When I was in Taiwan, my ‘frequency’ was tuned to Chinese channel so I did not feel so strongly when I write this in English. Every people I talked to, places I went to, things I encountered at Taiwan were Chinese. I was indeed surprised, I never wrote or typed so many Chinese words before, 8000 of them. Read the post in Chinese, I couldn’t believe it at first.
As I start to remember the good times I had with A-pa, I realize there were not enough, a life taken way too soon. Holiday plan to Taiwan was disrupted few times before.
Were they premonitions of a trip that we not proceed?
Should we not travel in winter?
If he were to stay in Singapore, will he live many more years?
Only heaven knows the answer.
We followed itinerary but had to accept limitations such as time and knowledge that hindered our plan. Trusting GPS sometimes led us to the wrong way, poor A-pa endured the kind of uncertainty that we came face to face. He did not complain, just sat quietly at the back seat of the rented car.
I didn’t realize that our family-backpacker style of travel was tough for an old man. I was wrong to think that A-pa was the same man who travelled with us in Japan and China Yunnan province, to the mountains, had no problem with walking. I was wrong to under-estimate how age affects a person’s capacity to travel.
22 December 2009
3:30am – A-pa woke up and took an unusually long shower. He said the hot shower would chase away the chill. Strange logic, I thought. He came out from the bathroom reluctantly after I asked him. A-pa scolded me. I was upset of course, but also told him to wear more clothes and socks, not bathe in order to keep warm. He fell asleep but muttering in his sleep as if he was quarrelling with someone. Scary.
Journey to Taiping National Park was very long. Mountain is 2000m above sea level. A-pa did not follow us and chose to stay at the resort lobby. At 3pm, we stopped by a restaurant to have lunch. A-pa ordered stir-fried cabbage, rice and a cup of coffee. He seemed to enjoy the meal and finished the food. This was his last meal.
We continued our journey to Hualien by the mountain route. I thought, we should be at the intersection of Yilan, Taichung and Hualien. It was 5:30pm, sky was getting darker. We had to settle in a farmstay accommodation.
A-pa experienced shortness of breath when he walked along the corridor of the farm hotel. We did not know his condition was fatal and let him rest on the bed. A-pa fell asleep not to wake up again.
Despite the efforts of a nurse who was a guest at the accommodation, or paramedic or whatever actions were given at Lishan Medical Center, A-pa never regained consciousness. He was declared dead and cause of death was acute myocardial infarction. He was 68 years old. I fell to my knees and cried hysterically.
Through this hard and hurtful time we have had the helpful Taiwanese people we met at the farmstay accommodation, Lishan Medical Center and colleagues at BNP Paribas Fixed Income and HR Rebecca Yu who helped us in many ways.
Angela Tang’s friend Ms Qiu who worked in the funeral industry in Taipei helped me to contact her Taichung counterparts to arrange an ambulance to Lishan to pick my father’s body to Taichung City funeral parlour, arrange religious ceremony for a-pa’s funeral. Angela and Ms Qiu also came all the way from Taipei to Taichung to pay last respect to a-pa.
My sister Hannah, mother, brother Loon, sister-in-law Yvonne took different flights, making their effort to see A-pa for the last time before cremation. Loon flew all the way from Afghanistan to Kuwait to Singapore then to Taipei. All were united, doing their best to do a proper funeral back in Singapore.
I cried countless times over the past 11 days. Today is the first day I stop crying. But I know I am still coping with the sudden loss.
I was the person who brought A-pa to holiday, saw a-pa’s departure, accompanied his body from Lishan to Taichung City, handling his funeral in Taiwan . Right now, I feel okay. A-pa’s death was so unexpected; he wasn’t ill–at least that we knew of.
Someone told me A-pa could have already known about his death which explained his odd behaviour from early morning shower and eating vegetable at his last meal. In Buddhism, this was an act of cleansing the body. I don’t know. I feel like I do not have all the “answers” to all the questions I can ask.