p/s This was written few months back. WARNING : THIS IS ONE LONG POST.
2 deaths. In less than a month.
My uncle (mom’s younger sister’s husband) had passed away few weeks ago when I was lying on my bed here at my hostel. I was just having an almost-one-hour phone call with mom when I received another one from her at around 11 p.m. I literally had no words coming out from my mouth except for ‘Allah’. My face wasn’t even able to make any expressions other than being shocked. It was just like any ordinary nights and I certainly didn’t expect to have a death mail while I was relaxing on my bed. Everything was too fast. All those memories, the sights of him, the time spent. They flashed before my eyes like a lightning and just like the lightning, they were gone in an instant. Leaving only the grave sound of pain from my heart to the whole body.
My uncle was a teacher. He had been a teacher for many years even before he got married to my aunt. He once taught for some time at my school where he got particularly close with one of my coolest English teacher in primary school. Safe to say, they both were the rebel kinds. The kinds that I personally feel would sitting down in a mamak stall, having a constructive conversation over education and life in general. Like any other imperfect human being, my uncle had his black hole in the past which I prefer not to lay out here mostly because he found his right path afterwards even though it took him a while but it’s the good change that matters. God has His remarkable way of arranging things that none of us can ever predict. Alhamdulillah, He had given him guidance and with that holy guidance, my uncle had been able to shed his skin of the past and lead a much meaningful life, with his family specifically.
It’s pretty obvious, family is number one to him. You see, my uncle likes to travel and going places. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with a critical level of diabetes which required him to go for a dialysis treatment thrice a week and left him with no choice but to stop teaching. Despite having to use wheelchair as part of his daily routine, he never failed to find a way to make his children happy. He would ask my aunt to drive them to Bandung, the two Highlands (Genting and Cameron) and nearly the whole Malaysia even if it’s only for one night. He never once considered his condition as a hindrance in spending time with his family and I truly respect that the most about him.
I remembered his constant concern about me getting scholarship and his questions about my future endeavors. I figured as a teacher himself, it’s within his nature to have these education-related worries which was a benefit for me really. And I also remember how I felt hilarious that he urged me to take up History (don’t ask me I’ve no idea why). Probably another thing that I admire the most of him is his generosity. My uncle is one selfless man. In fact,one time he took both his family and mine to a seafood stall and everything was on him. Even during dinner, he would pass around the dishes, asking us to finish it while he ate a very small amount of those food. That was the final moment I had with him. Glad it was a beautiful one. :”)
Tonight, again I received a text from mom after a phone call saying my old grandma neighbour had just left this world. Though this time, her death was sort of expected after the doctor told her children to be prepared.
I called her ‘atok’ and yes, I treated her as special as my own grandmother. My neighbour is an old couple who lives behind my home with their three out of ten children. Since I was a toddler, my brother and I kept going to their house to play with their grandchildren. Basically, I grew up with the whole big family. His husband (who I called ‘atok’ as well) even built a simple mini bridge from the back gate of my little garden to their area because there is a deep drain in between. Back in school days, either my brother and I or their grandchildren would come visit (sometimes slept) at each other’s house whenever school holidays arrived. She would always send us food she cooked. And the few final days of every Ramadhan, my nose would follow the heavenly smell from her kitchen where I could find her sitting at the dining table, moulding the dough for kuih tart (pineapple tart) and oh hers were always the best!
Atok (the grandma) was a really stubborn lady. She refused to go for medical checkups at hospitals even after her children had repeatedly advised to do so. She would keep all to herself and let herself suffered alone. She would withstand everything while she still had the strength. One day, Atok began to eat ridiculously less to the extend refusing to eat until she became bony. Apparently, she had some kind of stomach ulcer/cancer but Alhamdulillah she went through a successful surgery. Sadly, she couldn’t seem to gain weight and wasn’t as cheerful as before. Since then, she experienced few unpleasant sickness until a minor stroke hit her, causing her to be detained in the ICU. She was dismissed after few days and I visited her at her house. She cried.
Not long after that (couple months after), the second blow of minor stroke happen. During this time, I managed to visit her again with mom and my grandma at the hospital. By then, she had became silent most of the time due to her incapability to swallow non-fluid food. She had to use tube for digestion through her nose down to her stomach, which results in difficulty to speak. And she could hardly recognize me. The saddest thing was her eyes. Her eyes looked like they can utter invisible words. That was the only communication we had and it was also my last time seeing her.
Me writing this is never for sympathy or mere story-telling. I write this because it’s the only way I can remember the moments and final days I had with these two beloved souls. If someday I reach that point where I can only see vague mental pictures of them, I’ll always come back to this post.
Now that I’m entering adulthood, I realize death keeps happening to the people around me and it has become a common word which I need to bitterly swallow. I no longer have someone telling me ‘”he/she’s going to someplace better” like how people did when I was an innocent kid, believing in any make up stories. It’s something you understand and feel yourself, no matter how hard you want to drag your feet away from it.
All those deaths plant a thought in my psyche, of mom leaving for good. Just thinking about it, I know very well I can never be prepared for that. If I lose her, I lose everything. My best friend, shoulders to cry on, happiness to share with and more importantly, a mother to confide in. Even though deep down I try convincing myself Allah loves her more, it’s going to take years to adapt with her physical and maternal love absence. It’s a child’s worst nightmare. Although this permanent worry haunts me from time to time, I’m aware for a fact that all I can do within my limit of power is to pray for her lifelong well-being and to appreciate her every minute I can. It may still be insufficient but I’m not letting the opportunities I’m given go to waste.
A kindly reminder to all forgetful humans : Spend time with your parents and family as much as you can. We can never predict our expiry dates or theirs. Give them a call, send them texts, lend your ears, do things together whatever! While we’re still breathing, let’s make them feel proud, loved and appreciated.
May Allah bless us with good health and long life.
I love you, Ibu, Abang, Atok. :’)