by Alka Chevli
My father, Jayvadan Chevli, was a hard-working man who immigrated to Canada over 49 years ago, hoping to provide a better life for his family. He was full of energy, vitality, and optimism, always looking for opportunities to improve life for himself and those around him.
My father worked hard, long hours not just to provide for us, but to help his family back home, to support his mother, his father, and four other siblings. Some of my most cherished memories are the simplest ones, like our family nights watching a Disney movie on Sunday on the television. Once in a while after coming home from a late shift, my dad would bring pizza and wake the whole family up so we could all eat together. Memories I will cherish forever, even though they seemed absurd at that time.
He enjoyed all kinds of cultural experiences including eating incredibly delicious food (besides my mom’s amazing meals), exploring, sharing what he had, and travel with his family. He helped newcomers to Regina, volunteering to teach them any life and work skills they might need to succeed without asking for anything in return. He would take the shirt off his back to help someone in need. He was a great and generous man.
I didn’t realize his love of dancing was so great until I took him to a Chubby Checker concert at the Casino Regina show lounge, and he went on stage and was dancing and doing the twist so hard that he almost fell off the stage! But I do cherish the one video I have of me dancing with my dad, which I will play at my wedding when I get married because he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle or have a Daddy-Daughter dance.
My father worked with an organization in telecommunications, where the cable was made with asbestos – a hazardous substance that when inhaled can have major negative effects on one’s health. The company had insufficient safety precautions in place at that time years ago. Employees’ health was at risk every day since management may not even have known about the health risks and devastating life-altering effects of what was to come about 40 years later.
My dad was diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer as a result of his asbestos exposure. His diagnosis only came when it was too late and we couldn’t do anything for him. All of our lives were changed forever. We waited for a miracle and watched helplessly as we saw his first chemo treatment fail miserably and alter his mental state. He was never the same. We feel like we lost my father at that point and we just tried to make him comfortable every day thereafter. The specialists and doctors finally broke the news to us and said that he has only about three weeks left to live, so we brought him home from the hospital to care personally for him and he fought to live for 3.5 months.
He always said to me you need to relax more, you work too much sweetheart! In my mind I think I was just following his footsteps. But once he got diagnosed, everything changed. I didn’t work much if at all; I became his full-time caregiver at mom’s side as he was bedridden. I was sleeping less than six hours a night not including the interruptions at night to care for his needs. Despite our best efforts, he passed away from this terrible illness.
Some would say my father lived a fairly long life – it’s true, possibly longer than others, but it was cut shorter than it should have been. Seeing your loved one get sick like this was not acceptable when it could have been avoided; it should have been avoided. It left a family like ours feeling helpless, in distress, angry and just lost. He was 74 years old and just about to retire and he had huge plans. He was already planning his 50th wedding anniversary two years in advance and what a celebration it was going to be. When that day came around it was devastating to take in, just like each missed birthday, each Christmas, each New Year. He was looking forward to seeing his grandsons graduate high school, university and see them get married.
Threads of Life has been so kind and supportive. The members are all understanding and have given hope back to us, making us feel like we will be okay. Meeting others who have been through similar circumstances with workplace related injuries, or families that have also lost loved ones is like being around supportive family. It is a tragedy that my father died due to a work-related illness brought on by asbestos exposure. It serves as a reminder that workplace safety must always be prioritized, and we must ensure that no one is put at risk for the sake of an organization’s profit.
The tale of my father, my mentor, is not unusual. Many workers have met the same end as my dad, and as a result, many families have been left in mourning. Because of this, organizations like Threads of Life are crucial. As you read this, please take a moment and honour not only the memory of my father but all those who have lost their lives as a result of illnesses and injuries sustained at work. Let’s work together to make sure that every worker comes home safe and sound at the end of their work day.