.  Of course there were days when all Dad brought was a couple of loaves of bread and I am pretty sure our disappointment disappointed him (ungrateful brats we were).

Finally I remember the evenings after a shopping spree (we did not get clothes at Christmas like most children back then, but we got new clothes regularly and usually for church), after Dad had eaten his supper, we would all put on our new clothes and put on a fashion show to rival any fashion week (Just realised who is to blame for my shopaholic tendencies)!

When I look back on my childhood, I realize that although we were not rich, we were privileged.  My father worked hard and in his mind and his heart, everything he did was for the benefit of his family.

I believe that dwelling on these positive thoughts and beautiful sometimes funny memories will go a long way to helping me and my family cope with the loss of our father.  It wasn’t always all roses but I choose to only focus on the rosy parts and not the thorns.

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Chigamba Notice Chambati
1935-2012

From the bottom of my heart, I will always love you Dad.

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