Mak, at around 12:50 p.m. Amir's phone (your son) rang as he was driving, so I picked it up. And the minute I said "Hello", I heard Tini's (your daughter) distraught voice and wrecking sob "Wan, I think Mak is gone. Mak is gone". And I could hear her anguished sobs in the background before the phone went dead. My heart went out to her. And I had blurted to Amir, "Sayang, Mak has passed away. Mak is gone. Mak is gone," I kept repeating to him. And with it, came my tears, which flowed down my cheeks and onto my lap.
Mak, through my tears, I remembered seeing Amir gripping the steering wheel right after I broke that grim news to him. I knew how much he loved you and how much he would miss you. I salute him for being so strong as he was able to contain his emotion. I was the one who was sobbing throughout the journey from Ampang to Hospital Serdang. I had felt that the distance was the longest journey I had taken.
Mak, as we had slept late the night before having spent almost the entire day at Serdang Hospital the day before, keeping vigil at your bedside, we had gone to sleep again after sahur and subuh prayer.
But as soon as we woke up, I had urged Amir to call Tini as I was worried about your deteriorating condition. In fact I had difficulty falling asleep as my mind kept going back to the image of you gasping for breath and how your face contorted in pain each time you tried to breathe.
Mak, Tini had told Amir that your condition had remained unchanged after we left the hospital soon after iftar (break fast) although during the night your vital statistics had been rather erratic.
As we reckoned your condition would not change much, both Amir and I decided to go to Ampang on Friday morning as we had to do a couple of errands.
Mak, whilst we were at Ampang Point, Amir received a call from Tini to say that your respiratory rate was gradually dropping. As soon as we heard that, we decided to forego some of the things we wanted to do in Ampang. We got into the car and just after we left Ampang, the phone rang again with the sad news about your passing away.
Mak, I had called your grand kids (some of whom were still sleeping) to break the sad news that their only surviving grandmother had left to be with Allah. I told them to meet us at the hospital.
Upon reaching the hospital, Amir had walked to Tini and enveloped her in a tight hug as they both cried. They both cried for you, the mum they had just lost, the mum who had tended to them when they were babies, the mum who had nursed them when they were sick, the mum who had taken care of them in sickness and in health, the mum who had kissed them tenderly with love, the mum who had prepared and cooked delicious meals for their kids and grand kids everything we were back in Penang for holidays, and the mum who had raised them well to be what they are today.
Mak, as I walked to Tini, she cried again as I hugged and embraced her. I too cried for you, mak, my mother in law, a mum whose love I pined for with the loss of my own mum nine years ago.
I vividly remembered that day.
Upon reaching your house, I recalled having butterflies and grasshoppers in my tummy as I had never before been taken back to any of my male friends' houses to meet their parents. But I distinctly recalled being warmly welcomed by both you and bapak. And as I walked, I could feel both your eyes and bapak's training on me, particularly bapak's, scrutinising me from head to toe whilst ascertaining whether I was really a suitable candidate as your daughter-in-law.
If truth be told, it was one of the most nerve wrecking moment of my life. Needless to say, I must have passed with flying colours.Hmmmmmm........
Mak, when I had first met you, I was taken in by not only your beauty, but also your soft demeanour, your regal stature and also how soft spoken you were. And I would always remember how you had painstakingly cooked "Shrimp Rice" as Amir must have told you that my favourite food was prawns. Although the food was delicious and tantalising, I was too nervous and apprehensive to have savoured and enjoyed the food. Needless to say, I left the house feeling quite hungry.
Right after lunch, I was brought to the living room and bapak had a little te-te-te with me, without the presence of you, mak. You could imagine how nervous, edgy and panicky I was. But bapak had allayed my fears and nervousness by talking to me softly and chatting me up so that he could know me better. And I remembered him reminding me to wear the sarung after I am married (hmmmmmm....) and I recalled nodding my head quietly in acquiscence. I was too nervous to reply or say anything.
Mak, Hmmm.... psssssstttt...... let me share with you this little secret....... after 26 years of marriage, that was something which I had failed to adhere to in my marriage. I'm not really passionate about sarung as I prefer the pants as I find sarung very cumbersome. Sorry, bapak. I failed to listen to your advice. Till today, I had never donned the sarung.
And the rest is history. We got married after 7 months of courtship and was blessed with 4 bundles of joy. I also recalled how excited you were with the birth of your first grandchild, Khairul (my eldest son). And later, all the other grand kids who came along, 4 from Amir and I, 8 from Tini and Din, and 2 from Hanafi and Azillah. Mak, I would always remember how you had doted and fussed on all your grandkids and how they loved you.
"Sayang, let's go!" I was jolted out of my reverie, when I realised that my mind had drifted to the past. I was now transported back to 18 September 2009, today, on this fateful day, where your lifeless cold body lay on that bed. And Amir had called me to say that your body was now ready to be brought down to the mortuary room on the ground floor for final release before the hearse from UPM arrived. Zul (Amir's colleague from UPM) had kindly arranged for the hearse. Thanks Zul.
And Amir's office colleagues had kept Amir company until the hearse arrived. They were so supportive of him in his time of loss and deep sadness.
I was really glad for the opportunity as now, at least, I know what it is like to perform the bath for someone who has passed away. And it was good that all your grand daughters were there to help out.
And one by one, we started kissing you. I bent down to kiss your forehead and then both your cheeks whilst trying very hard to contain my tears at that time. I had gone to hold your sister's hands (Chik) to enable her to kiss you. The minute she reached your cold body, she had burst out crying. Poor Chik.
And once everyone of your loved ones had kissed you for the final time, your body was transferred to the coffin and covered before the congregation performed the prayers. Soon after that, your body was carried to the van for your final journey to the Ulu Langat cemetery.
Once again, Tini and I had accompanied your body in the hearse. Amir had gone with Khairul. And I sat next to your body, I had shed more tears. The tears had streamed down my face freely. And those tears, coupled with the rainy weather outside had made the journey even more poignant. Even the weather had wept your passing away. It was raining cats and dogs throughout the journey.
For what was supposed to be a not so long journey, it took ages for us to reach the cemetery in Ulu Langat. By the time the hearse arrived in Ulu Langat, it was maghrib and time for us to buka puasa. And due to the weather factor, it was an uphill task to dig the grave, so the burial had to be delayed till the grave digger was successful. So the family had decided to perform the Isyak prayers as well as the Tarawahih prayers before your body was taken to the cemetery.
It was multiple bonus for you mak. Not only had you died in Ramadan and on a Friday, the congregation were able to perform a second prayer for you at the surau in Ulu Langat, besides the first one done at the surau in Bangi. Syukur Alhamdullilah.
By the time they had performed the prayers, you were finally laid to rest around midnight.
Mak, I will miss you. Today, you breathed your last breath. Today, you left all of us to be back with Allah, the Creator. Today, we had to bid goodbye to you. Today, God had taken back what he had loaned to us. Today, you ceased to be with all your loved ones.
A little poem just for you mak:
Mak, can you hear my cry for you
Can you feel the need I hold, the desperate need to talk to you.
I know you had to go, for it must have been better for you there than here.
I just don’t know how to live without you here.
My life is not the life it was when you were in it.
I can’t get it to be the same. I need you and miss you so.
I don’t know what to do or which way to go.
Is there any thing I can do so I could just talk to you,
To see that you’re all right, I know the place you’ve gone is good
for only good can go.
I’m so afraid that I have not been as good to go and I may not be given the day I look forward to, to just be with you again.
Mak, I miss you and will always love you!