Kak M was the reason I was able to ride on a mini bus all those years ago when those beige (then later pink) deathtraps hurtled all over town. My over-protective Dad never allowed me to go on one.
She was the elder sister I never had, we shared so many things even though she was 5 years older than me. She was the one who introduced me to Mills & Boons novels, that I read when I was 11! (Prolly not such a good thing, in retrospect. Unrealistic expectations of men and a propensity to go for broody, tortured soul, brusque types..*sigh*) I remember the pen-pal in Alexandria, Egypt whom she used to correspond with when she was 16. We would giggle over his sappy letters and daydream of rich sheikhs who would sweep us off our feet. She and I were both gregarious in nature. The entire family would say that when Kak M and I got together, things would be riuh with our laughter and chatter. I spent school holidays at her home, where I spent halcyon days of love and laughter. Kak M’s father, my Pak Long was never one who was reticent in showing his caring and affection to his children, his niece here included.
Pak Long didn’t have the same opportunities as his younger brothers. When he was growing up, it was the time of the Communist Insurgency. The family sent him off to join the Army at 15, not wanting him to be kidnapped and conscripted by the Communists who came out of the jungle to the villages to (forcefully) recruit members. As a result, Pak Long never finished school, much less have the chance of higher education like his younger brothers. So… Pak Long had to live a ‘simpler life’ than the rest of his family. He lived in a wooden, kampung-style house in Ampang (that his brothers later renovated into a single-storey detached house).
Those days I spent my holidays with Kak M during my school years, the house was still a kampung-style house, built high on ‘stilts’, allowing for a ‘bawah rumah’ area where we children would play. We’d catch bugs under the house, tie a thin string around one of its legs, hold one end of the string and watch the beetle fly round and round in circles!
She was the reason I could experience a life that was rather… different than the one I was used to. Those days Pak Long didn’t even have an indoor toilet for the house. We had to do our business in an ‘outhouse’ toilet separate from the main house. I remember pleading with Kak M to teman me go do a No. 2 in the middle of the night after a particularly heavy, spicy dinner (perut akak omputeh dari dulu, hoccay #puuuiiii). There was no way I was going out by myself to the toilet outside at midnight! She would grumble a little but my kakak never, ever refused any of my requests.
We’d catch the mini bus from the corner down the road from her house and go to Ampang Park or catch a movie at the nearest cinema. We used to either go to the Federal or the Odeon. I enjoyed the freedom that came being with my “big sister”, the life I had home was pretty restricted in more ways than one. I’d catch the bus with her to go back to our gran’s village in Mentakab too occasionally. Somehow, Dad trusted Kak M to take care of me. Dad was very close to Pak Long, hence his special affection for Kak M, who was the closest to her father amongst her 5 siblings.
As I sit here typing this, not caring how it comes out or whether my grammar is correct.. (I will never forget but I just need to write it down), I feel utterly bereft.
Yesterday, 10 December 2014, my beloved sister left us to return to her Maker. She was supposed to leave for umrah today (11 December 2014) but Allah SWT had other plans for her. She was already very sick prior to this and was so excited to have been able to go and perform umrah. An ustaz who also runs a dialysis facility she frequents was willing to take her. Tabung Haji who has medical facilities there in Aziziya were willing to provide dialysis treatment during her time there in the Haramain. I remember the day she received word she could go perform umrah about a month ago, she immediately called me. Her words tumbling one over the other in her excitement… telling me:
“In, I can go on umrah! I can go! InshaaAllah.. please make du’as for me. Please tell Auntie (my Mum – Ed.) also OK?”
So when I walked into her house yesterday, her still-warm body lying on the bed she had laid herself down, my already broken heart broke further into a zillion smithereens seeing her suitcase packed and ready by her bed. She was going to go with her younger sister, Kak T. Kak M had turned blind since 2009 because of diabetic retinopathy. Her need for thrice weekly dialysis and her blindness forced her to give up her job as a lawyer. Kak T was her constant companion, always there to assist her sister, to be her sister’s ‘eyes’ even though she had a career of her own. Both sisters were single, living in a house they shared together.
According to Kak T, Kak M didn’t feel too well that morning. She was preparing to go for dialysis one last time before she left for Jeddah today. Kak T was going to send her before going to work. She saw Kak M sit on the floor by the bed then crawl up onto the bed to lie down whilst she was busy dressing to go out. During that time she noticed that there was something ‘not quite right’ with the way her sister was lying prone on the bed. She called their helper and they both rushed to Kak M who was motionless. They tried to wake her, turned her to face upwards… that was when Kak M took a deep inhale… and then she was gone.
اللهم اغفرله وارحمه وعافه واعف عنه
(“O Allah, forgive her and grant your Mercy upon her, accord her noble provision and forgive her”)
May Allah SWT place her soul with those that He favours, may He grant her the highest jannah. May He forgive all her sins, accept her ibaadah, widen her grave and light it up with noor. May He grant the kind, sweet, loving soul of Kak M His Everlasting Mercy.
We may not have been sisters born to the same parents but we totally were in heart and in spirit. She was the only relative of mine who would just call me for no reason to ask me how I am, to tell me to take care of myself and always to keep my own diabetes under control. We would always joke that we all belonged to the Persatuan Diabetics Sekeluarga (diabetes runs on both sides of BOTH our families), she being the ‘patron’ because the position of Chairperson would be too ‘lowly’ for her long experience with the disease ~ 28 years. My own dear Mum is the Chairperson of our Persatuan. I am just a normal, card-carrying member for now. *sad laugh*
I had wanted to see her before she left for umrah, however my own mother’s admission into the ICU last week kept me so busy that I didn’t get the chance. This is something I will always regret.
We have not told Mum yet of Kak M’s passing, it would make her very sad and in her unstable condition right now it’s not something we want to burden Mum with. Kak M was like a daughter to her too. When we were kids, everything she bought for me she would buy for Kak M and Kak T too. She would drive all the way on the then-unlit roads to the deep depths of Ampang to visit with Mak Long when I was a wee lass (we are talking early ’70s here!) I still remember the menacing darkness, the smell of cow dung, the bhai jaga lembu and his whip whom I always saw during the drive to Lembah Jaya. Mummy and me in her little “Porsche” (another ‘inside joke’, it was actually a teeny weensy Fiat 123).
May we meet again in a More Beautiful Place than this temporary world, Kak M.
I already miss you more than words can ever describe 😦
إن لله وإن إليه راجعون