Sunday, 20 July 2008

The Passing

A few days ago, it dawned upon me that among my sphere of family bloggers who are actively leaving comments in each other’s blogs, I’m the only person who was present at my father’s burial. I mulled the idea of writing about it, but I was not sure if it was proper or even necessary.

Finally I decided to write about what I can remember of the event. For those who think that they possess the Neng Yatimah trait (you know who you are), you may want to skip this post. It is not my intention to cause sadness to anyone. Rather, I just want to record it and share it with those who are interested to know. For that matter, I’ll try to be as factual as possible. But the event took place more than 10 years ago and as they say, we tend to romanticise our distant memories. Some parts of the event are just vague memories, but other parts are crystal clear, as if the event had only taken place yesterday. I can’t be 100% accurate, and it’s possible that certain parts are just a figment of my imagination which somehow I feel to be real. The time the events took place, in particular, was very vague. I guess it is normal to lose track of the time in that kind of circumstances.

So this is my account, based on my experience and from my perspective, of what happened on that day in November 1996. It began to unravel on an early Saturday morning. I can’t remember the date but what I remember is that it was on Deepavali Day.

The phone rang at around 1.30 am. It was my eldest brother, Abg M. His words were brief, “T, Abah dah tak de”. I found his words incomprehensible. I almost asked, “Tak de? Dia pergi ke mana?” And then he repeated, “Abah dah tak de. Pukul XX tadi.” Immediately, I understood. Abg M asked me to get ready. He was coming over to pick me up.

I went back to my room, sat on the chair and stared at the blank wall facing me.

The phone rang again a few minutes later. This time, it was my eldest sister, Kak J. She wanted to inform me of the news, not knowing that Abg M had called me earlier. I was already sobbing when I answered the call, so Kak J didn’t have to say much.

Abg M arrived at my apartment building. From there, we went to Jalan Gasing to pick up my nephew, L. Then off to Abg M’s house to pick up my SIL and their two daughters.

We were quiet throughout the journey. I played the memories of a few days earlier in my mind. About 2 or 3 days before that, I had called home. My father picked up the telephone and his voice sounded normal. And just 3 weeks earlier, I had gone home to visit him. He had just had his eye surgery then. Was that a sign?

We stopped for subuh prayers at a mosque that I can’t recall till today.

We got lost not long after passing Tanah Merah. Abg M couldn’t remember the way back to our parents’ home, a route that he had taken countless times before. We had to make a detour. I was growing impatient. I feared that we would miss my father’s burial. Unbeknown to me, the people back home were waiting for Abg M. Apparently they wanted at least one of the sons to be around. At that time, all my three brothers were away from home.

We must have reached home at around 10.30 am. I saw a lot of people in my parents’ house. There were many unfamiliar faces. My sister, Kak N and my cousin, Kak Mah, rushed outside to see us. Kak N hugged me and I sobbed uncontrollably on her shoulders. A moment later I was in Kak Mah’s embrace.

They led me to a single bed placed in the dining area, roughly at where the dining table is placed now. There I saw the jenazah on the bed, covered with batik cloth from head to toe. My father was a tall man, but that day, he looked small.

Kak Mah and I sat next to the bed. She removed the cloth covering my father’s face. I looked at his face, and it was as if he was just sleeping.

Kak Mah is my father’s niece. It was her who later on clipped my father’s nails. The two of them shared a special bond. When I was a child, I used to observe them in conversations and it was obvious to my young eyes then how close they were.

What happened next was a blur to me. I think the adults were discussing when to bury my father.

Then the bath ritual started. It took place at one corner of the bilik ujung (the room at the end of the house), near where a dresser is placed now. Kak J and Abg M volunteered to help to bath our father. The men in charge had to tell curious onlookers to keep away.

I stood at the door connecting the bilik tengah (middle room) and bilik ujung. At one corner of bilik ujung, near where I was standing, a few pieces of white cloth were laid down on the floor. I remember we used to solat jemaah there when I was a little girl.

After the bath ritual, the jenazah was carried to the place where the white cloth had been laid. A few men started to kafan my father with the white fabric. Many times, as the layers of white cloth were shrouded over his body, I had to look away. The feeling then was that with every piece of cloth covering his body, the distance between us was getting further apart.

Then they finished covering his body and part of his head. By then, only his face was visible. To me, his face looked soft, like a baby. Around me, people were whispering about how clean his face looked.

Someone told us, his children, to kiss his face. One by one we went. Once in a while I could hear reminders not to drop our tears on his face. My turn came. I walked towards him, crouched, and kissed him on the forehead.

I walked out of the bilik ujung with blurry eyes. I saw my sister, Kak B, sobbing at the door near the old bathroom. I rushed towards her. I tried to comfort her, but it was a strange feeling. For once, the roles were reversed. I, the little sister who was always protected, was trying to console my elder sister.

