I am coming here after a long break. I don’t know how to start or where to start with this post. I lost a big piece of my heart when my dad passed away and the pain is too deep that it is hard to bear. I am writing here hoping that this will be a free therapy for my broken heart. It all happened so quickly, and I still hope that this is a bad dream from which I'd wake up one fine morning. There are many things that hurt me so much. I wasn’t physically present by him at the time of his passing. It has been more than 4 years we met in person, and he didn’t get to meet his only granddaughter although he spent many more fun times with his grandsons. Pandemic started just when my little girl turned one. Our next India trip got so delayed due to pandemic and our legal status (we were on visa and just got GC) added more complexity to overseas travel. I have many unfulfilled dreams involving my dad, and unfortunately, I will not have a chance to see any of those come true in real life. I keep asking this question several times - how could my dad just pass away? He was down with fever one day, and he seemed to be taking it fine. Suddenly he became too weak and was admitted in hospital the end of 2nd day. We got to know it was covid. He passed away the 4th day due to septic shock. About 10 days before his passing, he got fever which lasted a couple of days but he recovered pretty quickly. My mom when she took him to the Doctor asked about covid test at that time and Doctor just brushed aside saying this must be a common fever. I am wondering if the outcome would be different had we tested for covid back then. A few days later he again got fever and passed away. He was fully vaccinated. My little sister and I are dealing with the intense guilt of what we could've done differently to save him. We were not even remotely close to think about the end of his physical life. May be because of that we did not take the fever seriously at first. I don’t know. We keep going in circles of different alternate events in past had it occurred might have had the potential to save him. How come a person so full of life even a few days before his death could just like that pass away? He did not have any chronic conditions common for his age group and was not in any regular medication. Our hearts yearn for one more chance to make him happy and see him smile. We yearn for one more hug, one more time to hear his voice calling us with the endearment terms that only our dad uses. We don’t know how to accept and make peace with this. Amidst the heart wrenching grief that we experience, we also realize that there are innumerable things to be grateful for. Having to experience the purest form of love from mother and father is a great blessing. But this is what makes the physical separation from our dad unbearable. We are grateful for all the time he spent with his dear most grandkids. He just adored and loved all of them to bits. We are grateful that despite dad being covid+, I got to talk to him in video calls, and sister/mom were allowed to see him in hospital. Above all, we are eternally grateful that my loving sister was able to perform his last rites. She is the backbone of our family, and we are so proud of her! We try to soothe our aching heart by remembering and cherishing the countless happy memories with our dad. I'd just write a few here. We were literally treated as Princess by our dad. He did his best within his financial limits to provide us a comfortable and happy life. When I just joined college, he did not want me to use public transport. He just could not get himself imagine me travelling amid the rushing morning crowd, not to forget the walk to the bus stop and the unpredictable wait times for the arrival of public transport. See, in his eyes we were the royal princesses who shouldn’t go through any hardships however little it could be! He tried his best to convince the families of my classmates from my area to arrange for a shared private transport. Since they didn’t budge and that my dad couldn’t afford to arrange one exclusively for me, he had to drop this plan with a heavy heart. I didn’t give much thought at that time but later when I reflected on this, I could clearly see how over protective my dad was of me which is nothing but a manifestation of his deep love. There are many many more instances like this. Even during the last video call I had with him, I just couldn’t control my tears while cheering up for his speedy recovery. See, I am this overly emotional person who can seldom control my expressions even when I try hard to. My dad got very anxious seeing me tearing up and just couldn’t endure it even for a few seconds. For him, we should never be sad or shed tears for anything. He was sighing to me and to my sister who was by his side to not cry at all and be brave. We try to remember this now and stay strong as that’s what he would want us to do. The bright smiling face of my dad signing me thumps up which was the last time I saw him alive, will be etched in my soul forever. Appa had a handsome face, great eyesight, strong tooth which enabled him to eat sugarcane even a few days before his passing, and head full of thick lustrous albeit grey hair even at the age of 72. He would promptly dye his hair On the other day, my sister was telling me that if she feels like seeing our dad again all she needs to do is to make a videocall to see me. Yes, it is a universal truth that I am a female copy of him. So many people have said this several times - even those who see us for the first time. I have his eyes, his nose, his lips, and even my tooth arrangement goes after him. I am immensely grateful that I see his reflection every time I see the mirror. He always had a youthful look so much that at the age of 54 when he stopped by my friend's place to get something for me, my friend's mother mistook him as my 20+ year old brother (judging by our striking resemblance) and addressed him informally. By the way, I don’t have a brother, but my friend's mom was just very sure in her first meet that he must have been my brother. My friend narrated this in front of a huge group in our college and I was just grinning ear to ear. There are a few more incidents like this when he was mistook as a 20 year young adult at the age of 50+. I have another distinct memory which always makes me smile. One of our favorite things to do has always been to take out the photo albums one by one starting from our parent's wedding album to the recent ones and cherish the memories captured in the form of pictures. During one of our teenage days while we were doing that, our mom remarked how handsome dad looks in one of the wedding pictures. It was more of blurting out something directly from her mind without any processing. That's it! My sister and I since then never left a chance to tease our mom with what she said, especially during the times when she complains or is irked by something he said or did. Appa is not a regular cook, but he has his signature dishes that are quite popular in the whole family - veg biryani, Iyengar bakery spicy bread toast, lemon rasam with super spicy tangy shredded carrot, slit okra fry etc. to name a few. We still remember the aroma that filled up our house when he cooked veg biryani the