My father passed away on October 3, 2010 from gall bladder cancer, a rare but serious type which had spread to his liver. He never realized the severity of the disease and died only weeks after being diagnosed.
It all happened so fast and it was difficult to accept the nature of
the disease and the short time that my dad had. My dad enjoyed his life
very much and so my siblings and I decided it was best that we allow him
to feel that he could fight through the sickness. Although I do feel
that in the back of his mind he knew he didn't have a lot of time left.
My dad was born and grew up in Uganda. He was the youngest of 11
children. In his youth he loved to be with his friends and sometimes get
into trouble. From what I gathered from his elementary and high-school
report cards which he had neatly filed away for all these years, he
never really cared much for school. I guess being the youngest of such a
large family he wasn't the type to follow the rules and be obedient
like his older siblings.
One summer day I was sitting with my sick dad at the lake, his
favourite place to be on a warm day, and he told me a story about an
experience of his during a time of political instability under the
dictatorship of Idi Amin in the early 1970s. He was in his 20s and
worked as an accountant for a travel agency in Kampala, Uganda. One
morning several military officials barged in and demanded financial
records from the owner. Of course my dad was questioned as he was the
account manager and was soonafter taken away to a military base along
with his colleague. Here they were put into a jail cell and forced to
shovel manure in their bare feet. I remember my dad's facial expression
as he explained this to me. He had been able to make a phone call to his
older brother and in a few days he was allowed to leave. However he
never knew what happened to his colleague. During his time at the base
he mentioned that he was at one point help up at gun point when being
questioned and his life had flashed before his eyes. He had a strange
reminiscent look on his face as he told me this story like he was weary
about his current situation. It was the first time he had ever told me
this story and I knew why. He knew inside that he wouldn't make it this
He also went on to tell me how he managed to flee Uganda during this
troubling time. All of the South Asians residing in Uganda were forced
to leave the country and had only 90 days to do so. They were disliked
by the African community and by the new dictatorship as they believed
that the Indians were stealing their jobs and running the economy. It
was a bout of racism that drove the Indians out and many of them never
looked back, including my dad. His family knew an immigration official
that happened to be managing the application forms to leave the country
so they, my dad included, were bumped to the top of the line. What luck!
There were still many complications along the way however. They could
only take a few of their belongings and had to be creative with getting
their money out of the country. My dad, along with his two brothers and a
few friends came to Canada as refugees with little money in their
pockets. His other family members went to England, India and Kenya. It
was a tough time for his family but my dad, as optimistic as he always
was, looked to the future and was eager to call Canada home.
He decided to head north after arriving in Montreal. His brother and
his wife and some friends came soonafter. They all settled in
Kapuskasing, the model town of the north, and made the most of the cold
and long winters there.
It wasn't long before my dad would find a wonderful job in his
profession. Canada, at the time, was welcoming many immigrants as a way
of boosting its economy and promoting itself as a multicultural place to
live. My dad was asked to be a guest at a community event about
multiculturalism and it was there that he met the owner of an accounting
firm, Collins Barrow. This man was very charmed by my dad and offered
him a job at his firm which my dad happily accepted. He would work there
for over 30 years as a very likable accountant with many long-time
He met my mother through a friend and were introduced thereafter.
They were very fond of each other and both wanted to start a family in
the near future. They soon married at his brother's house and bought a
house of their own in a nice neighborhood.
They had three children who they cared for and loved dearly. My dad
was a very loving father. He would do anything for us and always made
sure that we stayed on track. In contrast to his academic career, he
guided us to respect education and achieve excellence for the benefit of
our future. Although he wasn't so successful academically, he was a
very wise man when it came to giving advice about organization and
management. Many people would seek his advice about managing their
finances and their lives in general.
My dad was a friend of the town. He was a life member and longtime
treasurer of the Kinsmen club, which is a volunteer organization. One
such effort helps to raise money for the low-income community every
Christmas so the children of these families can enjoy the holidays as
well. This was very close to my dad's heart and as such the Santa Claus
Fund was named after him in memory of him.
I miss my dad every day. I used to talk to him daily no matter where I
was or what I was doing. He made it a ritual to always speak with his
children even if it was only for a few minutes. When I needed advice I
would always go to him because he always knew what to say. He was the
glue that held our family together and his optimistic personality always
made everything seem pleasant no matter how unpleasant the situation.
We just weren't ready to let him go, his friends or his family. We
were all deeply saddened by his loss and still are to this day. We all
lost a part of us that peaceful Sunday morning in October-- an
optimistic side that pushed through tragic times giving stength to never
looked back. That was my dad.