Getting through grief: After I lost my father

As my family and I observe the 100th day of my father’s death, I still don’t know who brutally murdered him. We don’t know yet how soon we can get justice. In the meantime I wonder about the victim’s human rights.

Today is the 100th day since my father Keshav Raj Jha was found brutally murdered at home. For the bereaved family, it has been a nightmare which does not seem to end. The last 100 days have taught me so much about life; I thought I had enough experience to deal with anything in life. But I was wrong. Nothing in the world prepares one to deal with something like this. I often ask myself, if he had died peacefully in his sleep I would not be so restless.

It is not only dealing with death that is hard, it is harder to accept the way he died.

The one question that haunts me is: Who would want to kill him that way? He was a wonderful human being, a loving husband, a compassionate father, a doting grandfather, and a retired career diplomat. He was immensely proud to be born in a country with great cultural heritage and during his tenure as ambassador to UNESCO several national treasures were listed as world heritage sites.

I was abroad when I learned about his death. Upon arrival, I only had brief moments to be with my mother — to console each another — as I had to rush to the police station to proceed with formalities for post mortem.

Going to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital — a place where I had spent almost two decades of my early professional life from a young faculty to a professor — was very different this time. It was no more going and visiting my old colleagues and friends. This time I had to sign a consent form to perform an autopsy of my father. I wanted to pay my last good bye to my father before the autopsy would begin. What I saw keeps haunting me to this day.

Who could have killed him so brutally? Why would they ever do such a thing?  After all he was an individual who was always so helpful, loving, affectionate, kind, humorous, and had such a great zest for life. Why would anyone want to kill him?

My brother arrived the day after and we could proceed with the funeral.  My father’s wish was for an electric crematorium.

Lot of his old friends from school, college, work place, his ex-students, neighbours, various organisations he was affiliated with after his retirement came to say their final good bye.

So many of our family friends came personally or sent someone to extend support. We have been blessed to receive so much love, support, prayers from so many individuals from all over the world, and we are very grateful to them.

My brother and I had to be strong for our mother. Her world had collapsed on August 20. We’ve been on a robotic mode since then. There were so many issues to deal with and, it was not a normal mourning period. Making our mother feel safe and secure was the only thing on our mind, thoughts and prayers.

Were the killers after all of us? Is it safe to tell friends and well-wishers where we were mourning?

So many people came to give their support. But there were others who were absolutely insensitive too. Some did make us wonder whether we Nepalis really know how to deal with tragic deaths that happen outside of their own family. For many, is it s just ticking the boxes — joining the funeral and visiting the mourners?

We’ve were shocked to see that some just didn’t have empathy. I really lost it the day one of our neighbours came with a couple of people and asked whether I could ask the police to stop harassing them. For a minute I did not understand what actually she meant; I thought I did not hear it correctly. Then she repeated herself and I shot back: “Are you for real? If this can happen in our house, can it not happen in yours?” She repeated her initial request.

It is so sad that we only think bad things happen to others, not us. How selfish can we get?

There are criminals in every society. By spending some time to help your society, your neighbourhood, you can help others and yourself too. But why doesn’t it occur to people? We are so wrapped in our own “comfort zones” that we seem to have lost our sensibility to even empathise with others.

It is so sad when people come tell us that the house will be worth nothing, that we cannot even rent it out or sell it! What are they trying to say? Why should anyone bother at all? We aren’t going to be your burden any way. Please just stay away and do not ask us whether the property was on sale or whether we kept a lot of money in the house.  Instead, just pause a moment and ask yourself whether you’ve asked us how we have been, or how’s our mom, or whether we’ve been able to sleep at night.

My brother and I have been in medical field for more than three decades. Almost every day we deal with deaths. As a medical service provider, death is the most difficult thing to deal with. Telling someone that their loved one has died hurts. Can you imagine how hard it is for us to come to terms with our father’s brutal murder?

After all, we are humans, we are individuals first, someone’s child, someone’s sibling, someone’s spouse, and someone’s parent. Just because we are doctors does not mean we are made of steel; we too have feelings.

The only thing on our head now is how soon we can get justice for him.

Kumar, MD, is fellow (Gyn-Oncology)