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The Longest Distance

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.

8 comments:

  1. If we all be able to find intimate, soulish words like yours to contemplate about our lives it would be easier to cope with all aspects of it. xx

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    1. I wish that's the case :)
      I think there's no easy way to live, but that's also at the same time is the best way - if that even make sense. so good to hear from you!!!

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  2. This was so soothing to read in a way. I lost my grandpa late last year and I felt the same way though I wasn't able to attend his funeral I too wondered, was he happy? Had he done everything he wanted in life? I'm sorry to hear of your Father. I guess it's something you learn to live with an accept even though it never fully heals and to always remind yourself that he's always with you. XX

    Sally - DiagonSally

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    1. It's not always easy, but I think we all learn. I have that questions too in my head, most of the time. But looking at how the people around him feel the lost too, and how the things that he's done having impacts on his surrounding and beyond, I believe that my dad lived his life without regret - that he's done good, and he'd had a happy life :)

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  3. Oh this was so heartbreaking to read.. what your father said, his words are so heartbreaking but so comforting... I am sure his words are something you will always keep close to your heart

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    1. Thank you so much, Jane. You're right. His words will live with me until I die. I hope to pass this on to my own children too someday, if I ever had ones.

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  4. My first encounter with the passing of loved ones was my beloved grandmother. It's still hard to think that she's not around and reading this makes me miss her even more. I'm sorry to hear about your Dad, but thank you for sharing this thoughts.

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    1. I think it's always hard. No matter when and how it happens. I am sorry about your grandma too :)

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