Sunday, 20 August 2006

Tribute to a Special Lady

During the last few days, we sat in Kakak’s living room, enjoying a bit of snacks, flicking through old albums and generally talking about this and that. Once in a while I half expected Kakak to poke her head through the window between the kitchen and the living room, asking us whether we wanted any tea or if there was enough food. She never did. And then reality set in. She will never walk through that door to the living room again or ask me if I need more sugar in my tea because just last Monday, we buried her in the place she wanted to be – the Garden of Peace.

The last few weeks had been a difficult time for all of us – especially for Kakak’s family that she left behind and for my children, whom she looked after since they arrived into this world. But it had also been a time of reflection and a time to start growing up. Since the doctors diagnosed the Big C five months ago and since watching her succumb painfully to the dreaded disease, we had all seen the changes in ourselves too.

Kakak came into our lives at a time when I desperately wanted to pursue my career and at the same time be a supermother. In other words, I wanted to be a Superwoman – and Kakak afforded me that. Life before Kakak was a bit of a shamble. I’d take our first born to work, meet up with a nanny ( a different one most days) at the office, breastfed him on demand and did my work. On certain days, my husband would take him to his office when I did my live daily broadcast . But we knew that this couldn’t go on and and we needed to place our trust in someone to look after our son – and Kakak fitted the bill perfectly.

Kakak came to London from Singapore in the late sixties, joining her newly wed husband who had served in the British Airforce. Their four children and our fast growing family of four soon grew up together as a family – a kind of extended family away from home.

Kakak and Abang saw to it that the children were well looked after, well fed while we pursued our career. From the day she scooped our eldest (who was then one) into her arms, we knew we had found the right person. When the rest came she was there to take charge. It was a pleasure to see the children so happy and contented in her living room. Most days, she’d prepare us dinner and on other days fried noodles or beriani ayam ready packed in old Margerine containers to take home. When we had assignments abroad, we didn’t have to worry about who would look after the little ones.

During weekends, we’d ferry Kakak, her children and ours to the mosque for their religious classes and more often than not, the evenings would be spent in her living room watching old Bollywood movies, eating fried noodles or keropok.

It has been about 24 years since we met this family from Singapore who had made such a difference in our lives. The last few years, we had been more concerned about Abang’s health and our children, now not needing anymore nannying, took turns to look after their ‘uncle’ and run errands for their ‘aunty’. After all we live only 10 minutes away from them across the A40. Kakak had complained once in a while about migrane and chest pains, but it was Abang that we were worried about as he lost the use of his fingers and finally his mobility. Kakak’s medical tests didn’t show anything. But the last few years, I admit shamefacedly, that I had not looked in as often as I should have because I had been pursuing my studies. But my children still visited while I phoned once in a awhile. But I never detected the change in Kakak.

I vividly remember a phonecall. Kakak, who was always bubbly and would speak endlessly about almost anything, was just replying to me in “aha, ha, and aha”. Yet I didn’t suspect anything. Our youngest who went to sit with her that afternoon came back and said aunty hardly acknowledged his presence. Kakak used to talk a lot. A goodbye at her doorsteps would usually last half an hour and if the weather was good, it would continue to the car. The first time she was admitted into hospital, it finally dawned on me. Apparently she had gone to her own doctor and then got confused. She couldn’t say anything. Her doctor suspected a stroke and when she was taken to Charing Cross Hospital, they found the offending lump in her brain and later two more in her lungs.

When I saw her that day, she was a little better although she still thought her year of birth was 1874. A succession of chemotherapy later saw some drastic changes; she lost weight and she lost her hair. Last May we celebrated her birthday in the visitors’ room on the eleventh floor of the hospital. She knew and we all knew it was her last. Although she was tired, she was happy to see most of the children she had cared for and her children and grandchildren.

There had been changes that had gone unnoticed. While she was in hospital, I cooked in her kitchen for Abang. Kakak had left clues that we had not picked up. Things that shoudn’t have been in the fridge were there, the usually organised cabinets were not as they should be. There was tea among spices and some important ingredients were nowhere to be seen.

