My dad playing the Maracas
2020 was rough. The nation’s capital was hardest hit. However, after a shocking number of deaths, New York did get its act together and was doing ok.
The majority of us adjusted to the new Covid-19 rules wearing masks, social distancing and isolating. Not seeing friends was tough but like many resilient New Yorkers I found a way to cope.
Long walks through the streets of Bedstuy kept me sane and even cheery. Often enough, the Kizomba and Kawina songs playing in my ear would just make me stop and dance in the middle of the street. Even in the midst of a pandemic, I was going to smell the roses.
As I was trying to make the most of it, life was not that bad. I didn’t lose anyone to Corona and still had my good old dad. A healthy 84-year-old whom I could speak with regularly even if he lived overseas.
My dad on the back patio in the garden. He was proud that to see me featured in the 1st edition of Suriname Prestigious people.
The phone call we all fear
Then the week before Thanksgiving, I received the phone call I feared even more since the start of the pandemic. My dad fell ill. It was something that happened before but they never found the cause and this time he was taken to the hospital. Details would follow. I decided there and then that Corona or not, I would just go to Suriname first chance I got.
Not being there while waiting for the results was grueling. A few days later when we still didn’t really have final results, Armand van Kanten a family friend and doctor at the hospital allowed my brother and me to talk with my dad via Whatsapp.
It was good seeing my dad sitting straight up in his hospital bed wearing a yellow shirt. He looked happy to see us but said he wasn’t feeling well. That worried me. I told him I would be on my way.
Our last chat
A Covid-19 test was negative but his situation didn’t get better. It actually got worse. High fever and a double pneumonia got him into a coma. On Thanksgiving night Patricia, an old friend of the family, promised she would allow me to talk to him via Whatsapp once she got there. She did.
Sad to see my lively dad laying there without being able to speak, she warned me and asked whether she should put on video call. Without a doubt, I answered yes.
Seeing my dad even via a phone screen, was everything. He looked great. His skin was so beautiful, he looked so graceful. Never before did I see my dad in this light.
I started to talk. Telling him how much I loved him, how thankful I was, how blessed we, his children, were with him as a dad. Also, that I was wondering how he felt. I hoped he wasn’t in pain.
Patricia softly whispered; I think he can hear you. He is responding, keep talking, keep taking. So, I did. I kept on talking.
Afraid for the call to end abruptly, Patricia warned that her battery was low. Knowing he was aware, I started saying goodbye to end the call, telling him that I would be on my way soon, that I was looking forward to see him and that even though travel restrictions were a mess, I was going to make it.
Patricia then said: Daisy, you will wait for her, won’t you? You will wait till Mireille gets here, right?
I am not sure how or where I got the strength from but words just started flowing out of my being; Dad this is not about me, this is about you. You have given us so much. I love you and I want to see you but this is not about me. You are all that matters. I want you to be happy. It’s about you, your happiness and your health. You have given us everything we need and more. I am going to be at peace no matter what.
While the words came straight from my hearth, tears were rolling down my cheek. Everything felt quite for a moment. Then the call ended.
I was thankful he responded. I was scared his time had come. I deferred that thought. A few hours later we got the call. He was gone.
To celebrate their 12 1/2 wedding anniversary, my mom and dad did a photo shoot.
My parents and me. I was just in the way messing up their photo shoot. My mom passed away in 1994.
Losing a parent
Losing my dad was more painful than I could ever imagine. At the same time, I was thankful he wasn’t suffering. Watching someone you love suffer is just heart-wrenching. I would never want him to hold on for me, suffering, still I was devastated that he was no more. It was going to take a minute before I was going to be at peace.
My earliest memory of my dad, is me and my sister✞ sitting on his lap, while he was telling us Anansi spider tales before going to bed. Breathless with widened pupils we would hang on his lips listening to how Anansi the mischievous little spider triumphed over Ba Tigri the strong tiger, feared in the animal kingdom. My dad was a master story teller.
Actually, I can’t remember a life without my dad. In elementary school we would share the breakfast our mom made then later in the day our family of five would dine together every day, until my teens.
As the youngest of three kids, I am blessed to have spent the most time with my parents. From high school through college, my dad and I would get up at 6 am and have breakfast together before he would drop me off at school. I was never a day late in school nor in college. He was a disciplined man.
My dad decorated with the highest honor: Commandeur in de orde van de gele ster.
My dad the soccer player
Most known for his skills on the soccer field my dad, Daisy Hedwig Liong-A-Kong received the highest decoration of the Suriname nation, ‘Commandeur in de orde van de gele ster’. He was awarded the honor for the work he did in support of the game he loved so much.
His story illustrates the history of soccer in Suriname. From kicking handmade sock-balls in the streets of Paramaribo to playing on the fields in the Netherlands where professional soccer had just started. He got paid Nfl.5,00 for every training he attended, Nfl.10,00 for a match they won and Nfl.7,50 for a draw. He often told me; that was a lot back then and that extra income sure was welcome for a student overseas.
After graduating from the Tropical Agriculture School in Deventer, he returned to Suriname where he never stopped being involved in soccer. Not only did he play until his knees couldn’t take it anymore, he became the President of the SVB, the Suriname Soccer Association and passed away as the chairmen of Voorwaarts, a club playing the highest league in Suriname.
If we weren’t aware that we had a great father, family and friends would have let us know. Countless people shared so many great and wonderful stories about my dad. Not only was he a great and loyal friend to many, he was well respected and loved.
At their request, the service was held at the Voorwaarts soccer club. Outdoors, the location was good to host people covid-style but because of the pandemic seating was limited and many choose so give their respects then leave. Many more watched the live stream.
When my mom died, my dad told me how the pallbearers would make these special intriguing steps when turning a corner. Intentionally, it was part of the culture to confuse the evil spirits to go into a different direction and allow a person to rest in peace. He was fascinated by it. It was something he wanted and we got him the pallbearers.
With music playing, the pallbearers carried my dad on the soccer field and back.
It was a beautiful service. A farewell that lifted me up. A goodbye that gave me many more reasons to be proud of my dad. One that affirmed, I was blessed and I was going to be at peace.
Love you dad.