From left: Mak Nor Zaliha(arwah), Ayah Ngah Aziz (arwah), Ayah Cik Ali, Wan Su Sabariah (arwah)
The children had been looking forward to the "balik kampung' trip to Dungun over the weekend with much anticipation and excitement.
After all, it was their cousin Reeta's wedding, and with a large clan like ours, weddings are festive occasions unto themselves, with kith and kin coming from all over the country to share the merriment and joy.
Little did I know when I left Kuala Lumpur for Dungun in the dawn light of yesterday (Saturday, 31st May 2008) that I was going home to welcome a new nephew-in-law and to bury my mother, all on the same day.
Granted, the news that had been filtering from Terengganu for the last month or so about her health had not been good, but we truly had not expected Mak to pass away just 10 minutes after my niece’s akad nikah (solemnisation of marriage).
Then again, the will of God is not to be denied. We, the siblings, took comfort in the fact that all of us were there with our respective family members to bid our beloved Mak a final goodbye.
Mak had been on dialysis thrice-weekly for the last couple of years. Although in failing health, she was all excited about the forthcoming wedding because it afforded her an opportunity to meet up with relatives and loved ones who live out-of-state.
However, the night before the wedding Mak had a mild stroke and was rushed to Dungun Hospital. She took a turn for the worse and was taken by ambulance to Kuala Terengganu Hospital in the wee hours of the morning.
She passed away peacefully at the hospital at ten the following morning, barely 10 minutes after Reeta’s wedding was solemnised in Dungun.
It was the weirdest of feelings, really. Guests arrived in droves to attend the kenduri and bersanding ceremony held at a beach resort half-a-mile away, just as the body arrived from Kuala Terengganu.
So all of us siblings had our tasks split into two; some attended to the wedding guests while others began preparations for the burial.
Mak was 73 when she breathed her last and was buried after Asar prayers on the same day. She was laid to rest in a cemetery by the sea in the waning evening light, to the rush of the waves in the near distance.
We were fortunate to have our eldest brother, Yusoff, qualified in managing the affairs of Muslim death, taking the lead in the burial.
My sisters and I also felt blessed to be able to do our final duty as her daughters – to bathe and shroud her body – in preparation of her final journey.
It was so heartening to see her numerous adult grandsons, armed with shovels and spades, working alongside their fathers, uncles, cousins and an assortment of male kin, participating in the burial of their beloved matriarch.
And when my brother Yusoff, overcome with emotion while reading the talqin, faltered, it was our nephew Anas, a recent hafiz, who calmly continued where his uncle left off. His opah would have been proud.
Goodbye my dearest Mak. May you have a peaceful journey and may Allah subhanahu wata'ala bless you and place your soul in the company of the faithful.
We know we will miss you tremenduously and with so much pain in our hearts. We know we will shed tears of sorrow whenever we think of you.
Worst of all, we know that Hari Raya and 'balik kampung' will always be a poignant reminder that you are no longer with us.
But we will always love you until we breathe our last. You will never be far from our thoughts. May you rest in peace, Mak. Till we meet again, Al-Fatihah.