I had to fight back my tears as I was writing this piece. What happened to me a few days ago forced me into the agony of losing someone very close to my heart. On Wednesday, 29th May 2007, at 8.35am, my dearest grandma, who I called 'Tok', has peacefully left this world. Her death reminded me of my own mortality....that this world is merely a station before we reach our eternal destiny. Her life on the other hand reminded me that this world is a great examination hall, where everybody will be tested.
When my grandmother was bedridden for about two months ago, my mother set me the example of how a daughter should now take care of the mother. My mother sacrificed her sleep and rest to tend to my grandmother while at the same time tending to the needs of her father, her husband and her little adopted baby. Day and night, she would be beside my grandmother. She would make sure that my grandmother will have nothing to complaint about. Just as a mother would do to her baby, this time, I saw a grown-up child bathing, dressing, combing, feeding and taking care of the mother. A circle of maternal love was no doubt explicit here that I burst into tears and prayed to God so that one day, I will be able to do the same thing to my mother and father. My grandmother died with my mother at her side. Before she closed her eyes...she managed to carve a smile...
My grandmother was indeed a very special lady. Her petite physical build hid the tremendous strength she carried inside her. The wrinkles on her face used to tell 1001 stories of a person who has lived this life well.
Born into a very poor family back in the 1920's, my grandmother had to take care of her little brothers. She was barely 7 years old when their mother died. The mark that stretched from her neck down to her hips tells the story of a couragous sister who was burnt while trying to protect her brothers from a fire outbreak. She then had to lie on some banana leaves for months because of the severe burn.
I believe that life hardship has trained and prepared my grandmother to become a fighter. She was gifted with the ability to control her emotion and endure pain. Marrying my grandfather, for sure, was not an easy task. My grandfather is a typical traditional patriarchal figure. In his house, he is the King. Everything has to be prepared for him at his own convenience. Moreover, as a 'silat' (traditional martial art) guru, he was known for his fiery temper. I can still vividly remember how my grandmother used to wake up at 2am or 3am or whenever my garandfather got home from fishing just to prepare him, a hot cup of coffee. As time goes, I begin to admire the bond between my grandmother and my grandfather. To me, they are the epitome of a traditional couple who proved that money and material wealth do not define happiness. Their bond was solely based on trust, understanding and tolerance. My grandmother was a lady of little rest. She didn't sleep that much. At times, she would clean the fish that my grandfather captured when others were fast asleep. She would sometimes burn the midnight oil to prepare the 'roti canai' dough or noodle for breakfast the next morning. She was the own who taught me how coffee beans are turned into coffee powder. I used to enjoy helping her pound the beans with a special tool made of thick blocks of woods.
When I reflect the time we spent together there are certain things that i regreted doing. Now that I have reached this age, I feel guilty and am angry at myself, for making my grandmother prepare 'henna' for my brothers, my sisters and I. Only then that I realised that the process was tedious. Just before sunset, she would pluck 'henna' branches. She would grind the 'henna' leaves by using a massive grinding stone. Then, she would mix it with some water and turned it into 'henna' paste. We would then circle around her and one after another, she patiently smoothed the paste onto our tiny fingers and toes. She would then cut plastic bags into small pieces and wrap it around our fingers. She will then tie strings (taken from pieces of old 'sarong') around our fingers. Only when all of our fingers and toes were securely wrapped, that we would go to bed. As I grew up, I sometimes wonder, why didn't my grandmother ever say no to people's wish? Why must she keep silent and obey all of my grandfather's order? Why must she succumb to our endless requests? Is that her way of showing her love for us...letting us know that she is willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of her loved ones? Now, when I look at how my daughter pesters my mother with her imploring eyes, I see the spitting image of myself. And the way my mother tries to fulfil my daughter's plea...reminds me of my grandmother. Will my grandaughter do the same thing to me? Will I be treating them the same way my grandmother and mother did?
But again...history repeats itself and that is my grandmother! Someone who has taught me a lot about living this life. May her 'ruh' be placed alongside other devoted believers.
No doubt that human beings are mortal. We will grow old...we will eventually leave this world. But what differentiates us is how well we've 'scored' in the 'test'. I am aware that challenges come in different faces but what is more important for me is whether I would be able to endure challenges with the kind of courage, patience and spirit displayed by my grandmother? Only God knows for He determines this circle of life. This circle will repeat. While there are some being born at this moment, some others are leaving this world.
"Tok, I am already tremendously missing you... Al-faatihah."