A posthumous letter to my late grandmother.
It poured heavily today the minute I left work. Cats and dogs, the English strangely say. The roads were drenched almost to the point of flooding. Drivers for once were not driving like their houses were on fire – instead they warily maneuvered their vehicles through the ruthless rain at snail pace.
I saw a racing ambulance in the rearview mirror and hurriedly switched lanes to give way. As the wailing sirens and the red flickering lights passed me, I was reminded of the day we brought you home, in an ambulance not too different from the one that had just whizzed by me, and in weather conditions not so dissimilar from the damp darkness that now surrounded me.Opah, I miss you.
Friends who have lost their grandmothers during their adulthood tell me that even after years the overwhelming feeling of loss never goes away. I am a rookie at this - it’s only been three months for me. But I definitely know now what they meant and how they feel.
Have I mentioned how overwhelming it feels?
You made me smile and laugh with every story you ever told. I now desperately try to remember the tales, but alas I can no longer separately remember them all. Save for the last one you told me last Hari Raya, of how your mother didn’t allow you to take on that teaching job you got offered, back in the day when women were expected to stay home and tend to the family. But even at that you looked back on it, not with regret, but with much nostalgia, understanding and forgiveness.
“Farah means girang, happy!” you’d always tell me. I truly appreciated the occasions you reminded me the Arabic meaning of my name. Truth be told, you are one of people in my life that presented me the reason to feel such happiness and love.
The day we laid you to rest was the most difficult moment I ever had to endure. After we bathed you, we wrapped you with scented white cloth, the very one you requested to be shrouded in. We struggled to hold back tears as we kissed you for the last time, for they say it is a bad omen to let our tears fall on you. As we covered your peaceful face, the sobs got louder, especially from your children, for it was the last time we would all ever see you.
At the cemetery, Cousins Iman, Heder and Uncle Jimmy were the ones who scrambled into the freshly dug out space to gently place you directly in the earth. Ustaz Ismail, the imam whose voice calls out for prayer at the mosque near our house, read your last rites and prayers. I am glad it was he who did, you always did like the way he read the Qu’ran. I trembled when he said aloud your name, Chik Sariah binti Sofiah, for when your mother’s name is mentioned after yours instead of your father’s, it really does tell me that you’ve gone home.
I thank Allah Almighty for the twenty seven years He gave me to know and love you. I am sad that you are no longer with us today, Hari Raya will never be the same again. I am however accepting of your departure, and I do believe you are now in a better place with our ancestors who have also left this world.
You were my last surviving grandparent and I will forever cherish you. I pray endlessly for you, like how you’ve always prayed for our safety and success.
With you gone, it sometimes feels like you’ve taken half my heart away. But a kind friend shared a revelation that made me smile through my blocked nose and tear-sodden eyes:
I have half a heart because you gave your other half to me.
Forever your granddaughter.
PS: Will you please send Atok my love?
Read also "Remembering Opah"
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