Kak B rushed away. Not long after, my niece, S, came near me. Her eyes were red. She too was sobbing. I suspect that at that time, she had just kissed my father.

The jenazah prayers were held in our living room. The room is huge, but it was filled to the brim. Many people had to wait outside. One person that I remember is my primary school teacher, Cikgu Hashim. I can’t remember the exact time when the prayer was held, but I think it was just after zohor. I think it was around this time that my second brother, Abg J, arrived from Kedah.

After the jenazah prayers, the jenazah was carried to a small lorry that was waiting outside. At this stage, I just stood in the living room, not willing to witness the final moments before my father left our house forever.

I think I went to the burial ground with my sister, Kak B. My father’s grave was located near the fence separating the burial ground from the area outside. Kak B and I stood outside the burial ground, just behind the fence, watching the burial process. Right now, that part of the memory is very vague so I can’t write about it in detail.

A few of our family members were not around when my father was buried: my sister Kak Y (she arrived letter); my brother M (he was in the UK); my nieces I (in the UK), Aini (in Melaka), Aida (in Melaka) and Kak Long (she was on a school trip somewhere in Melaka or KL). My uncle, Pak Cik Y, whose house was just a stone throw’s away, couldn’t make it either because of the extent of his grief. He was very close to my father. My grand uncle, Pak Cu Ali, who was already very old by then, came all the way from his house somewhere along the road to Tanah Merah by public transport. I think Pak Cu Ali slept at our house that night.

My family was concerned as to how I would cope with my father’s passing. I didn’t realize that I had been crying hard throughout the day. The truth is that I was not prepared for my father’s death (who would be?). His passing was so sudden; it was a shock to all of us.

As in the case with almost every death, there were regrets. I wasn’t close to my father. I stayed with my parents for only the first 12 years of my life and during that period, my mother was a central figure in my life. This was followed by boarding school, and then public school and university in the UK. I was immature throughout my adolescent life. It was only when I was in the UK that I started to think about our relationship. I resolved to try to get closer to my father.

I came back to Malaysia in July 1995. Almost immediately, I secured a job in KL, some 500km away from home. The resolve faded, I had other priorities. By November 1996, my father had left us.

I had planned to buy my father a few shirts, but I never got around it. There was one polo shirt that I bought for him in the UK. Whenever I came home for the summer holidays, he would wear that dark blue polo shirt almost every day.

Al-fatihah to our family members who had left us.


Mohammad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohammad said...

Thanks, this is really good. Not that I am being insensitive.

I found it really hard for not being there then, it was so...incomplete. Coping with loss is one thing but not being able to be physically there is a different matter altogether.

We held a prayer (solat ghaib) at our house in Old Trafford, there were around 20 people probably, I could not remember exactly.

I remember returning in Dec '96, thanks so much YM for the funding! Apart from visiting the grave, I didn't remember much about the trip, except for the green pair of baju Melayu for the upcoming Raya Puasa (thanks again, YM!) and the photo of me wearing that in our living room with my little niece and nephew, and spending quite a bit of time reading lecture notes for the exam in Jan '97! It was early in the morning, lights still on as I was skimming through pages and pages of differential equations in my folder when N looked at me and came over. She told me she could not understand those notes. I don't understand why I remember this part so clearly!

On the way back to the UK in Jan '97, it was Ramadhan, I clearly remember sitting for buka puasa in Changi with mihun goreng prepared by J, overlooking the evening sky through the big tall window. It was hard not to think about the family, on how things have changed, on how time flys, on how little I know A, and what I have missed, the regrets, and what's in store for the future.

Ummu Auni said...

tq very much for the entry. i was shocked when i found out tok ayah passed away. when a senior told me, she had a message given by a school staff, informing me to call my family, i wasn't thinking how severe/how grim the outcome would be. i only called home two days later, after various attempts by my family to reach us, since we were in the midst of our exam. i almost dropped the phone when my mother told us what happened. aida & i cried, and we tried our best to pull through it since we were having tough time facing our exams (well, i don't ace through exams like others, i'd to read and be drilled).

and i was thinking, if we could just be see our Tok Ayah for the last time. and now i'm feeling guilty when i don't visit Mak as much as I wanted to...

nida said...

tq for sharing the stories. Sebakla.. I always remember him di tingkap and lambai2 to us everytime we leave for kb (masa kecik2 dulu).

aida said...

i have fond memories of tok ayah. masa raya, he will be the one who will be at the window and looking at us playing outside with all those bunga api that he bought.

aini & I was taking our final exam when tok ayah passed away, we have just finished our chemical paper when we got the news. it was shocking, and we are still in the midst of preparing for another paper. that's why we can't journey back to kelantan at that time.

