Last weekend I lost my grandfather. In the first week of December we discovered he had cerebral tumor. There was nothing to be done; it was an aggressive form.
At the age of 89, my grandfather was a man I knew to be a picture of health and strength. He was rarely sick. Sure, he had been a chainsmoker for as long as I had remembered, but that was it. No bouts of fits, or signs of sickness.
He was administered into the hospital when he had a fit in the first week of December. I visited him then, he was physically fine. He told the doctor how well he felt, that even at the age of 89 all of the teeth he had in his mouth was all "original". I massaged his feet, I gave him milo (hot cocoa) to drink.
We laughed about the time when he came to my hostel back when I was doing my diploma in University, and how he asked around "where to find Junee?" (amazing, considering that there was more than a few thousand students in my uni). He waited for me to finish class, waiting for me with durian and rambutans (local tropical fruits).
He told me of his hopes and dreams, that he wished for me to continue my masters and Phd. It was the only request he ever made of me, in life.
After my visit to the hospital... his condition deteriorated very fast.
He stayed at my aunt's house afterwards, when the conditions got worst. The last time that I ever talked to him while he was still consciously aware of my presence, he kept telling me to pursue my studies. He told me to find a decent man to marry.
Me: Bawo, bawo okay tak? (grandpa, are you okay?)Him: Nak air, haus. (please give me some water, I'm very thirsty)*passes him the water*Me: Bawo kenal tak ni sapo? (grandpa, do you recognize me?)Him: Mestilah, takkanlah tak kenal cucu sendiri. (of course, do you think I would not recognize my own grandchildren?)
Then I massaged his feet. He was so cold.
The last thing I told him while he was still awake was to come back to us, that he had to be there at my wedding.
And then, the next thing I knew, he was comatose. The medication the doctor gave him left him in a forever drugged state. He got progressively worse. By this time, I had accepted that grandpa would never wake up again from his medicated torpor.
I visited him as often as I could after work. Whenever I saw him I would kiss his forehead and whispered, "bawo, Junee dah sampai" (grandpa, I'm here). He would not respond but I would tell him of how my day had been, that I wished for him to come back to me.
During my last visit, all of my aunties stood next to me, urging me to talk to my grandfather. I did not know what to say. I squeezed his fingers, touched his toe, kissed his cheeks. I thought I had said everything that needed to be said. I begged him that he had to be around when my sister-in-law gave birth. I told him he had to be around when I walked across the stage to receive my masters scroll. I whispered to him that he had to return to us, that he had to be standing there when I married, that he had to put his arms around my first child.
Yet he did not return to us. God loved him too much and took my grandfather to His arms.
My mom called me on early Saturday morning, 22nd January 2012, informing me that my grandfather had passed away around 5.30 am. I woke my brother up immediately, and set off to head to my aunty's place.
My grandfather was so frail, and pale, lying on the bed, covered in blankets and sheets. He had stopped breathing. He was not with us anymore. All of his loved ones, his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, lied around him. We all sat around him, offering prayers. Kissed him, looked at him for the last time.
He looked at peace.
I kissed his cheek one last time. Then it was time for his body to be washed clean by his sons. Time for his body to be brought to Melaka, where his body would finally be buried in his resting ground. Time for us all to say goodbye, and watch as they poured earth over his body.
It was then that I cried. That I found tears forming around my eyes. That it was with a realization that I would never hold his fingers in mine again, or gaze upon his face.
During the sermon afterwards, the tok imam said that "we came from earth, and so we must return to earth... whatever our sins and good deeds, all of them will be weighed by Him. No matter how small, He will judge them all... and God willing, the Almighty, the Fair and Just will forgive all us for all of our mistakes."
There's so many feelings that I wish I could convert into words, but my feelings of missing him are so raw, and it's a torrential storm of grief and loss. I wish I could just write it all out but in the end, I think my grandfather (he insisted we called him Bawo; it means abah tua, old grandfather in Malay, and would get mad at me if I did not call him that) knew what I wanted to say, whether I said it with my words or through the simple squeeze of his hands.
Rest in peace, Bawo. You will be sorely missed by all those you had in your life. I don't know if I will ever see you again, but I sure hope I do.
beyond the door there's peace I'm sure
and I know there'll be no more tears in heaven
and I know there'll be no more tears in heaven