It was a cold foggy morning when we started our journey to put him in his final resting place. The fog did not lift making our drive difficult and at times dangerous along the A41. We lost our way several times to a destination unfamiliar to all of us in the car but we made it there just in time as the hearse made its way into the multi-faith cemetery. It was serene and calm, with the fir trees bordering the cemetery, standing quite still as if to respect the arrival of the new resident.
Several friends, people from the mosque carried the coffin from the hearse to the newly dug grave. The serenity was only broken by the sound of the bulldozer making its way to do its final task of piling in soil ensuring whatever picture we have of him remains in our minds and our hearts. When the work was done, we stood around to say our prayers and doas. Ustaz’s talkin and his last message and reminders to him, who had gone to the other side, brought more hot tears stinging our cold cheeks. We stayed rooted to the frozen ground long after ustaz made his seven steps away leaving him in his final resting place, our feet feeling numb, our hearts feeling empty, yet thankful that he no longer feel any pain.
I remember breaking the silence, saying to a friend; “It is strange that we never thought or fathom who we would bury and who would bury us.” When I met him five years ago, I never thought I would be standing there that cold autumn afternoon, watching him being lowered down into his final resting place. Apart from the people from the mosque and his close relatives, there were other friends of his who came to say goodbye. This was the first time that we all met – none of us knew who belong to which chapter in his life. But I am grateful that I belong to a phase when he was ready to share his fear and anxiety which he then turned into great hopes and expectations at the thought of one day turning that experience into something useful for others. I feel almost privileged to share with him his journal that he wrote in fine handwriting, detailing his fear and loneliness and pain, at times exasperation and despair marked by lots of question marks and exclamation marks.
We walked away, leaving him and made the journey home to London, again enveloped by thick fog all along the way. I felt emotionally drained. Wonda wrote to me to say don’t try to carry too much a burden on my shoulder. He wasnt a burden, he was a brother. Sort of.