Travelling with My Father

Christina Yin

(Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo)

We’re on a small boat heading out of Port Klang, one of the busiest container ports in the world, the largest port in Malaysia. My mother, my brother and his wife, my husband, older daughter and her boyfriend, and I sit on cushioned seats, life vests strapped on. My younger daughter travels with us from isolation in Iowa via a video call.

My father is travelling with us, too. His ashes, bone fragments, and tiny pieces of his skull are in an urn stored safely on the boat. The sky is overcast, and as we’re steered away from the shore, the sea curls and foams around the boat. When we reach three nautical miles into the Strait of Malacca, the boatman switches off the engine. We hear now, the waves slapping against the boat, and the sea birds crying above.

The funeral assistant beckons me to the boat’s prow, handing me the urn containing my father’s remains. I crouch and balance awkwardly against the railing. Then, I tip the urn over and my father leaves us on his final earthly journey. His ashes, bones, and bits of skull drop down into the sea where further north, off Pangkor Island, half a century ago, he swam and played with my brother and me when we were children, and then again, when my daughters were young.

Years from now, perhaps my earthly remains will also join my father’s, going back to the sea from which terrestrial creatures first evolved millennia ago. I may follow my father’s remains as I’ve always seemed to follow his footsteps on earth. On his final night, he spoke his last words as I held his swollen hand, “Stay with me.” I did for as long as I could, until I had to sleep, to be able to face the next day. That afternoon, while we bustled in the busyness of life, my father left us, but I hope he knows I always take him with me, wherever I go.

Christina Yin

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Christina Yin is a writer and senior lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus. Her PhD thesis, Creative Nonfiction: True Stories of People involved in Fifty Years of Conservation of the Orang-utan in Sarawak, Malaysia combined her two passions: conservation and creative nonfiction writing. Christina lives and works in Sarawak with her husband, and travels near and far to visit her mother and daughters in three different continents.

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