February 15

Today marks one year since my father passed away. On this very day last year, my greatest fear came to life and I had lost the most important person in my life. My father, age 57, had passed away from kidney failure.

February 15th, 2017

On this very day, I had no idea that things would unfold as they did. It started off as just a normal day for me. Wake up for class, class ends, and I'd run to work right after. A very stressful and overwhelming lifestyle for me at the time, but it just was my routine. I arrive to work at 11am, a bit sleep deprived, a bit anxious, but that's usually how I feel. This certain day I felt very off. From the usual tiredness, and anxiety I feel while working. Today I felt.... Just a bit off. Like something was wrong but I had no idea what. I wasn't the energetic cashier I usually am, I took orders and just proceeded to the next. I didn't talk to my co workers which I usually do, as they were good friends of mine and made work really fun and less harsh. Something just felt off and I felt really empty this day.

During my shift, possibly around 2:30pm, I get a call from my cousin Thi. I was working at the time so I couldn't pick up. She usually doesn't call me but I didn't have time to think about it. At 3pm, it was time for my break. Here's the weird part. I went home to my room for my break. I never go back for my break. Usually I get food and just wait around till my break is over. But this day I was just feeling so out of it, I decided to go home and lay down. Around 3:20 I suddenly get a text that dropped my heart.

"Call me asap. I think your dad died.” I read this line and didn't know how to process it. It happened so fast and I was going into shock.

I replied exactly "No..." I didn't want to believe this, and just told myself no... This month I have been struggling with severe depression and I couldn't just imagine adding this on top of it. I text back and say, "Have you called an ambulance?" She replies "I did."

At this moment, I'm in my apartment going into shock and having the most severe anxiety attack I've ever had. Running back and forth between walls grabbing my head and telling myself no,no,no. I immediately call an Uber back home and getting into my uber all I could think of is no. I can't express what the feeling of "no" is but to me it felt like a calling for help.

At 3:32 I texted Thi, I'm coming. At 3:33 I texted Thi, Who's there now, is he awake?

At 3:35 Thi texts me "No he's not".

At 3:40 Thi texts me "He's gone".

I clearly remember reading that line and feeling completely broken. As I'm in the uber in the backseat, I'm crying and crying. The driver has no idea what's going on. I text my best friend, the closest person to me. My dad’s gone. I can't clearly recall what he responded but he asked for the address and made sure I knew he would be there for me. I call my aunty, she picks up and I don't say anything. She hears me cry, and says it's okay.

About 4pm the uber driver pulls into my dad's street and I see all the flashing lights. Sirens and lights, it was all blurry due to my eyes being swollen. I step out of the car and walk towards the crowd, I ignore everyone and everything and walk straight into my dad's house. I step into the house and breakdown. While the police and paramedics are questioning me I stand at the doorstep looking into my father's room not wanting to imagine he's in there, but gone.

I am scared to go in his room. I am too scared to see him. I can't imagine walking in and seeing my father lifeless. I go into the bathroom next to his room and lock myself in there. I have never cried this much before. My chest has never hurt this much before. I was gasping for air, my chest felt the weight of trucks. I hear family members coming to visit, they're all asking where I am. I hear panicking and yelling outside. I hear what happened, and how things unfolded. My father was not answering his door and the neighbor and my cousin had panicked and climbed through the house window to find him.

As I'm sitting on the bathroom floor, I'm begging for forgiveness. I'm already blaming myself for what happened. "This wouldn't had happened if I was there.” As much as I say that, honestly I can't imagine being there while it happened. I wouldn't know how to react and I can't imagine watching my father die. A part of me is glad I wasn't there as it would hurt even more. Two to three hours pass by and I'm still in the bathroom. My whole family finally arrives in town and I come out. I go into the room for the first time and at first I couldn't glance at the bed, but I do. Each and every moment of this day, I felt nothing can hurt more than this. I'm the most hurt I can be. But every moment passes and I would feel a deeper pain. Our family shares our goodbyes with my father and says prayers.

The whole family leaves the room so I can have my last private moment with my dad in his home. As I'm kneeling on the floor against his bed, I'm crying inside, I'm sorry dad. I'm sorry. I look at him and feel a bit of relief that he passed away peacefully. In his bed, at home. He looks as if he were asleep.

As I walk out of the room the whole family is there to see me lose my father. Everyone is supportive and loving. Making sure I know I'm not alone. I'm too hurt and lost to notice and appreciate it at the time. As the night goes by, things quiet down. There's less talking, less moving. Next is what I would say is the most hurtful, painful, difficult moment of my life. I clearly remember this moment and I will never forget how painful it was.

