Monday, February 24, 2014


My Dad passed away three weeks ago and I had to grab a seat to fly back to Thailand at short notice. That’s why Wokarella has been out of action for a wee while.

He was an amazing Dad. When he had not yet been ill he was very witty and very funny and most of all – family was his number one priority in life. Dad catered to our needs before his own. He had helped a lot of people in his life and was much loved by the relatives – many of them had attended the funeral and mourned for him – I have never realized we have that many.

Before retiring, he worked in forestry industry and was away from home very often. For years when we were growing up he stationed in the country but he tried to come home as much as possible at weekends (imagine those long coach rides or those long drives and those hours spent at the airports before flights). We the children, my brother and I, stayed with him on and off in the provinces he was being posted but mostly spent our school holidays with him.

Dad made sure that we did OK at school. Dad always told us that he did not have much money for us to inherit but he would provide for our education for as long as we needed – when we were in Uni.

When he retired, he and Mum travelled to stay with me in Holland where I was working at the time and spent a few years there. It was their happy time together – just like a couple of Honeymooners in their 60’s. My first apartment was on the top floor of a small shopping plaza and the baker and shopkeepers seemed to know my parents – these Asian Opa and Oma - a lot more than they knew me.

In his mid 70’s, Dad was diagnosed with voice box cancer and had to undergo an operation and numerous radio-therapy sessions but sadly, the cancer kept coming back and the only treatment his oncologist recommended was a major operation to remove his voice box altogether. He also had Emphysema, although not yet severe, as a result of being a heavy smoker for so many years when he was younger. I worked in Australia at the time so didn’t have a chance to talk to the doctor. He had that operation – the cancer was gone but his health deteriorated from that point onwards. I flew home when his health (both physically and mentally) was at its low after the surgery. I learnt that the oncologist recommended speech therapy so that he could learn to speak by swallowing air. He had to be at the hospital every week for this. I was so appalled – I might have agreed with this for him to try if he was 10-20 years younger – but at 76, it was too difficult for him to learn this then new-ish technique (and the therapist admitted a lot of much younger patients had failed). Honestly, they should have recommended a psychologist to help him cope with speechlessness to start with. I suspected the hospital just had started this speech department and needed funding based on the number of patients! Not only that, with limited means to communicate Dad had also developed a delirium and was very confused. I ordered a handheld Electrolarynx on spot before lecturing the therapist on how to discriminate patients for this kind of therapy (couldn't help it). I also got him to see a neurologist about his symptoms of dementia.

With his Electrolarynx and medication from the neurologist, Dad got better and could function well with everyday routine by himself. He had been quite lucid for a few years and could enjoy going out again. He made jokes and told stories like he did, although not as good. Dad took to bed when his Emphysema got worse about 5 years ago. We had installed an oxygen machine in his room and he also had a 24 hour care giver for his comfort and convenience. Dementia also got a firm grip on him as well over this time. I was visiting in 2011 and he did not even recognize me when I bid farewell – for me it was much sadder than the farewell itself. For the past two years, Dad was bedbound – never to get up again.

On quiet Monday morning, the 3rd of February, Mum sat by his bedside and noticed later on that his chest no longer moved. Dad passed away peacefully in his sleep – at home that he built and loved. He was finally set free from his illness and all that fuzzy cloud that marred his cognitive ability.

I flew home in time for the last few days of his funeral. My darling big brother had arranged a much respectable 7-night Buddhist funeral service for Dad. We cremated him on the following Tuesday and on Wednesday we took his ashes to the Naval Base in Sattahip, 2 hours southeast of Bangkok. Out in the boat, with a beautiful and peaceful ceremony we laid his ashes to rest in the nice blue sea, along with roses and jasmines. Dad loved beaches and seas – he would be happy and smiling down at us from somewhere in heaven. 

Dad, if there were such thing as next life, I would definitely want to be your child again.

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