It only seemed like it was yesterday that I was writing about the raw grief I felt at losing a grandfather. A few days ago, I went through the emotional wave I did earlier last year, as my other grandfather was called home to his final resting place by Him on Tuesday night, 25th June, at 11.40 p.m.
My mom called me at half past midnight, and I remember the exact words she said:
"Junee, don't be shocked. But your grandfather has passed away. Come back to kampung."
Kampung refers to hometown. My hometown was an hour and a half away. My father and brother had made the journey earlier, and I knew I couldn't make the journey alone, so late, so I called him and asked for his company. He told me there was no sense in leaving now, as my car was in bad shape, and overdue for service. For safety reasons, we should leave in a couple of hours, by subuh.
I felt helpless. I called everybody I knew, who could borrow me a car if they could. Alas, nobody could lend me one. Those few hours to wait until subuh was the worst. I paced the house, I couldn't sleep, I did laundry, I talked to my cats. I was so restless. Finally dawn came, and I left home to pick him up.
The journey back to my kampung seemed like forever. We couldn't drive fast because we were afraid of pushing the car to the extreme, and something would happen. Somewhere along the drive, I finally fell asleep.
When we finally reached my aunty's house, where my grandfather's body was laid temporarily for prayers, I stopped myself for a second. I couldn't look at his body. I went around, saying hello to my parents, kissed my mom's hands. Salam-ed my aunties and uncles.
Then I saw him. I took my wudhu and took the prayer books placed next to him. Read the yasin for the first time in a few months. I humbly submit myself to God and His will to take my grandfather. Who was I, a lowly servant to question His doing? I was to accept that my grandfather, aged 80, who was supposed to celebrate his 81st birthday this Sunday, had left and departed into alam barzakh.
I lifted the thin cotton cloth covering his face and kissed his forehead. Oh, how cold they were! It further reminded me that there was no vestiges of life left in this body. I carry his blood and flesh in my body. My legacy would be his.
Once there was a huge gathering, we had a big recitation of prayers. Prayers to make it easier for my arwah tok to make his way to the next world. Next was the washing and shrouding of his body in kafan (where the body is wrapped in clean, white cloth).
Right before the solat jenazah, my grandfather's childrens, grandchildrens and greatgrandchildrens - his generation- gathered around him, to make a personal goodbye. We were handed a bowl of spices to dust his kafan in. My youngest brother cried, and I cried in turn. He had not known my grandfather as long as I had, does he even know who his grandfather was? Why my grandfather collected all those encyclopedias? What my grandfather did before he was married to my arwah grandmother?
It turns out I would be the one telling my baby brother all these things about my grandfather, and not my grandfather himself. It is true that in Islam, you're not encourage to wail or cry excessively at a funeral, as this would be seen as opposing God's will, so we willed ourselves to cry silently.
When the Prophet Muhammad's own son died, he said: "The eyes shed tears and the heart is grieved, but we will not say anything except which pleases our Lord."
Then there was solat jenazah (prayers for the dead). The final step was the burial procession. This, was always the hardest step for me, because you finally acknowledge that your loved one is gone. My grandfather would hopefully be at peace. When you scatter the flowers and pour water over his grave, that's when you know for certain that He has reclaimed your loved ones. But I hope my grandfather is at peace.
Loss and grief is part of the test. When a person encounters loss or grief, it actually a test, which Allah is putting us through. Allah says, " Be sure, We shall test you through fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil) but glad tidings to those who patiently persevere." - [Surah Baqarah, Chapter 2, Verse 155]