The organised chaos

On the day of the dead

Today, my son “met” my father for the first time.

And I was struck by just how much that had meant to me.

You see, my father died when I was six. In the years that ensued, I had built and lived a life in his absence. Because he had passed on when I was still a young child, I did not really feel the void that his death had created in my life, not in the same way that it had affected the lives of my mother and my sister.

Last year, I had missed out on attending the Qing Ming procedures because of the birth of my little man. And this year, he almost missed it again, having fallen asleep in the car en route to the columbarium. We decided that Mr Thick would remain in the car with him while I went up to my father’s niche to pay my respects.

And we did, my aunt and my cousins and my mom – the women who had lost so many people along the way. These days, we can stand around the niches and exchange fond, amusing memories of the dead but that in itself took many long years of learning to forgive and accept. We laughed and knelt and bowed our heads in prayer, hoping that those whom we had loved and departed all too soon were in good hands somewhere, somehow.

Shortly after, we left. And just as we reached the carpark, the little boy woke up from his short-lived nap. I was ready to leave but Mr Thick gently pushed me into taking Aidan to pay his respects to Gong Gong. And so off we went again, hauling the kid up to the niche.

Of course, he had no idea what the occasion was. He pounded his tiny fists against the glass that protected my father’s niche, and gave it quizzical looks. I explained to him that this is Gong Gong.

This is mama’s daddy, I said.

He studied my father’s photo, banged his hands against the glass and made some indecipherable noise.

Knock knock! I said, in jest. Gong Gong is not going to appear just because you are knocking at his door, you know.

My little man laughed, as if he understood my joke.

And in that moment, my heart welled up with an emotion that I could not identify.

I don’t think I can ever put in words or measure just how much my father’s death had altered the course of my existence. I will never know just how I would have turned out if he had been around. And I have always dismissed his absence as an unfortunate incident in my life.

But I must miss him more than I have ever realised.

Papa, this is your grandson. Wherever you are, I hope you are happy to know that you have him. Please look after him, and give him your blessings.