It was two Thursdays ago that I got the dreaded call at work. The doctors were calling in her family and close friends as they didn’t think she would last the day. H was at work and quickly made his way there, R was in the library and hastily left, N and T who were at home dropped everything to be with their aunty. They were all in tears when I got there and we started reading the Yassin. Kakak was by the having difficulty breathing but could still acknowlege my presence.

When the morphine ceased to have anymore effect, she’d open her eyes and try to speak. That night I slept on two chairs by her bedside, listening to her breathing patterns and finally fell asleep only to be woken up by her attempts to pull off her gas mask. That afternoon, she was more alert looking at us intently, one by one. She acknowledged her visitors and squeezed my hand tight and even asked me what day it was. We whispered to her the syahadah and she moved her lips to show she understood. Once in a while she sipped the zam zam water that I brought back from umrah recently. By evening her legs had gone stone cold and the nurse told us that her body had started to shut down. We still harboured hopes that Kakak would stay on until the next morning when her son was due to arrive from Singapore. That evening, Abang, who had been in his wheelchair by her bedside since she was admitted, asked me to check on Kakak who had gone all quiet. She seemed to be asleep. I touched her hand, it felt warm and told Abang that Kakak was finally asleep after a restless afternoon. But how wrong I was. She went very quietly and very peacefully without us realising it.

It must have been around nine when she slipped off quietly. I didn’t cry and couldn’t cry as there were the younger ones, my children and her children who were witnessing their first experience of death. There were calls to be made. The nurses allowed us time to be with her and it was about 3 am that we all went home leaving Kakak in the mortuary during the weekend as we couldn’t register her death for burial.

That weekend saw me endlessly cooking and cooking in Kakak’s kitchen. It was my way of coping. We had tahlil every night since then. Kakak’s children coped admirably – got the death certificate and registered her death and then we raced through the heavy Monday morning traffic to East London mosque for the jenazah prayers. We then paid our last respects to Kakak before following the convoy to the Garden of Peace in Hainnault. It was indeed a peaceful and serene place – far, but nice. Many other members of the Malay community were buried there. Kakak would have liked that.

Kakak would have been pleased too to know that her surau mates were there. For the next three days, they sent food to the house, telling us that Kakak had cooked for them when she was alive.
Kakak’s next door neighbour who hailed from Pakistan told us how every Ramadan, without fail, Kakak donated to her village in the border with Afghanistan, sometimes enough to feed a whole village and even helped build a well in one. It then emerged news of her generous donations to schools around here. How little I knew of Kakak during the last few years of her life.

As we walked back to the car, leaving Kakak to rest in her final resting place, I thought back to the times she visited us at home. Everytime before she left, she’d say, “OK Zaharah, Kakak jalan dulu!”

Yes, Kakak, thank you very much and Al Fatehah.



59 comments:

anedra said...

Al Fatehah. I hope the lil ones are coping fine. Such sad,sad news.

Kak Teh said...

anedra, you have met this lovely person and you musthave known the enormous difference she made in our lives. But of course once in a while, we had a change of nanny!

Atok said...

insyaallah beliau ditempatkan bersama mereka yang dirahmatiNya, amin.

1bloghopper said...

a'kum kak teh. saya ada terbaca kolum kak teh di berita harian semalam, hari ni baru dapat baca versi blog.

it must be a really a big impact to lose someone so dear. may Allah bless her soul. amin.

Jade said...

*hugs*

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Queen Of The House said...

Al Fatehah to Kakak. She sounds like such a nice person. May she rest in peace. I read what you wrote about her death in one of the Malay papers ..... nak uruskan jenazah in a non-Muslim country tidak semudah di sini.

Mama Rock said...

Al-fatehah...semoga roh kaka dit empatkan didalam golongan orang2 yang beriman...Amin.

Kak Teh said...

atok, amin.
1bloghopper, versi blog boleh panjang sikit. in my column i just highlighted certain things that we take for granted idf we are back home. Sini macam2 lagi nak kena pertimbangkan.
jade, thanks.
singapore blogegr association - thanks for the offer.

Kak Teh said...

