I was shaken but the steel in me refused to bend. I knew then why I had been so strengthened by God. I was going to need all the strength I could find. A few phone calls to South Africa, confirmed dad’s critical condition. Tony booked Jordan and I on the first flight out of Delhi. I packed my bags and we did the eight-hour drive to the airport. My stomach was in turmoil the whole way. There was no way to keep in touch with Tony or my family in South Africa once I left the house. I kept wondering if dad was still alive.
I said goodbye to Tony and prayed there would be someone to help me with Jordan on the way. I wasn’t sure how I would manage with my suitcase, bag, nappy bag and Jordan. What if I needed the loo? I got to the check-in and a man travelling from Delhi to Durban started talking to me. He was a “typical” South African man. He smoked, talked about rugby and the meat he couldn’t wait to eat. He had no idea he had been chosen by God to be my very own angel. When I needed to change Jordan he looked after my bags, he kept me a place in the queue and held Jordan when I checked in. When I got on the plane, there he was in the seat right next to me. I told him about my dad and he was concerned when I cried on and off throughout the flight. Fortunately Jordan travelled amazingly well.
When we touched down, I was shaking. My “angel” helped me off the plane and walked with me into the arrival area. I could see my family waiting for me. They all looked pale. The first thing I asked was, “How’s dad?” He was still alive but it wouldn’t be for long. I handed Jordan to my mom and my legs collapsed under me. I shook for about five minutes.
Everyone made a fuss of Jordan. He was just over three months old and a real cutie. We went to Rolleston Place to freshen up and then headed for Entabeni Hospital. Dad looked awful. He was black and blue. It was a shock to see him hooked up to pipes and breathing apparatus. He was weak but so happy to see me. The nurses felt he was still alive because he knew I was coming. I was told to keep him calm. When he held Jordan, his heart rate went up and we had to take him away.
We had a quiet conversation. In a very weak voice he expressed his last minute doubts about going to heaven. I assured him that his simple prayer of surrender to Jesus that many years ago had secured his place in heaven. Jesus had taken away his sin and in that instant, he had been born-again. He was a new creation. The old had gone and the new had come.
He also talked about his dreams and morphine hallucinations. He could see himself in a huge warehouse full of wood, then on a stage surrounded by musicians and people and then in a bookshop. On the shelf was a book about his life and his family, written by me. He asked me if I could do that since he hadn’t got around to it. I didn’t make any promises. I realised that all the things he was thinking about were the things that he loved; wood, books and music. Those were his passions.
I was with him when he took his last breath. I had never seen a person going from being alive to being dead. Gone. Just like that. In one second, my lovely dad was gone. There was such sadness but as we were leaving the hospital, someone said, “It must be so bright in heaven. I hope dads got his sunglasses.” We laughed until we cried and then we cried until we laughed.
Going through his cupboards was hard. He had no worldly wealth to speak of. He had lived a simple, contented life. He left the house to mum and his entire jazz collection was sold to the Natal University Music Department. They got the best end of the deal. It was awful watching it go. I got his old typewriter and his tartan bomber jacket, which he got in his early 20’s. I also got his diaries. The earliest one was from first grade.
When I was going through his things, I was amazed at how sentimental he had been. There were boxes of photographs and reel-to-reel movies of holidays, births, weddings, relatives, babies, cousins and every family get together. There were neatly stacked piles of all the cards we had ever made for him and every letter we had written to him. He hadn’t left us with any “inheritance” to speak of, but such wonderful memories. It sat well with me. That was the kind of inheritance I wanted to leave my kids.