Something about death...really...


Written on 4/21/2007 12:09:00 pm by sikapitan

Death hits you like a bullet train. But unlike those supersonic Japanese bullet-trains, death doesn’t have a ticket. Actually, it does, but you don’t have it with you. It doesn’t announce itself on the intercom (though the thought of a woman’s voice calling you out for the last time is pretty sexy…yet strangely scary…blame Jangan Pandang Belakang), but sometimes you get to see it coming, though I don’t actually know if it’s a good thing or bad. The train arrived to pick up my grandma last Tuesday morning after a bit of a delay, though this time no one could or should start staging pickets demanding better service and efficiency.

As stated in the previous entry, my grandma was in coma since Friday. I came back from Penang on Sunday. I went back to work on Monday. It was kind of surreal, especially when there’s a bit of a scandal involving some shortfall in the collection of legal fees…in the words of the great Shaggy, it wasn’t me. I came back early to get ready for UiTM’s Annual Law Dinner. Frankly, I wasn’t up for it, but I’ve made the commitment months ago.

While I was getting ready (surprisingly a subdued experience, in fact I was rather uninspired, which is unbecoming of a metrosexual), my parents informed me that they had to leave for Penang as my grandma’s condition was getting worse. They said I should go for the dinner, and if anything comes up they would inform me. I insisted that I at least send them to the airport, which they agreed.

One observation about the road to KLIA – abolish the speed limit! In fact, I would dare say that to keep within the speed limit is more dangerous. Why? It’s freaking boring, and when you’re bored you get sleepy, especially considering that the road to KLIA is almost slippery smooth and straight. The way back is usually worse – which is why I thank God for the smooth as silk four-pot German engineering marvel underneath the hood and the excellent surround speakers belting out tight tunes to keep me awake, and ultimately, alive.

The dinner was weird. Firstly, I have never seen my girlfriend sing at a function (I’ve missed her previous performances) even though we’ve been together for 6 years and she’s seen me countless times and yet on that night I get to see my girlfriend sing 3 different songs (maybe more) in public. I have to say she could even win one of those reality shows without breaking a sweat, especially if she gets to sing those melancholic Indon ballads that I love so much all the time. She’s brilliant, in more ways than I could ever describe…

Secondly, everyone knows we’re getting married at the end of this year, which is a problem actually, because I wasn’t planning on inviting everyone (in particular, one person whose name shall not be mentioned until 2008, at least). Thirdly, I had this nagging sense that all’s not well, which kinds of brings to head the whole contradiction theme going on in my mind. I had fun, but it’s a kind of fun that kinds of sticks on the throat – I kept thinking “what if this were the last thing I see?”

I’m glad my girlfriend was with me when I received the call from my sis close to midnight. I knew something’s was up. And that something was death. My grandma was still alive at that moment, but it was inevitable. I had instructions to book flight tickets for me and my two siblings for the next morning. It wasn’t a sleepless night, and to say otherwise would have hypocritical and dishonest. In fact I slept rather well, but my deep slumber was disturbed by a telephone call around 5 in the morning. Grandma had passed away…

We were her grandkids, but it’s not fair nor true to say how sad and blue I was on Tuesday morning. I kept myself busy with the travel arrangements, and we had a few laughs along the way. She’s old, and we knew it’s going to come anyway. It wasn’t a depressing trip. The mind is a wonderful thing, the way it influences how our body reacts to emotions.

So I made another trip from Penang International Airport. I kept thinking, could this be the last time I come to Penang? I mean, the only reason we go back to Penang every year was because she was the only Atuk left on either side of my parents, and now that she’s gone, it’s certainly more practical and logical for my two aunts to make the trip to KL for Hari Raya. Would Penang be just another memory? Would the number 14 in my IC mean nothing anymore?

There were already a lot of people hanging around in front of the house when I arrived. Of course there would, it was close to noon and Grandma’s been gone since 5 in the morning. It must be a depressing sight to see us three siblings coming down from the old white cab, looking haggard and in slippers no less.

What do you say to a son who has lost his mother? How should you act when you feel nothing? There was a sense of utter hopelessness at being useless that morning. I mean, what can we do? The answer came early when my mother called me and my uncle to “wash” Grandma. It was a ritualistic process, devoid of actual effect, because she has been cleaned by the experts and the female members of the family. But for those who think it’s scary, think again. It’s not, and there’s a pleasant feeling that you’re cleansing yourself as you let the water run down the body.

It was when the body’s been cleaned, wrapped and brought to the living room that emotions start to pour. The whole aura or energy of that room is one of depression and sadness. It’s hard not to get caught up with it. But I held on, trying gamely to focus on other things, like how clean she looked, and how sweet the smell of flowers lingers in the air.

It wasn’t until the body’s been placed inside the “coffin” and my uncle started his last words that I shed my first tears. Forgive and forget, he pleaded. And I kept thinking to myself how many people I’ve hurt, how many hearts I’ve broken, how many souls I’ve disturbed through my actions. It reminded me of my own future, of how I would have to say these words when my parents go away. It reminded me of my siblings, of how we quarrel incessantly over little things. It reminded me of my future wife, and how I can survive if she’s no longer by my side. It reminded me of my Grandma not being able to see me get married. She kept on saying that I’m too young to settle down, but apparently I didn’t settle down soon enough for her…

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