It was two Fridays ago, after the Friday prayers, that my granduncle, whom I call ‘Tok Busu’, was carried out of Masjid Almukminin. It was quite a sight; after the Friday prayers, quite a number of attendees stayed back for the Solat Jenazah. And later, quite a bit of people rushed to carry his coffin into the funeral van. Maybe it’s something about playing a part in sending someone off to the after life. Maybe it’s the beauty (or belief) of someone passing away on ‘Malam Jumaat’, and being able to have his body pray with the Friday congregation. Whatever it was, I thought that scene was slightly magical. And perhaps, unconscisouly, meaningful for me and the people who knew he was the Bilal there in the 80s.
It was around 1am earlier that day that I realised Tok Busu had passed away. My Dad entered my room to tell me of the news. I then checked my phone and saw that an hour earlier, my aunt, whom I call Kak Comel, texted to say she was on her way to the hospital. I did not think much of then, and just made my way to the hospital with my Dad.
“Die tanye kau kat mane Nor..” (He asked where you were Nor..), my Grandaunt said, upon seeing my face in the ward.
How do I respond to that?
That week, when I returned from my Kuala Lumpur trip on Sunday, I think I managed to visit him twice in the hospital. But not that Thursday night.
It was recorded that he passed away on 14 July 12.20am. 20th Syawal. How many times did I visit him during Hari Raya, other than the 1st day of Raya visit? How many times did I have dinner with him during the Puasa month? How many times did I visit him since he fell sick last August?
I lived with Tok Busu, Nek Busu, Kak Comel, and Abang Yan since young. Nek Busu is my paternal grandma’s younger sister. And I was living with them since I was a baby till I was about two. Apparently, when my mother was pregnant with my sister, decided to quit work, and decided to take me back. But it did not stop me from going over regularly, including my emo-angst primary and secondary school days, when I would get angry with my mum over the smallest things, pack my bags, and go over to their house.
That said, I know, as I grew older, the visits became less; over special occasions, and dinners. Even the last few years, when Tok Busu and Nek Busu decided to organise tours to Malaysia and Indonesia, and invited me over, I declined, because I simply did not want to travel with relatives and the older folks they were having. Where was I on Tok Busu’s last day?
We probably brought back his body from the hospital around 3-4am that day. And long story short, things moved on quite fast, for me at least. From the funeral preparation to the burial to the prayers on Day 1, 2, 3, 7 and now Day 20 on 2nd August. (There’s Day 40 and 100 too before we do the annual ones). Accompanying Kak Comel to the cemetery to put fresh flowers there and accompanying Nek Busu at home- since 14 July, I’ve been spending my time 4 nights here, 2 nights home, 6 nights here, 1 night home, 2 nights here. Sometimes I question if my being here is to make up for all the times I wasn’t.
Things moved fast for me, and I ‘blame’ it partly to the fact that I have been through this back in December.
Things are moving slowly for Nek Busu. She still continues with her daily household activities, albeit alone, because Tok Busu is not lying down in the living room anymore. Each day she says “Hari ni dah xx hari Tok Busu tinggalkan kita. Die pergi jauh dari Nek Busu, Kak.” (Today is the xx day Tok Busu left us. He’s getting further.” I sometimes find her seating at the balcony crying. Today I found her eating the ice cream that Tok Busu usually eats- the old school lime and vanilla flavoured one.
Between my Dad and my Mum, they had about 30 years with each other. Between Tok Busu and Nek Busu, it was 40 years. 30, 50, 70 years.. Would the length of one’s relationship affects how much we grief we have when we lose the other person?
Being here with her, and seeing how lonely one can get in their old age, it makes me imagine what my life would be one day. If I get to live that long. Would I also be receiving daily calls from my two sisters, like what my Grandma and the other grandma is doing for Nek Busu, to check on me, asking the most mundane like “Have you eaten?”.
The past two weeks, I’ve been thinking about my relationships more in general. With my Dad, whom I talk to more since Mum’s passing. With my married sister, whom I didn’t speak to for about 10 years, and only recently, especially with the birth of my niece who is now 3, that I acknowledge her existence. With my two other siblings. With friends- those I make the effort to meetup, those I don’t mind cancelling out on, those I don’t reply to. I question my decision to cut contact with my best friend since junior college days (since 2006) whom in my eyes got too emotional after our London trip in Dec 2015. I question my decision to cut contact with someone who loved me unconditionally, just 6 weeks into it, because I felt I had the other person was also emotional and I had to be practical. (Maybe I just cannot handle emotional people).
Time is just too limited to allow hate or regret enter our hearts.
May I always remember to fill it with love and goodness.