QUOTH , indeed she was a nice lady. Its quite difficult to imagine that she is no longer with us.
mamarock, terima kasih. Amin.

JekyllHyde said...

Al baqa lilLah...

nadya said...

af-fatihah...

must be a lovely-lovely lady she was.

semoga roh dirahmati allah.


hugs* to makteh

pu1pu3 said...

For a few minutes, I concentrated so much on the loss that you must have felt (and still do) and the pain she was enduring during her lifetime that I conveniently forgot my dizziness and nausea.
May her soul rest in peace and I feel the pain too. Such apt writing.

Lydia Teh said...

Kak Teh, my condolences on the loss of your beloved kakak. Everyone needs someone like her to lighten up our lives.

X-Matters said...

Kak Teh,
Al Fatehah for Kakak. Condolences to Kakak's family.

simah said...

hugs...Al fatihah...but u r lucky to have known such a fine soul...

Nazrah said...

Innalillahiwainnailaihirajiun..memang sah Allah pilih insan yang istimewa untuk bersamanya terdahulu dari kita.

semoga kakak berada di tempat yang terbaik di sampingNya


kakteh pun jangan lupa berehat.

Kak Teh said...

jekyllhyde, terima kasih.
nadya, thanks for the hugs too.
pu1pu3, yes, when things like this happens we put things in perspective.

Kak Teh said...

lydia - she did take the weight off my shoulders and for that I can not quantify my appreciation.
xmatters, thanks and Insyaallah kak teh sampaikan.
simah, yes, indeed i am lucky.
nazrah - yes, i promise.

Restless said...

Innalillah...

*Hugs*

meandbaby said...

my mom baby sits to many children before she take care of her own grandchildren now...and part of them has become part of the family..gatherings..kenduri..tak sah kalau diorang tak datang...takziah to you as you have lost a very wonderful kakak...

MA said...

Al-Fatihah to Kakak.

She is now in a better place.

bisutulibuta said...

Semuga Roh selamat bersemadi bersama mereka yang di sayangi Allah.

newkidontheblog said...

What a moving but beautiful tribute.
My heartfelt condolences to Kakak's family and yours. Sounds like she was such a blessing to everyone.
May she rest in peace.

LifeBloom said...

Al-Fatehah for Kakak. Its not easy losing someone who has been woven into the fabric of your life.

Take care KT.

AuntyN said...

Kak Teh : Alfatehah untuk kakak. Semoga rohnya dicucuri rahmat dan di letakkan bersama orang2 yang beriman. Aminnn.

UglyButAdorable said...

innalillah..may Kakak's soul be among the pious. u take care of yourself too kak teh.

the pain of losing someone u love is unbearable..but Redha is the word...semoga kak teh n family n kaka's family tabah..

S said...

Oh what a beautiful and wonderful lady. I can undersatnd how she will be deeply missed.

Al-Fatihah..

mommy said...

a beautiful tribute. I am assuming that she had a happy life surrounded by people she loved and love her back. I cannot imagine how you feel now to lose someone so dear. But she has gone to a promised place, You take care. *hugs* and alfatihah

sue said...

Al-Fatihah to Kakak.

Kak Teh said...

restless, thank you.
meandbaby, yes, how easy it is for us to embrace others to be part of us and when they go, it is very difficult.
MA, Insyaallah - she is.
BTB - thanks.

Kak Teh said...

Judy, thank you. Any chance of you coming down to London?
Lifebloom - beautifully worded. Yes, she is permanentlyu woven into the fabrics of our lives.

AuntyN- terima kasih.
UbA - thanks - we are coping well.

Kak Teh said...

S - thanks - deeply appreciated.

Mommy, yes, we will all be heading that way, one day.

sue, terima kasih.

AuntieYan. said...

Ai- Fatihah untuk Kakak...sedihnyaaa...
"Setiap Yang Hidup Pasti Akan Mati!"..

may said...

my condolences, kak teh. she sounded like a wonderful lady. may she rest in peace.

tee said...

al-fatehah to a great lady...

Manal said...

She died leaving a good legacy. Harimau mati meninggalkan belang, manusia mati meninggalkan nama.

