I arrived in Krabi, Thailand this past Sunday morning and received a message to contact the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office. My father, Dr. Virachai Theerakulstit, had been found deceased in his home by the police, after being alerted by some friends of his that he wasn't answering the door.
To say my father and I weren't close is a bit of an understatement. We were estranged for nearly 20 years, only reconnecting a few years ago when it became clear he wasn't in a great place and I went back to Pittsburgh, PA to see if there was anything that could be done. Seeing him again, any wrongs done to both my mother and me were quickly forgiven, as there was little left of the person who had committed them in the frail, quiet, aged man I saw before me.
But growing up, he was, as with most young children, I believe, a presence I yearned to be around. He was strong, charming, assured and aggressive, with skill and talent to back it all up. As one of the top cardio-vascular surgeons in the area, he, no doubt, helped numerous families and individuals, saving and improving countless lives. He was creative and artistically gifted - I remember a beautiful, half-painted sketch on stretched canvas which I kept proudly on display on an easel in my room for years. His friends, neighbors and patients loved him. And so too, did his demons, which he never did quite manage to conquer.
In his final years, he lived with much shame and regret about the things he had lost and squandered after so many years of impressive accomplishment and hard work. He had withdrawn from his remaining family and the world when I encountered him again after our long absence. This was, perhaps, his last valuable lesson he had to teach me; showing me a glimpse of a very familiar and possible future which I am now all too mindful of avoiding.
But in his last years I had heard that he had reached out again to his sister's family, and did have some friends with whom he communicated regularly, such as the kind Myers family who finally found him. I can only hope that he found comfort for himself there, and passed with some semblance of contentment.
I am now using my remaining time in Thailand to plan out how to handle my father's affairs and put him to rest, consulting with relatives and Thai temples on the East Coast for advice, and simply to meditate upon his passing, before returning to the United States.
Rest in peace, Dad. May you now find the tranquility that you long sought in this life.