This weekend, I went to San Francisco to see my brother and release my Dad’s ashes into the Pacific Ocean, the ocean that connects my Dad’s countries of birth and death.
I held the urn in my hands. It was surreal to think that my Dad’s body, the body that took him through his life-which was an extraordinary life, so full of adventures and accomplishments and love- was now distilled down to this small thing that I could hold in my two hands. I thought about his parents, holding him as a baby in their hands in this way, helping him into his life.
When my Dad was a child, growing up in a tiny village, walking shoeless to a schoolhouse several miles away each day, I think of how his parents encouraged him. Go, they must have told him. Even though it’s far. You should go.
I think about how, at that time in Fiji under British colonialism, there weren’t universities there for smart kids like my Dad. Instead there was a system where, if you were the top student (not A top student, I’m talking THE top student, as in valedictorian of the whole damn country), you were awarded a scholarship to head overseas to go to college. Just one kid each year was chosen. My Dad was that kid. He had to leave his village, get on a boat, leave everything he had ever known behind (with no phone calls home available, no holidays, no people he knew), and leave if he wanted the opportunity. How scared must he have been? He had to have been. But he told himself: go. I have to go.
After his studies were over, he came back, moved to a city, and met and married my mom, a trailblazer in her own right. Soon after, a year came along where non-white people could finally run for office for the first time in Fiji’s colonial history. My Dad was elected mayor of his town that year, the first non-white person to hold that office. My Dad was not a politician by nature, but after being part of a disenfranchised majority for that long? He felt honored to go and do it. That makes me super proud. Go, Dad, go!
When my siblings were born, my parents thought about what they wanted for them, so they made the decision to leave everything behind and head to America. This meant they had to start all over in too many ways to describe. My Dad had to go to the east coast while my mom stayed on the west coast. They missed each other terribly and my Dad worried that it would be too hard on all of them. My mom encouraged him. Go, she said. We’ll be ok. You go.
When they settled in the Midwest, I was born. I was brought up with the assumption that life was an adventure, to be lived without fear. When I was accepted to a faraway dance school at twelve years old, my Dad said, as he said to me about anything I wanted to do in life: of course you’re going. I’m so proud of you. Go!
I thought about all of these things while on the boat in California, holding my Dad in my two hands. It was amazing to me, when I scattered the ashes, how quickly they disappeared. They touched the water for the smallest of moments before vanishing. Particles didn’t float. Remnants didn’t hang in the air. In the time it took for a few heartbeats to pass, all that my Dad physically was- the solidness of him, the sheer there-ness of him, was just gone.
Go, my sweet Pops. Go.