Yasmin's Mummy said...

mohammad: you're welcome. The least I could do for my 'little brother' :). I can only imagine you breaking fast at Changi. Somehow it's at huge places, with huge crowd, that the extent of our vulnerabilities and loneliness are more thoroughly felt.

ummu auni: I recall your parents making many attempts to get you and aida. Like you, I too have to work hard to do well in my exams.

nida: tingkap tu mmg favourite spot dia. dari situlah dia hi-hi semua org yg lalu kat depan rumah.

aida: he was fond of you all too.. cucu2 yg baik. it's understandable that you couldn't make it back.

Ibu WA Alim said...

Saya lewat drop my comment ni bkn krn nak passed by this post tp krn tak sempat..dr pg Sabtu tu sebok dgn persiapan utk family day grup u my hubby..dan kami left our house to somewhere d tepi anak sungai d langat before noon and came back yesterday after noon..lps tu..fengshoi..puko 6 pm baru sibok semula nak ngantar Ali back to hostel..etc..
Kalu saya tulih lg ni mmg akan pjg lah komen kalu tak..peliklah kan?
Ada satu istilah dlm ilmu psikologi yg saya pernah pelajari..jurang generasi..merujuk kpd jurang yg menjarakkan antara generasi baru dan generasi dlm kes yg saya belajar..merujuk kpd jarak antara anak2 dan ibubapa..disbbkan zmn mrk yg berbeza..apatah lg kalu anak yg last2 dr adik beradik yg ramai..tentu saja jarak mrk lbh jauh drp ibubapa mrk..bkn itu sj..mungkin mrk juga berjarak dgn kakak/abg yg first2..
Saya teringat pd sepucuk surat yg saya terima semasa saya masih bekerja di KT drp my little brother di DLB ada sebut..dahlah nak bermanja dgn mek dan abah, mrk dah tua..maaf dik sbt kat public ni..
Saya mengambil masa 3 bln utk membalas surat tersebut..utk memberikan hujjah dan maaf sekali lg dik..your sis ni masih lg dgn sikap tak kisah tu..
Saya rasa my BLF sayang dgn semua anak2 dan biasa bg org dulu2..pulak2 lelaki..tak membelai peluk jauh d sudut hati..awak tau kan kasih sayangnya..
Sbnrnya peluk cium tu diperkenalkan dlm keluarga kita oleh my DSN semasa dia balik bercuti dr MPPMM d sekitar 1992..
My BLF mmg suka beli bunga api d musim raya utk anak2 dan cucu2nya yg masih kecil..wp tak dipersetujui oleh my BM..
Dan dia akan berdiri terjenguk di tingkap tu melihat mrk bermain.. memory Nida tu..saya masih blh bygkan dia dan kami melambai2 tu..
Saya masih ingat pd Jan 97 tu saya jumpa Mohammad d KLIA airport bersama my hubby, Munirah & beb anak lain saya dah lupa yg ianya pd bln puasa..
Pd hari kematian tu, my DSJ menelon kami utk menyampaikan berita my huby yg baru balik dr u..dan baru nak landing kat katil tu memutuskan talian..krn disangkanya panggilan dr pengganggu yg mmg bermaharalela pd masa tu..
Lps tu org dah tak blh nak contact kami sampai ke Sabtu di awal bln Nov itu..sehinggalah sebaik sj telefon tu diconnect be4 my huby nak left to the ofis..masuk call fr my huby's sis tanya dah tau ke berita..saya ckp saya ingat dia nak sampaikan berita anak saudara huby yg baru melahirkan..bila kakW continued..saya tak ingat words dia membygkan perkara yg lain drp yg saya ingatkan..saya tanya, hah ggapa bila dia sampaikan berita tu..saya terus gguling di lantai dan masih bertuala..ingat lg tuala tu putih warnanya..yg saya beli kat jualan longgok di pasar Manir.. baru keluar dr bilik mandi..lg satu drama..yg saya pun tak sangka saya tlh huby yg tgh nak turun tangga terperanjat dan naik semula ke bilik..kenapa ni..dia capai telefon yg saya tinggalkan terjuntai di dresser..dan tau duduk perkara..dia tepuk saya..dia tak berkelakuan ggini..
After that kami discuss ringkas mcm kita drive, huby and Ali..Azim tak ikut kot..
Sepjg jln saya sat2 mengalirkan airmata..sat2 bercerita..hubby kata tak payahla kita rush..kalu sempat..sempatla..kalu tak pon tak la..saya setuju..saya mmg dah mula fhm sikap suami saya..keberhati2annya..itulah kami sampai d sana puko 5 lbh ptg kot..kami bertolak saya pon dah lupa..puko 8/9/10 pg..dah berita pon kami dpt dah 7 lbh pg..nak buat guano..

