Nenek

(This was a pseudo-hidden post on the other blog i.e. I backdated it. In any case, it was originally written in a notebook on the back of an SMRT 518 bus on Friday, August 28th 2008. I moved it here because I didn’t really want to lose it. I also didn’t want to remember my grandmother with a post about her death, but God willing soon I’ll write about my own personal memories of her. )

***

As I wrote this initially I could see the fireworks explode over Marina Bay. Like human lives, we catch but a brief glimpse of their beauty before they fade into the night.

***

My grandmother passed away at dawn on the 8th of August at the age of 86. Walking into the hospital ward had an element of the unreal, as looking at my nenek I might simply assume she were sleeping. We’d gone to visit her many times in the hospital when she was warded because of one ailment or another, how was this time any different? Even on closer inspection I imagined maybe her breathing was a little lighter than normal or that out of the corner of my eye I might be able to catch her eyelids flutter a little.

After reciting the Yasin, I leaned over to kiss her and it was only then that I felt the coldness of her body. Life had been taken from her. I felt the first touch of sadness breeze over me, chilling more than the air-conditioning could. Still, I thought I could hold myself together.

Muslims don’t have what most people would consider funerals, as generally the body should be buried within as short a time period as possible. The burial had to be held back to the next day though as given the circumstances of her death (being an elderly woman living alone with a maid) a post-mortem was supposed to have been conducted. So the whole family gathered at my grandmother’s place, to make prayers for her before the burial. I still half-expected her to be there even as we mourned her. Why wouldn’t she be in the home she’d lived in for so many decades, after all? I still expect to see her now when I go to her place, knowing full well I’d helped put her body in the ground two weeks ago.

She managed to escape the post-mortem and the body was brought back to the house to be bathed and wrapped in the kafan. Even while waiting for all of this I felt sad, but I thought I was still okay. But seeing her body wrapped up and unmoving, and hearing the recitations from the Qur’an whatever slivers of self-control I had left snapped completely.

I wept.

In the cemetary, after the earth was poured into her grave, I found myself unable to walk away. Faced with her mortality and my own, it was still difficult to accept the reality of her death.

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