She left in her sleep a few days ago, and it still feels a little unreal. I think the really sad part is the fact that I’m not really that sad.
Sort of like hearing about the passing of a friend’s loved one. You feel sorry for them, but the major emotional impact isn’t there.
She’d been living with my aunt for the past maybe 5-8 years, with her final days spent confined to her room, on her hospital bed, barely able to open her eyes for more than just a few moments. I last saw her only two days before, and she seemed to recognise me. It was my first visit in more than three months.
Some people say intentions matter. And over the years I kept trying to find ways to earn not just enough money for myself, but for my family as well including her. At her age she deserved a better place than that room. Each year would be better, I told myself. Then everything will be OK.
But the truth is, we abandoned her and my aunt and her family who cared for her. And now it’s too late.
We laid her to rest at Pusara Aman, one of the oldest Muslim cemeteries in Singapore, near the old mosque.
As we performed the funeral rites, I wondered about when she was born. Were her parents happy? Did her mother play with her when she was two years old, the way my wife and I play with my daughter now?
Did she cry when her mother gave her up to a Malay family? I never knew the real reason. Maybe it was because of the Japanese occupation; for her protection. The Chinese were being specifically targeted during that time.
What were her hopes and dreams? Did she ever get on a plane? It was a pipe dream for people like her back then. I’ll never find out now. Not from her, anyway.
Once, she gave me a hundred dollars. This was a fortune to her. At the time her health was already in steady decline and her financial status was in a worse position. The government had recently given cash or cash vouchers to Singaporeans for a reason I can’t recall now. And she chose to give me part of that money.
Years later when she’d become bedridden, she chose to give two dollars I think to my daughter in a packet, for Eid Fitri. Again, another fortune. According to my aunt, she insisted on the cash being hers.
It was a beautiful day when we lowered her into the ground.