When he turned the corner to the final stretch of his house he saw nothing but cars lined up one after the other. Walking into his house he heard the shrill sound of people crying. When he entered the room he realized why. There, in the center of the room, were 3 bodies covered by a white sheet with a station at the end set up for a fourth person. He replayed the message in his head “Qasim, come to the principles office, there’s been an accident in the family and you need to hurry home”. That 4 and a half hour car ride, with no information, no one to call, no clue on what to expect was torturous. He knew something had happened to someone, but he didn’t know what or who. He was greeted by his uncle, who through tearful eyes said “They’re all dead! They left to go buy decorations for your sister’s wedding and a drunk truck driver hit them and they all died”. My father then realized that the 3 bodies lying there were his mother, aunt and 5 year-old sister with a vacant spot for his older sister who was at the hospital in a coma in critical condition. My dad, who at the time was 16, was alone. His father was handling the guests, his older brother was married and in the military so he wasn’t around, and his other older sister was married and lived out of town. Instead of crying, instead of yelling, my father decided sleep was the only thing he felt like doing. So he slept. For 3 days straight he slept, and no one woke him. That night my father lost more than 50% of his immediate family. He never got to say goodbye, and he never got to see his sister get married.
Fast-forward 35 years and my dad is now the President of Pepsi Co. Asia with a consulting job on the side and his own family, grown and successful. Whenever he speaks about the event that took place that one night he speaks with gratitude that he was able to spend as much time with them that he did and that he was able to learn to deal with any stressors or tragedies that head in his direction. He taught me that one can overcome anything with time. With that time comes understanding.
For me, I’ve been so inspired by my fathers strength in the face of pain or grief that nothing scares me. Courage is the lesson he taught and courage is the lesson I learned. With time, you can conquer any fear and any grief. No pain lasts forever, only the memory of it.