I haven’t written a personal update in a while. It’s been about three months to be exact. Kashmir was one of the best summers I’ve ever had. Following that trip, I received an internship at a magazine in Dubai where I got the chance to be published internationally! Apart from that, I got to swim with Dolphins, visited the whole UAE, got to spend valuable time with family members, and devoured delicious food. I felt like a princess in my own right.
However, I want to apologize. I literally promised my readers that I would put up a weekly update about my trip and I failed to do so while in Dubai. I guess I got caught up in the hype, the family trips, and working. It happens.
My junior year of University in September started off with a bang. I’m on two e-boards as VP and VP for Communications for the TV station at my school and Society of Professional Journalists. I’ve been reporting a lot for the school’s rugby team and getting really involved around campus. I was the happiest ever for being so blessed and for that I’m grateful.
But on November 10 my life changed. I had just gotten out of my media class and my father’s best friend called to give me the worst news possible ever.
“Meral, I don’t know how to tell you this,” he said. “But your dad has been missing for three days.”
I immediately thought he was confused. I had just spoken to my father on his birthday on November 7th. I wished him a happy birthday and he joked with me about going to Puerto Rico in the winter. He told me that he would be leaving for Kashmir the next day. He was vacationing in Goa following the disasterous floods that had plagued the state shortly after I left. My father concluded my phone call by saying he would be going for a swim.
“No uncle,” I interrupted him. “He’s in Kashmir.”
“Meral, there’s no easy way to say this but I’ve gotten a call from police in Goa and you’re father’s belongings, phone, and wallet are with them. All his luggage was left in his hotel and Meral,” he took a pained breath, “they found a body in the water and…”
My heart had stopped. I was in the middle of my campus alone and saw a friend walking towards me. I walked towards him in fear of what my uncle was telling me.
“What are you saying?” I asked him. I immediately started to panic. My body felt numb and my head started to get dizzy. I grabbed onto my friend’s arm and he held me up seeing that I was in distress.
“I think you should come to India, Meral…”
My father’s friend explained that authorities had found a body in the water. It needed to be identified and his brother would go do it. I immediately started to cry and said ‘okay’. He asked if I was alone, where I was, if he could have my mother call him. I lied to him, crying, and said I’d be okay. I called my mother and told her what had happened, screaming over the phone. She started to cry too. I was praying desperately to wake up from the nightmare that was unfolding. I fell to the floor and cried into my friend’s arm, telling him what had just happened.
He said that it might not be his body. In my mind, I immediately thought the worst. I hadn’t spoken to my father since his birthday. The last I spoke to him he said that he was going for a swim on the beach. I knew he would never go anywhere without his wallet or phone. My stomach sank. I called my dad multiple times and every time his phone was shut off. I emailed him and texted him to call me back but there was no response. I called my best friend to take me home and within fifteen minutes I was with my mom and two of my friends at my house. I called my cousin, his elder brother, my aunt, I was desperate I didn’t know what to do. I needed to go to India. I couldn’t go alone, however, and my mom didn’t have a visa. I cried to my uncle and aunt who had already heard the news and came over to my house, as soon as possible.
All I could do was pray. I kept praying to wake up from the nightmare I was in. I prayed it was all a mistake and none of it was true.
It took me two hours to calm down. My closest friends immediately came over to support me and tried to help. They made me forget and distracted me for a few moments but I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I kept trying to text and call him.
Meanwhile, my cousin helped my mother apply for an emergency visa and ticket to India. Everything was happening so fast and felt unreal. My friends stayed with me through the day and night. All I could do was wait until my uncle in India traveled from Delhi to Goa to see if it was his body. It was agony.
Around 11 o’clock, I just had come back from having dinner at my Aunt’s house. I couldn’t be alone. My body felt motionless and all I wanted to do was hear my dad’s voice. I started to have trouble breathing and it quickly developed into a panic attack. I couldn’t stop crying and my mother called an ambulance. I need oxygen to help me breath and they took me to the ER to calm me down. I remember rolling in. I felt selfish for some reason. People were really sick around me but I couldn’t think straight. All I heard were nurses saying panic attack…this and that… they didn’t understand. The doctor saw me right away and prescribed me a sedative to calm me down.
