On the August 28, 2016, time stopped for us. The light went out! I still remember clearly the scream from your mother when she realised something has gone tragically wrong with you. I can still feel the pain of holding your lifeless body to my chest and willing you to respond to me. I pleaded with God to take my life and spare yours. You know dear that if there was anything humanly possible to be done to save you, daddy and mummy will do it, and all your loving aunties, uncles and grandparents will give all to have you back in our lives. Daddy’s love, the whole Ilo clan went berserk that evening. The questions were endless – why Tasha? Why today that we came to honour our parents? What did we do wrong? How could this happen? My love, these questions will never cease. You mother is heartbroken. The light went out of her eyes. Your sister Ziva misses you so much. I can’t even yet bear the thought of what we have lost. The tears are still flowing and I am sure it will flow for long. You are mummy’s soul, Ziva’s best friend and Daddy’s tireless dancing partner. They tell me that I am strong but Tasha dear, daddy is hurting so badly.
You know four months ago I buried my father. I wrote a letter to my daddy. I talked about what a good dad he was and how much I had learnt from him. I dreamed of even being a better dad to you and your sister. I looked forward to teaching you how to pray even though you were already teaching yourself and your nightly benedictions and call for blessings on your parents and family made me so proud. It kills me to know that I couldn’t protect you and that all the wonderful dreams I had for your future have been swept away by this senseless tragedy. I always thought you and your sister would be the ones to bury me. Who will share my cashew nuts with me or make me hand over my glass of apple juice? Who will take off my shoes when I come back from work or give me a bear hug early in the morning when you wake me up? Who will patiently dance with me anytime I demanded? You were such a happy child. You remember the very few days I watched televisions with you and one particular day I gazed at your angelic face and shed tears. I just couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to have you as a daughter. Everything mummy and daddy dis, was for you and Ziva. Our world revolved around you two and every day I promised myself I would keep improving as a dad. I hope I didn’t let you down so much. For the nights I didn’t come home early enough to kiss you goodnight, I am really sorry. You were here for just two and a half years but it felt like a lifetime. I will do this journey with you again even if I am told you will leave this soon again.
Daddy’s love, when you went away from us, I was angry with God. I had a right to. The circumstance of your death, just didn’t make sense. You were blameless and I couldn’t understand why he would let you suffer like this. I spoke to him and asked aloud if you were taken away because of my mistakes. I wondered why he shouldn’t take me if your death was punishment. I doubted the efficacy of prayers. I felt vulnerable and scared and frankly I lost the will to live. You see, no father wants to bury his child. The death of every child feels like failure for every father. So I was really upset and my faith was shaken. I couldn’t bear the sight of your mum crying or your sister feeling lonely. I had physical pain sweetheart. It wasn’t just the emotional pain. I had tightness in my chest. I thought everything meant nothing.
But Tasha, you know we are a family that has strong root in our Catholic faith. When I married your mother, I told her that all I have is God and that I submit our marriage and family to Him. I do not claim perfection but everything we are and have belongs to God. My strength comes from him and every day I ask him to watch over you. So even in my sorrow, it dawned on me that you were never ours to keep. You were just a gift from God and He can take you back whenever He pleases. The sign of our Christian faith is the cross. So I have accepted the fact that tribulations and trials are an integral part of our life journey. I reminded myself that I see things in one dimension but God sees in multi-dimensions and that if I trust in Him like I claim to, I should submit to Him and accept that He knows best. He knows what is best for you and if He felt it was time for you to go to heaven, who am I to question Him? It was not an easy process coming to this conclusion and this conviction that you belong to God and He knows best. I had gone to cry in church asking God to comfort me and asking him to save my faith. He answered and now I can only come to Him in thanksgiving for the gift of you, for the privilege of being your dad and for the wonderful memories we made together. You see, God has blessed our family immensely and I am not going to judge him by just one incident.
With this faith, I laugh at the devil who thinks he can weaken us by this tragedy or that he will make us lose our faith. Rather, I see more reason to believe in the all-knowing power of the divine. So I am not going to mourn like people without faith. You remember that Eisenhower Fellowship mummy and daddy were talking about travelling for? I am going to make that trip and make the best out of that opportunity. I wondered if I should cancel it and even had the option of deferral for some other time but I told myself that my little angel won’t want my life to pause simply because she went home. This tragedy will not define us. It will not deter us. It will not destroy our faith or our love for humanity. It will not change our belief in doing good and being kind to people. We will be defined by God’s blessings and not life’s tragedies. Your death has taught me in very stark terms that everything is vanity and that we must make every moment of our life count.
Since you have been gone dear, we have received so much kindness and concern from across the world. I didn’t know you were this popular. Maybe because me and mummy are always talking about you. The kindness we have seen in the last few weeks reinforces our faith in humanity and the triumph of good over evil. Since you have been gone dear, Ziva now has an exclusive use of the Ipad mummy locked up because you two were always fighting over it. But you see, I know Ziva would rather play with you than have the Ipad. I took down your pictures from the living room because it was making me cry. I am going to put them back pretty soon. Mummy rarely smiles these days and she is constantly thinking about you. The pain in her eyes are so deep. So you have to whisper to God to take care of mummy and Ziva. You know how you don’t back down until you get what you want even if it means repeating it a hundred time until you wear me down, use that with God and ask him to heal our pain and reward our faith. Tell him that this kind of tragedy should never visit our family again. Tell Grandpa I was angry with him but not anymore, I am sure he watches over us. You are daddy’s saint in heaven so you better make it count dear.
I won’t end this letter without apologising to you for getting mad at you on the day you passed. You were unusually clingy and I got mad. Now I know that your sixth sense was making you cling to mummy’s protection. I know we made up afterwards and you hadn’t finished the piece of meat I gave you before you passed. But I wish I had just danced with you all day instead. You will always be daddy’s love. I remember how I will ask “Who is daddy’s love?” and you will answer- “TASHA”. My love, I HAVE NOT LOST A DAUGHTER, I ONLY GAINED AN ANGEL. Sleep on little one. We have lit an unquenchable candle for you in our hearts. One day we hope to reunite with you in the bosom of Abraham. Love you