It was time for the funeral service to take my father's body away. We give them permission to take him away and prep things for the funeral. They warn the family, what happens next is difficult to watch and we could step away if we wanted. They need to put my father in a body bag. We all stayed and watched. As I'm watching my father being wrapped in plastic and put into a bag, the pain, the pain is so severe. I can't explain but you can only imagine. I remember someone holding my shoulder, I wasn't sure who and forgotten but someone was holding me. It didn't make things easier but I now am very thankful. As they take my father out of his bed and out of the house, my family follows. Once arriving to their vehicle to transport, they ask me one last time for permission to take him. We agree and they start to leave. They drive off.

I walk back towards the house and try to find my mentor. That's the only person I want to see at the moment. I spend the rest of the night being surrounded by my fellow cousins. Who tried their best to support me. As people start to leave and plan to meet again for the funeral services, I am left with my closest cousin Raymond. I decide to go back to Berkeley where I live and rest alone. Me and Raymond drive towards Berkeley, he takes me to get Boba. Raymond and I have many adventures together and our go to is getting Boba. We arrive in Berkeley and get our drink. He's a bit goofy, and as hurtful and stressful as the day has been he makes me laugh. Even for a few moments it felt like just one of our adventures and like nothing happened. We get back to my place and listen to music. He plays me my favorite songs and artist. Of course Ed Sheeran. As he talks and tries to give me a motivational speech, I start to breakdown. I end up falling asleep. Here's to the man and beloved cousin who held me while I cried myself to sleep the day my father passed away.

From here and the days that go on, all that is important to me is having the funeral. There's a whole other story about the week to come, coming towards many obstacles that made things even more stressful. Long story short, we ended up having the funeral February 27th. A farther time than we wanted.

There's so much I can talk about the day of the funeral, but I will leave that all to myself and share the most memorable and impactful moments. What I realized about funerals is, it brings people together. Especially distant family members. We see people who we don't normally see. It brings us together. I am so thankful to have such a supportive family. As much as I didn't realize it at the time, now I do and I couldn't feel more loved. And also friends. I have friends who I consider family. I have friends who treat me like family. A group of my friends from college attended the funeral and I'm so thankful for the love they showed me.

I want to quote a writing/post I made about the day of the funeral. It fully explains my impactful moment and shows what was going through my head.

"At my fathers funeral before I put down my flower onto his casket I stopped my tears and smiled. As my whole family watches me say my final goodbye to my father, I stopped being hurt for a second and started to nod my head and smile. I whispered and told myself. Dad... I'm going to do amazing things. I'm going to make it. I'm going to make you proud.

As I stand there making a promise to my dad I felt equal feelings of hurt and excitement. Hurt being no matter how strong I am, this will always make my heart heavy. Excitement being now I have even more of a reason to pursue my dreams and let nothing stop me. Not even myself.

I have even more of a reason to continue to fight my depression. I have even more of a reason to learn to love myself".

A year later I can say I've followed these words exactly. This past year I have been chasing my dreams full time and directly. I've started my world travels, my own business doing the things I love, I've been holding on and fighting. In one year, I've had some of the most amazing experiences. I'm not sure if I've "made it" yet, but Dad, I hope you're proud of me. I'm trying my best :')

The day of the funeral I announced to all my friends and family that I decided to embark on a journey by myself. I made the decision to fly to Iceland and travel alone. Hoping to use nature and travel to heal me. To find a part of me that I was missing. To find hope. This was a big decision, a random decision. I had never been to Iceland before. I didn't know anything about Iceland besides the few photos I'd seen online. After the funeral I packed my bags and the next morning I was on a flight to Iceland. This is where the adventure begins. This is where healing began. This is where hope was found. I have a film about the journey so I won't speak much on this. This is my story of how travels began for me.

I don't have more to say, of course there's so many details missing but these are the most important I feel the need to share. This marks one year and I just want to say I'm here. I'm still here,still fighting,still holding on. I'm still hurt, I still cry, I still lose hope. But I'm not giving up. Depression doesn't help but I'm growing and working towards a better me everyday. Almost a year of solo travel and I've learned that I am not alone. As much as I'm used to being alone and sometimes prefer being alone, I've learnt that I am not alone and that I don't have to be alone. I've learnt that it's okay to let people in and receive help. Help doesn't mean you're weak.

This is one of the most difficult writings I have ever done. Revisiting this part of my life in detail has been hard. Remembering all of my darkest feelings and moments has been an obstacle writing this. I have constantly broken down while typing. I have tried my best typing while my eyes are tearing. I hope to share this to not only remind others, but myself that there is always hope. To always look forward and embrace our circumstances. To find light even if you can't see it.

To end this off, I will continue to chase life and be who I am. I will continue to fight and hold onto life's beauty. For the loving people around me and to share love with others. A thank you to everyone who is a part of my life. Especially everyone who was there for me in my difficult times. For my friends and family who attended my funeral. To the ones who sent me love. To the strangers who I've never met before, but went out of their way to send me messages making sure I know I'm not alone. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart I appreciate your existence and I'm not sure I'd be the person I am today without you impacting my life, big or small. I love you all, I hope to continue to share my journey and have you watch me grow. Till next time.

Cuong :')