By Sohaib Alvi
I wrote this on morning of Jan 20, two years ago. Then posted it to my blog a few months later. Thought I’ll share it on Father’s Day. In essence though, for him every day was father’s day.
It was around this time of day 20 years ago that my father took his last breath. I’d stayed overnight and before leaving did something just before leaving his side that I sometimes feel was the last act of kindness I ever did for him.
His lungs had given way and he was on oxygen, and I could see all night that even in the condition of semi consciousness, he had struggled to breath with the two small tubes injecting the oxygen through his nose.
Round about 9am, as my elder brother was to arrive to take over from me for the day…I asked the nurse if she could bring the oxygen mask; when I put that on his mouth and nose instead of the narrow tubes, he immediately seemed to settle down; I sensed a quiet sigh; his eyes remained closed but it was as if I had just given someone who had just crossed a desert a sip of water.
He breathed better after that; his body seemed to relax and he slipped into sleep. After a while the nurse and doctor left his side and told me his vital signs were better. Perhaps a more composite supply of oxygen had given him some relief.
My elder brother, some 14 years older and who had brought me up as a father would, and supported our family as my father could not after his retirement, arrived to take over from me; and I left for work.
It was around noon, as I was discussing some task with two of my colleagues, that I got a call from my sister-in-law, also a doctor.
She asked me to reach the hospital, and perhaps sensing from my silence preempted my question and added: “And Sehbi…he’s not there.”
Actually I wasn’t going to ask any question for the same reason I put the phone down and without saying a word got up and left the room. I was choking inside and my self control was hanging by a single syllable not uttered. I was not that brave enough to allow my inner strength to be questioned.
I have asked myself thousands of questions since that time. And many of them relate to the past with my father. Father, did I not see your frustration as you saw the lies said around you about our country’s creation? Did I not feel the pain that you carried when no one wanted to drink from your reservoir of knowledge, for fear of being infected with the disease of facing truth eternally? Did I not hear your words that you would say to yourself about what really happened back then, that no one wanted you to tell in those days?
Did I not smell the perfume of love that you carried for me especially, in a bottle long since closed to the outside world and perhaps even to me? Did I not touch you where you most wanted me to, inside the palm of your hand? Or around your frail shoulder?
I will never know, but do you feel all these five senses of mine reaching out to you today, my father? If you do, then forgive me for all the times I never used one or more of them when you most needed them from me. And may Allah bless me with the power and resilience to carry forth till my last breath your one message to me especially that I have decoded from your life: “Son, stand for the truth, for its only truth that will stand by your side eternally.”
Last question my father. After doing nothing for you all my life, did I give you some comfort that morning, my last act for you? I hope I did. It’s all I remember ever doing for you that seemed to give you peace. I mean that. Doing acts that please someone is different than acts which are done for someone that makes them happy. Most of us miss that. I think I did. Hopefully, one day, we shall meet and you can tell me if that last act of mine made up for so much that I never did especially for you.