There is a man I knew, whom I love deeply—so deeply, in fact, that although he isn’t physically present in my life anymore, his memory is forever etched in my heart.
He was amazing. He had a brilliant mind and his sense of humor brought the subtleties of life, to life. With his heart wide open, he showed up for me, comforted me when life just became a bit too much to handle.
He made me strong through his wisdom and even stronger just knowing he was forever there, to catch me before I fell. I miss this man.
He was my Dad.
My Dad and I had a connection that transcended space and time. I knew things about him before they would happen. He could read my mind. We lived far away from each other, he in India, I in California, but distance meant nothing.
He watched me grow into a woman. I watched him grow into an older man, only in body, as his spirit was forever youthful.
We visited each other often. However, as he grew frailer, it became harder for him to make the long journey across the Atlantic.
One day, he whispered to me—
“I can’t anymore, Simmi.”
Nothing more needed to be said. I understood.
My life in America was busy and I had dreams. But, often I would feel a calling from him. It was unspoken and, knowing him, he would have never wanted me to give up anything for him. For, he’d given me wings and his intention was for me to use them. I would feel a deep stirring in my soul and would make that journey to India to see him in person—even if that meant I had to put things on hold.
My travel to India became more frequent. Every time I saw him, he looked physically smaller and smaller,
although his personality remained massive, just as it had always been.
Every time I left India, I would fear that this would be the last time I would see him. It was always so hard to leave. I would pray to God, if He existed, that please, when the time came for my Dad to leave this Earth, I just wanted to be able to make it to his side on time and for his passing to be swift and without suffering. I wasn’t sure if there was anyone listening but this was my deepest, non-negotiable prayer.
A few months ago, I had a couple of dreams. I’m not one to put much stock in dreams, but these ones stood out for me. The first was a dream where I was advised not to attend a retreat I’d signed up for. I went anyway. The retreat was in a secluded area, without cell phone coverage—so for the first time in a long time I was unavailable for any phone calls from India.
On the second last day of the retreat, I felt a huge discomfort in my very core. I had a strong yearning to call home and to leave early. Somehow I stayed on. The next morning, my next dream snapped me awake. This one got my attention. I dreamed that my cell phone had caught on fire and as I was extinguishing the flames it changed into a funeral pyre. Needless to say, my discomfort level went up
I quickly dressed and packed my belongings.
As I was loading my car, my cell phone unexpectedly beeped with an incoming text message from my sister.
“Emergency. Call me.” It read.
I learned that my Dad had fallen in India and was in the ICU in congestive heart failure. I left for India the same day.
A dread filled me. It was unshakable. I had to reach my Dad as soon as I could.
I had a weird experience while I was on the plane. I actually felt my Dad’s soul come to me and speak to me. It wasn’t a dream, but more like he was speaking in my mind and I was listening. He said, “I’m really tired, Simmi. Would it be okay for me to leave?”
I’d cried silently and replied, “Yes, Dad.”
He expressed his concerns.
“Will you be okay? I’m always so worried about you.”
“Don’t you worry about me; I will be fine.”
I thought I was going crazy. This defied logic. How could I be speaking with my Dad?
I reached India and was glad to see my Dad in relatively good spirits in the ICU. He didn’t look as bad as I’d
expected. His sense of humor was still intact. That was a good thing. He, of course, was delighted to see me.
I was relieved, convinced that my experience on the plane was a mere figment of my imagination. Fear can do that to a person. It can cloud your mind with dark imaginings and morbid self-talk.
There’s something to be said about the healthcare system in India. It’s not like America at all. What we take for granted here is a battle of tremendous proportions in India.
Doctors keep everything to themselves over there. Details of a patient’s status are like well-kept secrets that need to be pried out of them.
I fought that battle for my Dad, as he’d fought for me. I became his advocate and used every weapon in my arsenal to get him the best care possible; I humbled myself, I raged, I sweet-talked my way and even cried if I had to. My Dad was transferred from hospital to hospital five times in a three-week period. It frustrated me to no end, but a flawed system is exactly that—flawed. I tried to keep his spirits up as we transferred him in various ambulances. As he’d grown older he’d barely left the house. I joked that this was a good excuse for him to go on a tour of Delhi with me, just like old times.
My Dad, mostly silent, was apparently observing me. I learned that one evening, when he looked at me and said.
“Simmi, you’re such a fighter. You really know how to get your way. I had no idea.”
He seemed impressed as he got to witness that side of me. And relieved, that perhaps his baby girl had grown up and was able to fly on her own. In retrospect, perhaps that gave him permission to fly on his own.
We had many intimate talks as he lay in his hospital bed. He told me his secrets, that he’d carried for so long. He bared his soul to me. I realized that there were so many more layers to my Father. I felt honored that he could open himself to me in this way.
