Sitting too close to the fireplace, on the old bricks, the ones salvaged from the farmhouse that once was at the top of hill, the farmhouse that had the farm that had the apple trees, one of which was left in our yard.
The winter chill holds onto my back, the side of me back facing the ocean, despite the heat and flames on my hands and face. The fire, built by my father, grows every stronger, and in the darkness, its flames dance in the large paneled windows in the front of the house, beyond them, the darkness of the ocean and the bay.
Then, further, at a distance that lets you know that electricity is not a solid flow of power, but has its own ups and downs, strength, followed by weak moments, you see the lights of New Hampshire neatly lined up, flickering.
The New England winter can be, is, cold, bitterly cold and when you get out of it, you don’t want to be just warm but you seek real heat, you want to be hot, steaming so you sit as close to the fire as you can, too close. Then, I’d stay longer and longer, it was if I could feel my skin crackling in the heat, warming up too far too fast.
What would happen if you stayed there forever, I still remember thinking, would the fire burn the skin, then the fat, the muscle, clean the bones, and then slowly turn them into ash, I think it would, such is the power of fire.
Eventually the heat would get to be too much, and having sat still for as long as I could, I then would jump up and dance away, my hands and face steaming, I’d be warm, content, hopping around, cooling off in the living room.
Being here, today, November 13, I am blessed to be able to, one more time, in a fire lit by my father, sit next to it, feel the warmth to the point of burning, one more time so I can move up, over, on. Like the fires he built for me long ago, it is my choice, my good fortune, to sit here, there is no place in the world I would rather be tonight.
The flames here today, sustain me.
The thought of being here, where, 28 years ago today my father died in Singapore, in a hospital just north of Orchard Road has always been on my mind since that night the call came, to there, from here. I have been here since Saturday, and every place I have been, eaten, shopped, the compass points back to Mt Elizabeth Hospital. But in that, the fire has been a bit too bright, the flames too strong.
Today is a holiday here, Deepavali, Hindu festival of light, when they celebrate the triumph of good over evil. According to the various billboards around town, today, November 13 is also World Kindness Day.
In being here, and in talking with a friend last night, I realized that today is a day to celebrate, a day of closure and joy, of release, of letting go, as I have spent months, years, perhaps looking at how my father’s death has impacted me. I realized that everyone has things happen to them, people die, occasionally horribly, children die, that is life. Life is not hard or difficult or unfair, life is life.
So for me, today, I feel fortunate I am able to be here, with the love of my friends. I get the chance to say good-bye after all these years and then tomorrow, I get to fly to Burma and see the land my father loved so much. I am glad that as those who love me wake up on the 13th in the States and in Europe, they don’t need to worry about me, I have already made it through the day. I am fine, warmed, happy, satisfied, complete.
I am blessed to be next to the fire, one more time.
Today I did yoga on Orchard Road, blocks from the hospital. I put on my suit and went to the bar at Raffles like my father loved to do. I went by the Goodwood Park hotel where he used to stay. I walked over 53 Cairnhill Road again, where my Aunt and Uncle used to live and where they were when my father died down the hill at Mt. Elizabeth Hospital.
My father could have died anywhere over here, and been alone, in a far away land, but now know he was here, in a city he loved, in a part of the world that he was whole in, he was safe and secure. He was loved by those near and those far away.
There are things that bother me yet, and things that I have learned so far that don’t make sense that I want to learn more about, but for now, for today, a day I have always wanted to be here for, I feel lucky and loved to be able to sit next to the fire.
I stood outside the hospital and watched the clock, 7:41 pm, I smiled, said good-bye and felt the fire, the burn of the love from him and those around me. And then it was gone, into the Singapore night, into the steam and the humidity. From below on Orchard Road, I could hear the crowds, Christmas carols.
The clock, of course, didn’t stop, it ever has, from then to now, I watched as it turned over to 7:42, by 7:43 I was already on Orchard Road, heading out for sushi. If you had been here, and hadn’t know me, you would have wondered as you watched a man in his suit stepping happily in the night, smiling to himself. Walking into the future, clear of the past.
Almost like a young boy, dancing, smiling, warmed by the fire his father built.