first time. He sings upma recipe as a song. When we were little, our most favorite play is to dress up our dad by styling his hair with pigtails/braids/clips and putting make up on his face. Many a times I remember him falling deep asleep while we "work" on his face and hair. One day he woke up in the morning and was startled to look at his face in the mirror See, he went to bed with all those pigtails and make up on. As little girls, we used to ask him who he loves more between the two of us for which he always says that both of us are like 2 eyes to him. My beloved sister and mom though disagree with this of late, and always maintain that I am his most favorite. We recall many such stories and incidents that puts a broad smile on our face. It is always though laced with a tinge of sadness. There are many fine qualities about Appa. One of the things that stands out is his firm resolve and efforts to ensure there is no food wastage. If he sees food being wasted no matter the quantity, it pains him deeply and will try everything he can to make sure it is consumed. Another quality of him is his attitude of keeping no grudge against anybody. If one were to sum up his personality in 2 words, it would be 'Letting go' - especially the people and associated memories leading to negative emotions. He never lets any negative feelings get inside too deeply. I will try my best to follow these. I'd like to end this long post by sharing a miraculous and intimate experience that only my Appa could've bestowed me with. About 3 weeks after his passing, Appa came in my dreams. I vividly remember the setting - it was some special occasion, and I was cooking a feast with so many special dishes. Appa was sitting in front of me and eating in a big banana leaf. He asked me to freshly make and serve him veg uthappam. I was a little surprised even in my dream and asked him if he was sure he wants a uthappam as he always likes to have paper thin super crispy dosas only. But he insisted uthappam and I made and served him that. It indeed is true that my dad never liked to have sponge uthappams, it was always super crispy dosas with no exceptions. I remember him skipping dinner one day because there were only uthappams and not crispy dosas available at that place. He was just fine with a cup of warm milk then. So, the next day I narrated my dream to my mom, and I could sense my mom getting very emotional. See, when a person who passed away appears in dreams and is seen having a sumptuous meal on a banana leaf, then it regarded as a very auspicious and good sign that his soul is happy and at peace. I thought she was emotional about my dad appearing in my dreams and the significance of it. But there was more to it. She said that as a matter of fact for the past 2 years he always asked only for sponge uthappams and not crispy dosas anymore. For some reason this never came during any of our conversions in the past, so I had no idea about it. The dream, its significance, and the constant presence of my dad - all felt so real for me. But this is not all. A few days later, on his one-month thithi (maasiyam) my menu was super spicy shredded carrot on uthappam, methu vada, payasam, sambar, chutney. This might be an unusual menu for a maasiyam, but this is what Appa asked me to prepare in my dream. So, of course it will be this. I made all this fondly reminiscing our happy times in my heart, thinking of my recent dream and his smiling face while tears flowing in my eyes. After pooja and neivethyam, I did the customary offering to crow. I always have followed this custom each year without fail during my FIL's yearly anniversary, aadi and thai month amavasai. My home is in a major metro area in the US. In the place where I live, though crows are commonly found more so in the southern part of the State I have never seen or even heard a crow around my home even once in these 6 years of living in my current home. But I did the offering as part of the custom. The next day of maasiyam, which was incidentally the one-month anniversary of my dad based on the English calendar date, we heard something that sounded like cawing. I was asking DH if it were a duck. DH said it sounded like a crow. I rushed to the window with a racing heart only to see a pair of big black ravens in the tree opposite to our house. Then one flew over above our roof, but the other big black raven came and sat on our fence near the offering I made the previous day. (it is winter here and so all those items stayed good outside even after a day due to very cold weather). The big black raven then picked up the vada and was slowly relishing it. I called DH to come slowly to the window. Then we both watched the raven picking up the uthappam next and savoring it. We just couldn't believe what we saw. For anniversary offerings, it is such an auspicious sign to have a single black raven accepting the offering first (more auspicious than a group of common crows). And black ravens are not common at all in our State compared to common crows that I feel it is extraordinary that one made a visit on this special occasion only to accept my offering. I was watching all this overwhelmed with emotions and tears rolling from my eyes uncontrollably. But that was not all. My toddler girl, who was playing in the living room, came up to me and said 'mommy, thatha came and ate mumum'. In Tamil, 'thatha' means grandfather 'mumum' means food. I stood frozen by what she said as we never uttered the word 'thatha' during this whole time even once. How come she said those words? My sweetest little one said it loud and clear just what I needed to hear. The pure little heart of innocent kids is equivalent to God. That was my Appa ensuring through his most adored granddaughter that I understood he has always been right there with us. I was very overwhelmed with what my Appa managed to accomplish in unique profound ways to comfort my aching heart. There were many things that left me astonished after that incident - Appa appearing in my dream and asking for a particular food which I didn’t knew was his preference of late and accepting my offering and ensuring I heard what I needed to hear the most through my little one. See, the sound of clawing is so distinct that there is no way we would've missed if crows or ravens visited around our area in the past years and especially that we both have been working from home for the past 2 years. But we never heard or seen one - not even crows which are more common. Also, we never uttered the word 'thatha' even once during that time. I was amazed how my baby girl said that. But much later, we understood she probably was saying 'kaka' as 'thatha'. 'Kaka' means crow and 'thatha' means grandfather. She cannot say 'ka' yet and substitutes 'tha' for 'ka' most times. Nevertheless, the timing and underlying meaning of all this is mind boggling. After the incident, with a heavy heart I was going back to my room to get back to work knowing how much Appa loves me, and how he has shown me that he is at peace and satiated and that I must try my best to stay happy and strong for him until we meet again on the other side of the world. Those we love don't go away, They walk beside us everyday, Unseen, unheard but always near, So loved, so missed so very dear.