Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Janak Desai

March 12, 2010
I sat and stared at him as he lay in what used to be my brother's bedroom. It was the only room in the house that could fit the hospice-provided bed in which he would eventually die. We always knew his wish was to die at home so when the decision was made to stop treatment, bringing him back to the house he'd lived in since 1979 was the first priority. I had just returned from a friend's wedding in Mexico. Before I left, Daddy was deteriorating and after 3 days when I returned, my brother informed me that our father had stopped eating entirely and had mostly stopped speaking. I was 11 weeks pregnant and incredibly nauseous from the flight. "This can't be it," I thought.

February 2010
"Hi Mummy!!" I said into the phone as I drove away from the OB/GYN office. The news of my first child's due date was on the tip of my tongue. "Daddy's cancer is in his bones! It's everywhere... lungs, bones, everywhere." She was out of breath and her voice panicked. I froze and tried not to drive off the road. She hung up and I pulled over. "Once it's in the bones, that's it," Daddy would say throughout his 6 year fight with prostate cancer. Every body-scan to check on the progress of his treatment, we'd brace for the results. Up until that day, there had always been a huge sigh of relief.

The cancer remained at bay for years. Being a diligent patient with his screenings, it had been caught early and treated with medication after his prostate was removed. For reasons that only the cancer knows, it started to spread rapidly a few years later, and his oncologist said that chemotherapy was the only option. "Well, I'm already bald, so that's fine," Daddy joked upon hearing about his new course of treatment.

March 12, 2010
"Are you in any pain?" the hospice nurse asked as she situated Daddy's morphine drip. He said he wasn't and I smiled. He had suffered for months, and now he was comfortable. Just outside the bedroom, our living room was packed with friends from the Indian community. The kitchen was full of food and fresh chai was brewed.

I leaned forward in the chair next to his bed and stared at him. His eyes were closed and his breath steady. Years of health issues had somewhat prepared me for this, but the thought of never hearing my father's voice again violently squeezed my insides with sorrow. The tears began to surface to the point where I couldn't silence the oncoming sobs. My mother was adamant that we don't cry in Daddy's presence. "The soul won't go in peace," she told us. I stood up to cry in another room when my cousin said, "Sheevu, hold on, turn around."

Daddy's eyes were slightly open and his hand was reaching for me. I sat back down next to him and put my hand next to his. He closed his eyes and started to gently pat the top of my hand over and over again. The same hand that held my hand to cross the street as a child was now comforting me through this final stage of his life. He was saying, "I'm okay, I'm fine," with each pat and I understood completely. It is still one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

March 16, 2010
Over the next 4 days, countless friends and family came to say their goodbyes. At night, we'd all sit in the room with him, tell stories and LAUGH. We'd laugh so hard sometimes I thought we'd wake him out of his final coma. We were telling the same stories we'd told for years, and of course, making fun of the MANY things we'd tease Daddy about as a family. There wasn't anything Daddy loved more than laughing with friends and family. We were also able to say goodbye and let him know how much we loved him. Those final days were the perfect send-off for Janak Desai.

One by one, friends and relatives left our house. My mother convinced my brother, Sheel, to finally leave Daddy's side and sit with us in the living room. With all the activity in the past few days, Mummy thought it best to be together in another room. It couldn't have been more than 20 minutes when Sheel decided to go back to check on Daddy. "Guys, come in here," he called to us. My mother, sister-in-law and I walked in and Daddy was gone. He had taken his final breath when he was completely alone. I've heard countless similar stories where loved-ones wait until they are alone to let go. Just as he had gently patted my hand to comfort me, he held on for days so his friends and family could say their goodbyes. I know he did that for them, and once that was over, his soul was at peace and he left us.

My kids know so much about their Janak Nana. They say, "Tell us more stories about your dad!" At bedtime, there is often a bright star visible from my son's bedroom window. "That's Janak Nana's star, right Mama?" my son asks. I say yes and tell him my Daddy is watching over us. As my children grow up, a daily recurring thought is, "I wish my dad could see this..." He'd be so proud that my son loves mango pulp and fart jokes. My daughter would melt his heart with her snuggles and infectious laughter.

It's been over 8 years, but my hand still feels that gentle pat from time to time. Sometimes it's through a hug from my children or toilet joke I know he would have loved. In any form, this forever Daddy's Girl appreciates the reminders.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful tribute to your Father written ever so eloquently. What a cherished relationship and I felt every moment so deeply as I read your words. Thank you for sharing them with us. I hope it was healing for you to do so.


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