Fourteen days ago, my father Nana Kwame Asante passed away at age 70. There have been many heartbreaks. There has been none as painful, gut-wrenching and devastating as my present grief. Life as I know it has ended.
Both my parents love(d) me and they show(ed) it. But so much of my existence is about being Nana Asante’s daughter. My thoughts and beliefs about life, kindness, faith and others have roots in the lessons he taught.
I went to live with dad at age six. What I remember from that period was the extent he went to make me feel less alone. We started reading the Uncle Arthur bedtime stories. He’d randomly drop by State Experimental School to check up on me from my class teacher. It was dad who took my sister and me to the hospital. Yes, there was a wife and mother, but she wasn’t mine. There were no teachers or friends Nana Asante didn’t meet. There was no time in my life I ever felt alone or lacking in any good thing. Daddy brought Readers Digest, Danielle Steel and jollof on Sunday visits in boarding school and sent birthday cakes in university.
Since he left, it takes me a few seconds every morning to understand the overarching emptiness that has engulfed my soul since the last phone call. I’m not naive. I know arrival and departures are a natural part of life. So is death. Daddy was ill, and I considered all the possibilities – but nothing prepares one for the shock, and the incomprehensible sorrow death brings. It feels like someone has repeatedly been kicking me in my stomach.
When I was eight, timid and afraid, I was bullied by the older kids in my class. Dad’s driver who used to pick us up from school told him I get picked on. That evening, he sat me and down and said: “you have to tell me everything that happens to you. Besides God, there is no one bigger than your father.”
All my life I’ve walked around with a chip on my shoulder because of what he said to me that day and also because no matter what happened, he always showed up for me. It didn’t matter how stupid, silly, and ridiculous the issue was, daddy would pick my call or call me right back and provide help, directions or advise to help me cope.
I can write a book on daddy’s pithy sayings that left indelible marks on my conscience and shaped my life. In my timid phase, he’d harp on “there is a great difference between timidity and humility” at the end of every lecture. When he made a fuss about cleanliness, he’d tell us “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” He said it so often that my kid brain assumed this was a quote from the bible. When colleagues query the source of my outrageous confidence to make certain demands, I’d say “my dad says I should live like everyone was made to meet my demands.”
Daddy’s care and focus on his extended family, townspeople and the community of strangers who also became family taught us, his children, about compassion. It sparked endless conversations about inclusion and respect for all kinds of people.
Daddy was by no means perfect neither was I the exemplary daughter. We clashed many times over some things. Journalism is one of the things we disagreed over. Still, he looked out for us even when we rebelled and followed our own paths. In 2007, while doing my national service at Joy FM, he called the newsroom and asked Israel Laryea to correct my pronunciation of a particular word. He sent money when my allowance finished. He listened when I called to rant about the state of affairs.
I loved him with all my heart for that and more. He was a loving father who instilled discipline and confidence in his children so we wouldn’t be, as he used to say, “a liability to ourselves and society.” He was a generous man who loved his family and community. Above all, as we grew older, he was a friend who offered a sympathetic ear to even my most mundane woes.
I consider my siblings, and I privileged and blessed to have had daddy. I’m utterly heartbroken that he is gone. I don’t understand. My heart feels empty, and I’m terrified. I keep expecting him to show up and berate me for “wearing my heart on my sleeves.” Or to remind me to greet from right to left. Or to not cross my legs when I’m sitting with adults.
Daddy was an amazing father and an incredibly wonderful human being. He was taken too soon, but I’m thankful for the gifts of life, love, intelligence, laughter and generosity he shared with us. I’ll miss him every day. And I’ll think of him for the rest of my life. I hope I’m able to live out the rest of my days being half the woman he wanted me to be and half the human he was. I pray the keepers of the gate grant him rest.