My dad really wanted to see me throw my graduation cap up in the air. I was the first in our family to go to university, so watching me walk across that stage was important to him. Two weeks ago, I did just that, and he was so close to seeing it happen.
I’m Beena Joshi. I’m 23 and I live in Reading, UK. Both of my parents were from India. My dad came to the UK when he was just eight. My mum moved here from India to marry him. It was an arranged marriage. She didn’t even speak English at the time. As a result, my two brothers and I got the best of both worlds: Dad was very English and Mum brought the raw Indian culture. She looked after us at home for nearly twenty years. Dad had various jobs, but his main work was always the pubs he ran.
After my younger brother was born, Mum wasn’t well. She suffered with post-natal depression for a long time. For eight years, she didn’t leave the house. My younger brother and I thought that was normal, but our older brother could remember when she was healthy and would tell us about how she was before she became ill. It was like he was talking about an entirely different person. Dad tried to take her to see medical professionals, but by that time, it was too late. I was never told this as a child, but she had been suffering from an illness that affected her lungs for a while. She passed away July 10, 2010, at forty-one.
Two days later, I went back to school. It hadn’t hit me yet that she was gone. I just wanted things to be normal again. Looking back, that was an unhealthy way to deal with it, but that was how I saw my dad cope, so I followed suit. He didn’t seem any different after she’d gone. When I returned to school at the end of summer, I didn’t care about my classes or teachers. I started drinking heavily and going to crazy parties to escape my reality. I came face to face with that reality when I nearly died at a party near my dad’s pub. At 14, I had drunk so much that I was completely out of it. I desperately needed someone to understand how I felt, but I was completely unable to explain it or even understand it myself. I still struggle to talk about how I feel inside because I don’t like the idea of people feeling sorry for me.
I never planned on going to university because I didn’t know what to do or which career I would enjoy. My teacher suggested event management and explained what it involved. I knew straightaway that it was for me. Still, university was a challenge for me with no one constantly on my back making me learn. It was difficult for a while, but it ultimately taught me independence and how to push myself. Despite all the normal struggles that university brings, the hardest thing I had to face was my dad’s death last year. He was a heavy drinker and a diabetic. One day around Mum’s birthday, my younger brother found Dad having a terrible seizure. He went into cardiac arrest, his brain completely starved of oxygen. I watched him lie in the hospital bed, fully expecting him to jump up at any moment with energy, busy as ever, but he never did.
He had severe brain damage, so a week later, the decision was made to take him off life support. It was both the slowest and fastest week of my life. Despite everything, I carried on at university. It was by far the hardest year of my studies. I had lost both of my parents around the same time, eight years apart. Life was stressful and hectic, but I still managed to see my education through.
Knowing that dad was so proud of me really got me through that last year and across the graduation stage.
I’m so grateful to my family and friends for supporting me. I know now that I’m so much
stronger than I ever knew I could be. These days, I’m putting everything into my career and life direction. Of course, I have difficult days and struggle with the emotions of losing both my parents, especially when I think about how they’ll never get to visit my first house or be at my wedding, but I try to remember my two brothers and the friends I’ve made at university. I want to share my story because it’s real life; so many people go through seemingly unbearable situations and feel like they’ll never make it out on the other side. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Seek out others who understand what you’re struggling with and talk to those who have come through it. When you can’t see where you’re going, they will show you the way. You can make it out on the other side, and with focus, you’ll do just that.