Yasmin's Mummy said...

IWA: it's ok kalau tak komen panjang pun, tak pelik :). Nak komen panjang pun ok. Mula2 saya tergaru kepala memikirkan DLB tu apa.. then BLF.. you're more advanced than me. Awak mmg banyak drama!

Ibu WA Alim said...

Merahnya makngah..
Mula2 sampai td saya ingatkan ada post baru..lambat sikit nak cam sbb dah bertukar warna..
Kenapa muka Yasmin tu nampak mcm Izzah Syahirah (bt Mohd Din)
Saya dok tunggu awak jwb komen ni..sbb nak sampaikan pesan khusus M utk awak..MakSu MekJah meninggal dunia mlm td. Innalillah!

Mohammad said...

hmm canggih2...saya pon tergaru2 kepala...DSJ, DLB.

BLF tu stand for apa...tahu lah sapa..."B" tu Beloved ker?

sedih ada...kelakar pon ada bila baca IWA terguling dalam tuala...mcm tak senonoh jer...tak sangka IWA berkemampuan buat macam tu...mcm x logik lak.

surat2 tu sy masih ingat...biarlah rahsia..he he..

Ibu WA Alim said...

Sbnrnya IWA nak meniru YM dah terlebih2 seronok bila Ym dan Mohammad pulak tergaru2 kepala..
Gamba Y berbaju kurung tu mengingatkan IWA pd YM masa kecil..
BLF-Beloved Late Father, beto ke penggunaan ni..? Eh awak buat IWA ragu kan best DS2 tu..mcm Dato' Seri dan Datin Seri je..
Sori la IWA tak sensored part tu..
Mmg tak sangka dan tak logik kan? IWA pun pelik..
Sorry IWA dah sebut ya bkn sebat kat public..

Mohammad said...

ok ok..
"biarlah rahsia" tu kena sebut mcm DS Nurhaliza nyanyi..he he..

penggunaan BLF tu betul...
bila IWA tanya betoi ke tak...teringat pulak kat company lama ada budak2 junior gelar "English teacher" sbb suka betulkan penggunaan bahasa mrk dlm Risk Assessment exercise (macam meeting la, tapi lebih pd perbincangan yg ambil masa berhari-hari kat opis)

ps: sajer buat joke...baru meeting dgn supv hr ni (1st semenjak tgh bulan 6)...banyaknya hu

Yasmin's Mummy said...

IWA: merah? it's purple on my screen.
We get many comments abt how Yasmin looks exactly like me.. and also abt how she looks exactly like DH! Pelik. So we concluded that DH and I look alike when we were kids!

mohammad: yes kelakar pun ada bila baca kisah guling2 tu. abt censored parts, nak erase ke?

Ibu WA Alim said...

IWA silap translate IWA renung sekali lg..nampak mcm dark merah jambu..
IWA pun pernah kata, rasanya Y nampak mcm G..
Kalu org lain ckp mcm awak..lps tu org lain pulak ckp mcm G..taklah pelik sgt..
Tp kalu org yg sama, sat tgk mcm awak, sat lg tgk mcm G..
IWA ada teori..sbb IWA tgk anak-anak ni kdg2 ada mix wajah ibubapa mrk..dan bila kita tgk fr different angels..itu yg dok bertukar2 tu..
Mcm org yg dah mula kabur penglihatan mcm IWA ni..kena senget2kan buku beberapa kali utk dpt angel yg sesuai baru blh baca..

Ibu WA Alim said...

Lupa nak sebut pasal erase tu td..blh erase sebhg kena erase semua komen IWA tu?

Yasmin's Mummy said...

tak pasti lak.. err macam kena erase semua je.

Ibu WA Alim said...

Kalu nak delete pun delete sayang dgn shortforms tu kan..?

Mohammad said...

kalua delete dia akan delete semua. Satu cara...
1) copy dulu komen asal ke dalam word...
2) delete komen dlm blog
3) edit komen yg dah di copy dalam word...secukup rasa
4) masukkan balik edited komen dalam blog

pro: tak semua hilang
con: macam tak original sbb edited komen tu akan keluar bawah sekali

Ibu WA Alim said...

Tak payahlah susah2..ambo dah ambil point2 ptg..siap dgn masa rakaman..takut nak tulih kalu tak tulis semula pon rasanya serema dah ingat dah..lg2la bab selimut putih tu..

rohana said...

wei sebaknya ingat cerita dulu2.dah melilih airmata ni. teringat masa sambut abah jatuh terjelepuk dan menghembus nafas yg terakhir.
ni baru cuba nak joint puak2 demo ni , tak reti lagi nak wak blog.