My Father's Last Day
I was lying in bed last night thoughtful as usual when I started thinking about fathers day just gone. I thought of how it's almost meaningless to me due to losing my father at 5 years old. Then I was flooded with memories of my father's last moments.
I remember being woken up by voices weeping, crying loudly, in Samoan it's best described as laueega: A loud cry filled with anguish and emotional pain. The cobwebs cleared as I realised the crying was coming from my mother who was leaning over my father on their big four poster bed with other women of our family around. They were all doing something to my dad. I didn't understand why there were so many people in our bedroom. My mum was pushing down on dad's chest over and over and also blowing into his mouth all the while pleading and begging dad in this pain filled voice to not let go and not to leave her then. She would talk strongly then her voice falters to loud crying as if speaking louder would keep dad alive. I remember this went on for what seemed like hours, my aunties took turns massaging dad's legs while someone else was busy dabbing his forehead with a wet cloth and lauki...tea leaves and lau gogu or noni leaves. Eventually all this movement around Dad stopped but the crying continued. My father had passed on and could not be revived. I remember being so scared and incredibly sad to see my mother in this way. Five year old me was scared for it was dark outside and all this crying must be attracting the night ghosts. The fact that my father's body was now lifeless and he had gone more pale than usual. Worst of all was seeing my mum in so much pain. I hadn't seen my mother cry before but then and there I saw how much a grown person could cry and I wished my mum would stop and never cry again. Seeing my mum so vulnerable made me very scared as five year old me was seeing my strength and my world crumble. My aunties cuddled and consoled me and my siblings. My mum washed and clothed my father while my aunties took us away to wash us and put us in our Sunday best for Dad's final services. I remember coming back to the room and feeling how cold my father was when giving him a kiss. I was scared to go near him again. The arrangements were all done that morning and Dad was buried later that day at home. The family swept in and helped mum set up for the final services. Mum was following dad's wishes to be buried as soon as possible at home surrounded by his family. After dad was brought to the living area of our house mum sat near him and cried even more. The more family and friends that came to pay respects the more my mum would cry and stayed by dad most of that day. Later dad's body was moved to the main house so his final services were held there and there was room for the choir that came to sing hymns during the last service. Ironic as my dad didn't set foot in the church.
During the hymns my baby sister who was one and half then would get up and dance near Dad's coffin. This made other grown ups cry! After the service the men lifted my father's coffin and took him to the grave. I remember there were so many people I couldn't see my father anymore. Then one uncle lifted me up and pushed to the front so I could see my father being lowered into the ground.
For the rest of the year I contracted every contagious disease that came around. I had the measles, yellow fever and pink eye. I remember being sick all the time and using my fathers shirts as nightgowns and later my mum told me that she realised I was taking my father's death hard. Some mornings I complained my leg hurt and I would literally not be able to walk and would hobble along dragging one leg all day. I was due to start year one and later I remember I had to have a tutor come to teach me my subjects at home. I asked my mom about this later in life and mum told me I had missed most of the year of schooling and to make sure I didn't fall behind she hired a tutor to help me at home.
One happy memory I have of my dad was when I received a prize at school which was a little ballerina for being the top speller or something like that. When he came to pick us up from school I told him excitedly about my prize he lifted me up and spun me around and cuddled me saying "that's my girl..."
I understand this may open old wounds for my siblings but I don't know if I ever talked about these memories before but for some reason they resurfaced and I told my youngest sister last night and she was glad I shared it with her. She thought it could be therapeutic and it could bring some closure for some of us. She was a one year old baby so she doesn't remember any of this. There's my father's final moments as I saw them from my five year old eyes.