The Passing of Bpoo

The days surrounding the passing of Pasith’s Dad, affectionately known as Bpoo, were surreal and difficult. Juggling an 8 year old, a 1 year old, two full time jobs and the stress of a dying parent wasn’t easy. It never is no matter what you have going on in your life. We had piano, daycare and both our jobs, among other things, on high alert that we may have to make other arrangements in a hurry. We had a friend ready to help us in case we suddenly couldn’t pick up the kids from somewhere. We were as prepared as we could be.

There were tough decisions to be made in those last few weeks. How much do you bring the kids to see their dying Grandpa and for how long? Bpoo was asking to see them, how do you refuse him? And yet you don’t want to expose them too much. Our daughter was 8 at the time so we asked her and trusted that she would be honest. The last memory that I have of her with him was on the Sunday before he passed. We went to see him at home and he was so tiny and frail. He had been about 5’3″ and a medium build before he was sick. As the cancer attacked his organs it also ate up his body. His bone structure was smaller than our daughter’s and she was small for her age. So as they sat beside each other on the couch my breath was taken away. I could hardly comprehend what I was seeing. It seemed impossible that he could be up and moving around, that his body would still hold him. But he was determined to sit with her. He was teaching her how to write in Laos. He was so excited. She looked over at me with such sad eyes and she wasn’t sure what to do. When I got the chance to talk to her she said she couldn’t understand everything he was telling her (he didn’t speak much English) and she wasn’t sure what to do. I asked if she was okay or if it was too much to sit with him but she insisted that she was okay. So I told her to just sit, listen and nod even if she wasn’t sure. This was the best gift she could give him. He was passing on his language and culture, something he treasured, to his granddaughter. This was his legacy. My son was 20 months so Bpoo was just happy to watch him run around and climb on things. As difficult and exhausting as it was to take them I’m glad we did for his sake and theirs.

Pasith, along with other family and friends, was with his Dad as much as possible for the last week. Bpoo was taken to the hospital by ambulance a few days before he passed. Pasith went to work but would go to the hospital in between and sometimes just stay for the day and evening. He, along with his brothers, tried to help out his Mom in any way they could. Bpoo’s friends were starting to plan the traditional Buddhist funeral that his Dad had requested. And the rest of us waited. Finally on Friday Pasith came home for supper, which he hadn’t done in a few days and he was very quiet, which is nothing new but this was a heavy quiet. Where you know there is something behind it. He said that his Dad was close but he wasn’t sure how much longer it would be. It’s amazing how your vocabulary and thought process changes during those times. We sat talking about his Dad’s death as a welcome event. Waiting for relief and disappointed when it didn’t come. He had just finished eating and was ready to head back over to the hospital when his phone rang.

We both jumped, as we had for months, it was his brother. It was over. His Dad had passed away while he was at home. Tingles take over your body going from head to toe, out through your finger tips. You feel relief and sorrow at the exact same time. I gave him a huge hug and then we had to move fast to get to the hospital 20 minutes away. I called my friend and packed up Alex. It was as if time stood still while we moved in it. We dropped the kids off and raced through the rain to the hospital. I asked Pasith if he regretted coming home. He said that it happened as it should. He was where he belonged. We went up to the Palliative wing on the 8th floor and Pasith went off to find his brothers while I sat in the plush deep blue waiting room designed to comfort the grieving. We all went to his parents house after and the friends were already there. It was somewhat a party of relief. We, as the younger generation, went into the kitchen and looked at photo albums, shared memories and laughed. When we came out to the living room about an hour later the furniture was gone. It had been moved out or to another room to make room for the week of mourning before the funeral. His Mom was exhausted but going on adrenaline. She hadn’t slept for months.

The week before the funeral was so busy we hardly had time to grieve. We tried to catch up on things that had been set aside for a few weeks and Pasith was putting together a slide show for the funeral. So we spent the week going through stacks of photo albums. It was very difficult to look at all the healthy pictures of his Dad. It’s easy to forget what they looked like before they were sick. And then to have the reminder after he was gone was painful. But we did it. Pasith scanned pictures late into the night every night trying to find the right ones. He didn’t feel like he could or wanted to speak at the funeral so he was happy to make this his contribution.

Those times were tough on everyone involved, none more so than my Mother-in-law who had to restart and redefine her life. And after 4 years we still have some tough days but it does get better. It really does.

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