Semoga Allah mencucuri rahamt ke atas roh Almarhumah KAKAK.

Kakteh, hugs.

Manal said...

sorry typo error:

Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat ke atas roh AlMarhumah KAKAK.

Sedih sampai tersalah type....

Ku Keng said...

inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji'un. Allahummagh firlaha warhamha. May Allah shower lights unto her grave; make it comfortable for her in her resting place and gave her the comfort of time while waiting for the akhirah. May Allah make it easy for her with the angels and may she continue to receive her rewards for her deeds during her lifetime. And may she be placed among the muttaqins.

I could still remember her strong voice, her hospitality and generosity.

Salam to her family

Kak Teh said...

Auntieyan, betul tu, Stiap yanghidup pasti akan mati' dunia ni sementara saja.
May, yes, she is.
Tee - thanks.
Manal,a few malaysian student doctors from the place where u used to live visited her. Apparently they went to the same surau.
Ku Keng, Insyaallah I will convey the salam. Terlupa that u have met her.

norabella said...

Salam kak teh, terharu membaca posting ni. Al Fatiha, Semoga rohnya dicucuri rahmat disamping orang-orang yang diredhai Allah.

Arena said...

Alfatehah.

Kak teh, beutifully written.. as always..

Kak Teh said...

Norabella, Insyaallah dan terima kasih.
Arena, kak teh juga ucapkan terima kasih.

maR said...

Al Fatihah buat Kakak, semoga ditempatkan dikalangan orang2 beriman, amin. Terharu baca this moving tribute about her...

Lollies said...

oh saya teringat makcik yang jaga anak2 saya. masa nak tinggalkan pun kami nangis.

Al Fatehah.

anggerik merah said...

Kak Teh,

very sad to see those who are close to us left. Alfatehah untuk Kakak. Semuga rohnya bersama-sama orang yang beriman.

Kak Teh said...

mar, terima kasih dan Insyaaallah.
lollies, yes, impossible not to embrace them as our family as they embraced us as their.
AM, thanks for kind words.

ubisetela said...

AlFatehah..

Junita said...

Tribute to a special lady...thou i never knew/met her....

I will be here for you
All I want is you
When I see your face
All the Angels are shamed

Lay with me beauty
Feel me close to you
Take my hand to you
Touch you softly. Your warm skin

Cover me with you
Over me under you
Pull me in to you
As one we lay entwined

All I ever wanted
I have, I need never wish again
You are heaven sent

Kak Teh said...

ubi, thank you so much.
Junita, that is so beautiful. Terima kasih banyak. She was indeed heaven sent.

ays_as said...

Al-Fatehah...

moga ruhnya dicucuri rahmat dan ditempatkan dikalangan org2 yg soleh.. ameen..

Ordinary Superhero said...

Al Fatehah an my condolences to the deceased's family.

Blabs said...

Al-Fatihah. What a moving piece.

Has said...

Al-Fatihah to "Kakak". Kakak jalan, dulu, kita akan ikut sama.

Kak Teh said...

ays_as, amin!
OSH, terima kasih. Dah kak teh sampaikan.
Blabs. Thanks.
Has, kita semua akan ikut sama. Insyaallah.

onde said...

Al-Fatihah untuk arwah Kakak.
Semoga rohnya tenang disana. Ameen.

Kak Teh said...

Onde-onde, terima kasih.

kenakelayan said...

What a moving tribute to our lovely Makcik. I tried writing about her but I couldn't. The day I visited the family was the day I finally accepted that she was gone, it seemed so surreal before. On the bus ride I cried. I had to meet some friends and talk about her to calm me down.

She was a very kindhearted lady, full of energy and spirits. And her love for Islam, to me, really lit up her face. May Allah accept all of her deeds, shower her with abundant mercy and grant her a high place in paradise. May Allah grant sabr and ease to her family during this difficult time. May Allah reward her family greatly for their patience and kindness, amiin.

Kak Teh said...

kenakelayan, thank you for your kindness to kakak and for providing the companionship and friendship duringthe last few years of her life.