This year marks the 8th year death anniversary of my late grandmother. It was on the 7th day of Ramadhan 1425H, 2nd November 2003.
The days surrounding her death were especially significant to me. It was the time of SARS. I had been working at the visitor screening counter at SGH Block 4. I had already tendered my resignation. The Friday was my last day. On the Saturday, she was warded in the same block. I came to visit. My now ex-colleagues were surprised to see me. I told them why I was there. Her name was in a special list that was only privy to the staff. They let me up to her ward where only 4 registered visitors were allowed at any one time.
The instant that I saw her, I was astonished beyond words. It was one of the few rare moments in my life where I thought I saw death right there. I didn’t know what it was then, and I didn’t know how to say it. But I knew that I wanted to be there for her. She told me to massage her back. I did it in a daze. Then she told me to massage harder. Those were the last words she said to me.
Her condition deteriorated quickly and by Sunday, she was moved to the ICU. Many many visitors came and went. At this time, I pitied Mum the most. She looks so much like her mother. Sometimes, when I looked at her, I thought I saw her mother’s face instead. Looking at the situation, Mum told me what her biggest worry was. I realised that she was right and agreed with her, and prayed for my grandmother’s suffering to end soon. I was resting in one of the day rooms when Bro called me, asking me where I was. Then he told me that she had just passed away. But my dear Mum was at home, freshening up after spending long hours at the hospital. I believed she would fly there if she could.
The funeral was held the next day, on Monday, which was to be my 1st day of work at my new job. With a heavy heart, I called my friend in the office and she gave me the direct line to my new manager, who told me to come in tomorrow and apply leave.
Back at my uncle’s house where her body was, I resolved to do the last thing for her, the one thing I’d do to any of my female loved ones if the situation permits. I want to be one of those to clean and bathe her, and I made my intention known early. Alhamdulillah, Allah gave me the chance to do so and I have no regrets. Together with the professional to guide us, a few aunts, cousins and Mum, I was able to do it calmly. But tears start to fall quickly on their own when we started to make her up and make her… beautiful.
But I realised that she was no longer here with us. What we saw in front of us was only her lifeless body without her beautiful soul. I prayed that she be placed among those loved by Allah. Even more blessed as it was the holy month of Ramadhan. And I didn’t cry that much after that.
In the office the next day, I seemed ok. My concerned friend asked me how I was. But as soon as I opened my mouth to reply, the first things that came out of me were tears and more tears. I couldn’t control it at all. My friend comforted me and I let it all fall. That day, I couldn’t speak a word but I still managed to do my work. Then I thought of my cousin who had to sit for an important exam that day. If I was in such a bad state, what about him? How could he do well?
The following day was my birthday. Happy birthday to me. Thank you, Nenek. I love you and I still miss you so much. Sometimes I still see her in Mum’s face. And when someone calls me Jamaliah by mistake, I’d pause for a moment and think of her, before I corrected the person, sometimes in joking manner.