This week, the town has been filled with the preparation and celebration of Chinese New Year. I could see lion dance performers in random places, performing in public. There is a big rooster lantern placed in the middle of Chinatown main street. A stage stood a few blocks away, where they played Chinese drama. This time around, last year, we went to a friend's house for a barbecue party and ordered McDonalds at 8 pm before the store closed. This year, it means a long weekend, a reason to procrastinate on the laundry, an extra time in bed and additional swirls of whipped cream in our coffee cups.
My chest was hurt and I could feel the moment he held his last breath even though we were thousands of miles apart. That's it. I remember the soft voice talking in my head. Still, I refused to believe. I sat there in silence on the bed. My phone rang one minute later. I heard my mother's voice at the other end. "He's gone," she said - validating the hole in my heart. It had to be true.
There was this one time when my father suddenly called me out of nowhere. At that time I just had moved to a new city. He asked me if I were okay, and as far as my pride let me, of course, I told him that I am perfectly fine. The truth is, I was having a rough time. "I don't know what it is that you cannot tell me, but I know you are not okay right now," he said. I was laughing, and asked him "How do you know?". That is our routine. I already knew what his answer was gonna be. I could hear the sound of his computer logging off in the background, "Because our hearts are close. I always tell you this. I know," he said.
He told me that sentence million times ever since I was a kid. His words live with me. Because our hearts are close even though we are miles apart. That night, when my father passed away, believe it or not, I could feel the moment he had his last breath. His passing was so sudden and none of us were prepared. Ever since that day, the sequences in my life have been divided in two. Before and after he left. Often, my friends asking me how do I get over losing a parent? The truth is, you can never get over it. I realized that real quick. I will live with this feeling for the rest of my life.
I learn to live without my father. I learn to miss him, knowing that I don't have the luxury to see him in person anymore. I learn to talk about him, without shedding tears. I learn to mend my broken heart, with the weight of an elephant sitting on my chest. If there's one thing that I did very fast, it was accepting the reality that he's passed away. That his heart no longer beating. But the longing, after some time passed, still hurt sometimes. There are days when it's harder than any other days. And this is an ongoing process. There is no switch in your body that you can just turn off, having and not having a parent.
I remember the day of his funeral. I flew back home with the earliest flight that I could find. By the time I arrived, the house was already full of people - family, relatives, friends, colleagues. I walked to his coffin and I could feel all the eyes watching me. Looking for any sign of breaking down. My brother approached me and held my hand. I looked at my father's face for one last time.
He looked so peaceful. If there's no cotton put inside his nostrils as a sign that he's no longer breathing, I would think that he's just taking a nap. He's been mine for more than 26 years 4 months 23 days and 18 hours by that time. I made no sound. No wailing. I just kept looking at him. I took a good look at his face. A lot of thoughts passing through my mind. Was it hurt? Were you tired? Were you worried about us? Don't be. We'll be ok. You raised us well. It's ok. Get some rest now. I let you go. I let him go. In my silence, tears fell from my eyes.
It hasn't been an easy journey. I keep rehearsing his voice in my head. I think about him all the time. And until 3 months ago, I still called his number twice a week to meet a stranger's voice telling me that the person I'm trying to reach is not available.
When I went back to Indonesia a few weeks ago, I met my friends over dinner and we started talking about losing the loved ones. There's something that one of my friends, who lost his father a few years before me, said that really stuck with me. He told me the person that you lost is never really leaving. Their passing transforms into other forms that you can put many labels on it - longing, grief, memory, responsibility, you name it and have it as many as you need to. That in those labels, they live with you. In everything that you do.
There are so many labels that come to me with my father's passing. I am still learning each day to live with open arms for them. I still have that elephant sitting on my chest. Only that it's not as heavy as the first few months after his funeral anymore. I am still learning to live with the longest distance that could be between two people, that now lies between me and my father. The distance between today and many days ago when he was still alive. The distance that I cannot cross. But as my father always told me - our hearts are close. No matter where we are, even though we're many miles apart.
