Something about death...


Written on 4/16/2007 12:02:00 am by sikapitan

I received the call on Friday afternoon, at 3.00 pm. In fact I received several calls, but all unanswered as I sat there explaining to houseowners at Batang Kali on why they have to shell out x amount of money to transfer the land to their name. It was an exercise to appease our client, a property developer, and it wasn’t exactly necessary. But there I was, stuck in Batang Kali, when my mother told me that my grandmother was ill.

My first reaction was one which I expected – calmness. It isn’t in my blood to go bawling and crying my lungs out. In fact, I was pretty nonchalant about the whole matter, not realizing that my mother was actually telling me to stop whatever I’m doing and find my way back to Penang. This was a big problem actually, considering I didn’t drive my own car to Batang Kali.

So when I went back into the site office, I just continued where I left off. After one Chinese guy questioned the rationale of him paying for the transfer, I answered another call from my mother. This time it’s serious, and my family can’t even wait for me to come back to Subang.

I came to the solution of going by plane, simply because to ask somebody to drive me back to PJ, where I can pick up my car and then drive straight to Penang, from Batang Kali was unfeasible. I decided to take a Komuter from the Rawang station and head to KL Sentral where I would then buy the earliest ticket and head to KLIA through the KLIA Express. To be completely honest with you folks, I’ve never done these things before last Friday, except for taking the Komuter.

I made two startling discoveries from my trip with KTM Komuter. First, it is cheap, dirt cheap. From Rawang to KL, it cost me RM3.60. It wasn’t even uncomfortable, at least if you start from the last stop like Rawang. Comfortable seats, but unfortunately no lavatory (which is kind of weird because the trips’ are pretty long between stations). Secondly, thousands of people depend on it. I didn’t know the Komuter to be as packed as it was on Friday evening.

My previous experience from Subang to Sentral was something akin to a train ride (which it should be). But this time, it was literally a sandwich can, with the officers trying their best to cramp as many people into the trains (hence the line, “Tolong beri kerjasama ya, semua orang pun nak balik…” – right, thank you officer, but can you please ask that man not to fart in the carriage).

It wasn’t unpleasant, mainly because I had a seat. But it took almost an hour before I reached KL Sentral. Now, many of my readers might not have been to KL Sentral on a working day at peak hours, so let me just tell you this – THAT PLACE IS PACKED. If there’s moans and groans about it being another ambitious government project, it should stop right away. Yes, the implementation of the public transport system isn’t perfect, but where would we be if we were still stuck with the Subang Airport or Pudu Station or government offices at Jalan Duta? I say, just get on with the mega projects.

Anyway, it was pretty convenient to check in at KL Sentral and be whisked away to KLIA in the impressive KLIA Express. The only thing lacking were stewardesses, but considering the recent standards which MAS holds on too, it wasn’t a big loss. It was 7 pm before I reached KLIA, and all I had with me are the clothes which I wore to work, a copy of the latest Autocar, and a pen. I haven’t had lunch nor breakfast, but my flight to Penang was leaving at 7.45 so no time for dinner.

I stopped by one of those duty free candy/chocolate shops where they have all these exotic chocolates and even Cadburys at KLIA, when I made another discovery – they don’t sell Snickers, which is rather ironic. So my dinner was a Famous Amos soft cookie, and I comfortably checked myself into my flight seat. It wasn’t long before I fell asleep, only to be woken up by MAS famous in-flight F&B – orange juice. They had the courtesy to serve peanuts (which I love), and anyone hoping for more must not have taken flights on MAS for years. Plus, the trip was too short for them to even serve sandwiches.

I paid RM38 for one of those airport limousines (which they are actually…30 years AGO!!!) to get me to Gleneagles Medical Center at the town center. I go back to Penang every year, at least twice, but I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t gone out to town for the past few years, and even when I did, it was on a sporadic and unmemorable basis. Thus when the cab driver said it’s near Gurney, I was pretty lost but nodded. You see, studying law make me realize how important it is to appear knowledgeable when in fact you know nothing about something.

I still wasn’t thinking of Grandma. Heck, she was just here in KL last week! She had dinner with me and my bride-to-be, and she was proud of the fact that at 77 years old, she was still driving around Brown Garden, Gelugor, Penang Island. So my grandma always had this aura of invincibility, plus she’s Chinese (and you know how long they live).

I reached Gleneagles, and headed straight for the ICU. Hospitals are depressing, but the sight of nasi lemak and KFC in the small waiting room filled with relatives allowed me to crack a wry smile. With Malays, it doesn’t matter what’s going on, as long as your stomach is filled…

My family had just gone back to the hotel to change and freshen up, so I’m there by myself with a couple of aunts. I decided to see my grandma. The smell of disinfectant, and of medications, filled the air of the ICU. I was still in my shirt and work pants and leather shoes. My feet were sore, and stomach empty, but all is forgotten as soon as I walked into ICU 2.

I expected it to be like that, to see my grandma, lying in comatose (she had a major stroke), face puffed up and almost unrecognizable. I even anticipated the whole oxygen mask thing. But I didn’t expect myself to lose it, just a little bit. There was another visitor in the room, a neighbor of my grandma, but I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t the sight of her sitting there, waiting for nothing, but rather it was the memory of her living that made me shed a few tears.

She has had a wonderful life. Not many 77 year old lady could claim to have been to holidays all over the World, perform the Hajj, have successful and caring children (no Cerekarama style “anak derhaka” syndrome), and generally living a healthy life up to the moment when the blood vessel popped and blood started flooding her brain on 13 April 2007. In fact, on that morning, she had just picked up one of my cousins from school, and dropped another to the mosque for Friday prayers. Even I wasn’t as active as she is on Friday mornings.

It isn’t hard to imagine an old lady going through what my grandma is facing. In fact, it’s almost expected. You are dying as soon as you were born. Understand that and you’ll accept that death is inevitable. And yet, we are scared of it. That is why we cry when we see others walk through the valley of death. It isn’t all because we are sad they’ve or they will depart, it’s because we are reminded of our own mortality.

She is now in coma. The doctors said any operation is risky, and the chances of her recovering are slim and yet she’s stable. In other words, she’s a vegetable, caught between the dark light of death, or the chance of spending just one more day with those she love.

If you were to die tomorrow, have you done enough today?

(I was just about to update on what was a hectic week last Friday – Kanye West, Manchester United win against Roma, Jangan Pandang Belakang…but I hope readers understand my conundrum)

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