My Dad’s heart was in a bad shape. The doctors could do nothing more than give him medications. It was heart breaking. I wanted to fix him. To patch him up, to take him back to America, where I could keep him safe.
Another strange thing started happening while I was in India. I repeatedly got a vision of my Dad’s heart bursting into a brilliant white light followed by a vision of the number three. I confided in my closest friend.
“What does that mean?” She asked.
“Not sure.” I replied. It was just so weird. It happened over and over again.
My Dad endeared himself to the nurses and doctors. He was charming like that. Some of the toughest nurses in the Military Hospital he was in, melted in his presence. One said,
“Your Dad’s magical. There’s something special about him.”
“I know,” I replied.” I’m glad you can see that.”
After spending almost three weeks in the hospital, his frustration grew. He became quiet and sullen and so not like the person I knew him to be. That scared me. As a doctor myself, I could deal with a broken body, but as a daughter I couldn’t watch his spirit break.
His body had healed some and the doctors finally scheduled a day for him to go home. A day before his discharge I walked into his hospital room fully expecting to see that quiet, sullen version of him. I was shocked to see him sitting up in bed with a huge smile on his face. He was full of life, once again the magical Dad I knew. He was different. There was something unusually different about the energy in his room. I could not quite put my finger on it, but his room felt lighter and brighter.
“I feel great!” he proclaimed. “Take me home,“ he begged.
“I will, but tomorrow.” I replied.
He felt reassured. I sat next to him, still a bit confused by the sudden change in his demeanor and also about what I was sensing and seeing in his room.
My Dad then asked me to bring him a few copies of a book he’d recently written and published. With a flair he wrote thank you notes to the doctors and nurses as he signed his books for them. He dated them December 3, 2016. I reminded him that that date was actually the 2nd. He insisted on postdating his books the third.
I stayed with him all day. That in itself was a miracle, as in India, visiting hours in the ICU are strict and sparse.
But, like I said, my Dad had charmed the nurses and they all looked the other way as I broke their rules. When it was time to leave, I was compelled to take a photograph with my Dad, the first one in three weeks. On my way home, my heart felt heavy as it dawned on me that he was 82 years old. He never looked old, he never behaved old, but in that photograph I could see how tired he actually was. I wanted to rush back to the hospital, to hug him again and let him know that I’d never leave him. I’d stay as long as I needed in India until he got better. But it was late and tomorrow would come soon.
The next day dawned with a phone call from the hospital. The staff told me to get there as quickly as possible as my Dad had suddenly decompensated. They wouldn’t give me any more information. Panicked, I catapulted out of the house and flagged down a cab. I called the hospital again and they
told me they were intubating him. I screamed at the cab driver to hurry. He raced through the streets of Delhi and then we got stuck in a traffic jam.
The cab driver, as panicked as I was, tried his best to maneuver through the clogged streets. He screamed and cussed at the other motorists to move aside.
Suddenly, a deep peace descended over me. I knew, we would reach the hospital in divine timing.
There was a reason for the delay. I told the driver to relax, we’d reach the hospital when we were supposed to. Sitting in the back seat of the cab, I tried my best to pray for my Dad. After all, that’s all I could do. But, I just couldn’t.
Nothing was coming out of me.
I tried desperately to ask God, if He existed to please take care of my Dad and save him, just as I’d prayed many a time to make his passing pain free when the time would come. But, I just couldn’t pray. I was completely numb.
And, then a voice boomed inside my mind. It took me by utter surprise as it was not my voice and the words it spoke were not my words.
“Your Father, has entered the Kingdom of Heaven, carried on the wings of an Angel. You do not need to pray for him for he’s become the prayer.”
That’s when I knew it was over. I called the hospital and demanded they tell me the truth. They did. They said my Dad had been awake, laughing and joyful that he was going home that day and then fallen back in his bed, flat lined.
They’d tried to resuscitate him, but they’d failed. His heart never went into a deadly end of life rhythm. It simply stopped beating.
His doctor felt that a leaky valve in his heart had finally given way and completely burst open.
His passing had been swift and without suffering.
My Dad passed away on December 3, 2016. He did go home that day.
The funeral pyre looked exactly like the one in my premonitory dream. We dispersed his remains into the Ganges, a river I revere so deeply. The Ganges was the only place I’d ever visit when I’d return to India. It was the only place that could tear me away from my Father’s side in Delhi, just for a few days. I’d return from the river and express to him how much I loved it there.
I’d tell him how I wished I could take him there with me someday.
I stood on the banks of the Holy River and watched her carry him away. I prayed for his soul, to God, that exists, to keep him safe and in peace.
“Take care, Daddy,” I whispered. “I love you.”
Until we meet again.
Author: Simmi Goyle
Image: Vinoth Chandar at Flickr
Editors: Renée Picard; Emily Bartran