EYES ON THE SEAS - I read an interesting piece on Hakai Magazine about the mysterious disappearance of a fisheries observerthe other day. Fisheries observer is a person who is hired by a government body to make a report of fishing activity on the seas - including if the ship or the fishery company endangers the marine biota. I've never heard of this working field before, but this profession intrigues me. It seems to require a lot of commitment and dedication. The piece illustrates the life of a fisheries observer that is often feel like an outsider in a ship full of other human beings. FOR FREELANCER IN NEW YORK - I was always been freelancing until in the last one and a half year. Sometimes it's hard to draw a line for a freelancer, especially working with different companies with different policies. New York apparently keeps trying to keep their freelancer law to work better. Dubbed the "Freelance Isn't Free Act", the law is hoped to have a new meaning for small businesses too.
MANAGING FINANCE - As an adult there are just so much thing that we responsible of. Including to manage our finance. I read about The Hell Yeah Group sometimes ago, and it's really open my eyes about managing finance. They provide a finance management service that can serve small business and individual. Their budget session is still open for a spot. Even if you're not sure if you should contact them or not, their mailing list is totally worth your inbox space.
NEW ERA OF SALES 2017 - Forbes Magazine tells us to expect a new era of sales in 2017, of what they called "empowered sales". With the continuous development of technology, the sales people are driven to do a meaningful interaction.
When I went visiting my parents last week, we went to the city park where we used to go when I was a little. The place is still as green and as lively as I remember it when I was much younger. I saw a lot of family spending their time having a picnic, elderly sitting on the bench at the side of the park under the tree shade playing chest. I was wondering if they already knew each other, or they know each other from coming to the park. Kids were running around, playing football, riding a bike, blowing bubbles - I felt happy just by watching all of it.
I can't remember the last time I live somewhere where everyone knows everybody. When I was young I used to lived in a community. I knew all my neighbor and vice versa. We lived in a housing complex where there were around 50 households, and I could name them all including their grandparents, parents, uncles, aunties, distant cousins and they all knew me and my family. It was normal for us to visit each other, just because. If my mom baked a cake or something, she would send some to at least three or four neighbors that were closest to our house.
In the morning, mothers would gather nearby the complex volleyball field where the grocery merchants open before they go back home and start cooking. In the afternoon, my siblings and I could hear the sound of the bell at the security guard post as a sign it was 4 pm and it meant it's our playtime. All the kids in the neighborhood would gather, and we all would play together until we see one of our neighbor who lived at the other end of the complex from our house driving his motorbike home. That's our cue to go back home, and not long after that, we would hear our dad's car entering our house.
It wasn't awkward to go to any of our neighbors and ask for some sugar if we were running out of it. In the past decade, I think I've lived in places where I don't know anyone. In my apartment, my next door neighbor is just three steps away from me but I hardly see them and they barely see me. When I try to make conversation in the elevator with the other residents, it usually ends real quick. Being in that park remind me of community living. As people getting more and more individual, I think it's something that is really easy to be forgotten.
Don't give it back, I've never felt so wanted are you taking me home?
You tell me you have to go
In the heat of summer sunshine, I miss you like nobody else
In the heat of summer sunshine, I kiss you and nobody needs to know
The Corrs - Summer Sunshine
I flew back to Indonesia in mid-December. I saw the city lights just when the plane about to land, and the butterflies in my stomach started to make noises. This feeling of coming home. Seeing the sights of familiar old streets, faces of family and friends. My brothers and sister who always up for anything that I asked them to do. The home-cooked meals my mom makes. The long cold nights spent at my friend's gallery house. Stuck in the middle of somewhere in a pouring rain, and we still laugh the night away.
All the small things. Watching horror movies at my parents' living room with my siblings. Fighting over the last piece of terang bulan. My sister's willingness to brew me coffee each day. Our mom waking us up in the morning. Riding my brother's motorbike. For laughing until my stomach hurt. Friends like mine. Even though now we all live in different cities and countries, we always try to match our schedule to meet somewhere. And when we do, it feels as if we never part. This is home. It's mainly not about a place. It's about a feeling. A sense of belonging. I am home.
For all the good reason. For the smell of mistletoe and the sight of lights all over the city. For the smell of gingerbread in the corner coffee shop. For the red and green wrapping papers. For long morning on a Saturday morning, and a brunch at 3 pm. For just-around-the-corner holidays, and the waving coconut trees as the view.