My mother came into the room and told me everything was going to be okay. She said were going to Kashmir and my uncle was with my dad.
“Is he alive?” I looked up to ask her.
She shook her head to say no and I burst into tears. The nurses and doctors immediately understood and felt terrible. Why was this happening to me? To my family? My dad? Why?
I was discharged from the hospital around 2:00 a.m. My uncle and aunt took me and my mother to their house.
The next morning I woke up crying. My mother left early to go to the Indian Consulate for the Visa. I was alone in a big room and I wanted to see my father. I wanted him to say, “Meral, Meral, open the door. Dad is here,” like he did every morning when I was with him.
I forced myself down the stairs to eat breakfast, as my head felt heavy, and I knew I would collapse if I didn’t. All I did was think about him. I tried distracting myself by watching TV but nothing could help. Nothing would ever help in that situation. My aunt continued to hold me as I couldn’t stop crying. My friends all rushed over to their house soon after. They made me feel better. They made me laugh even though I didn’t want to and they distracted me from the pain. I just kept preparing myself for the journey ahead.
The next morning, I packed my clothes quickly. It was barely anything as I wanted to bring his stuff back with me. It was a 14-hour direct flight to India and within 24 hours I was in Kashmir on the 12th…
I want to spare really personal details of the journey and my mourning. Some things should be kept private for now but I did need to vent and share. After a stressful three-week of sorting, protecting, and securing my father’s thing, meeting his closest friends and family, I can say I am at peace with my father’s death. I will never get over the fact that he died. I don’t think anyone can get over a loved one’s death but you can learn to live with it.
My father passed away on November 7th, his birthday. I had called him that morning and he was in good spirits. He unfortunately went swimming, like he usually did, during a high tide and was alone on the beach around 5:00 p.m. when a rip tide took him away from the shore. He struggled with it and lost. 24 hours later, in correlation with the moon, the same tide that took him brought him back. The shack boy in Goa said that he came back to the same spot ashore where he had last seen him. I am grateful that God brought him back to me and back home to Kashmir. I truly believe that it was his destiny. Everyone’s life on earth has a time limit. My father died doing something he loved, and in a place he adored.
I would do anything to see him again, but he’s been showing up in my dreams lately and I believe that he is okay. He is with me every minute now. I believe his soul is in me. He is protecting me and watching over me.
Over Thanksgiving, and on the way back to New York, I wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Regardless of everything that had happened this month, I’m thankful for so much. I heard, loved and found peace hearing stories about my father. So many people said he was “the essence of Kashmir.” I have a lot to live up to but I have no doubt he’s prepared me. Kashmir truly is empty with out him. It’s a small country and it seemed like everyone knew the guy with the Stetson. Everyone, I encountered had tears in their eyes when they spoke of him.
He would want people to celebrate his life, legacy, and memory. I will continue his legacy and make sure no one forget his memory.
He was my favorite travel buddy and would take me to exotic places often. He was also my best friend. I wrote about him often and my summers in Kashmir, as you read on my blog.
My father didn’t die a terrible death. He didn’t suffer from cancer or a terrible disease. He lived an incredible life on his own terms. He had traveled the world and died peacefully.
One of his friends told me that his journey has simply continued on a different plane. This is undeniably true.
My father’s spirit and character was one-of-a-kind. There’s simply no one else like him. I feel blessed and thankful to have had a father like him and to have developed an amazing friendship with him as well.
Everyday continue to enjoy food as much as my father did. Enjoy your company as much as he enjoyed the company of others. And celebrate the love, family, and memories you have and make everyday.
…I miss you dad and hope that you’re smiling down, and that I’m making you proud.
Read 13 Things My Father Taught Me here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/meral-kathwari/2014/07/13-lessons-my-father-taught-me/