If Roses grow in Heaven
Lord, please pick a bunch for me.
Place them in my Mother’s arms
and tell her they’re from me.
Tell her that I love her and miss her,
and when she turns to smile,
place a kiss upon her cheek
and hold her for a while.
Because remembering her is easy,
I do it every day,
but there’s an ache within my heart
that will never go away.
For 3 days and 3 nights, we held prayers for my beloved Mum. The house was full of relatives who’d come from all over the country to pay their respect, together with neighbours and friends. They joined us in reading the surah Yassin and the Koran. My father, my sister and I were very grateful to all of them for their condolences and for their assistance during this very difficult and sad time. We pray that Allah will keep us strong and ‘redha’ that my beloved Mum is now in a better place and she will always be in our prayers.
The 3 of us, Abah, Dee and I spent the time reminiscing of the happy and not-so-happy times. We laughed, we cried and we laughed some more. The telephone never stopped ringing from concerned friends and relatives to make sure we were okay. My relatives who lived nearby popped over every few days which we were very grateful for. Babe called me every night to make sure that I’m holding well. But there were wobbly times when the tears never stopped flowing. It was hard. We were in a daze most of the time. It was surreal, and felt like a dream.
I called my best friend, CYH, to tell her that I was in Malaysia. Her brother, Jack, answered and when he found out who I was gave me an upsetting news. CYH was in a critical condition with Stage 4 cancer of the womb. Dee rushed over when I dropped the phone and started sobbing. Since Eriq was at home, we asked Abah if it was ok for him to be on his own for a few hours. Eriq then gave us a lift to the KL general hospital where she was admitted.
There we met another good friend. JJ who was waiting for us. We walked into her room and everyone left the 2 of us. Although very heavily sedated, she recognised me and we were able to have some very personal chats. The last time I saw CYH was 2 years ago. In fact, everytime I’m back we always meet up. More visitors turned up including my former colleagues which I’d not seen for nearly 20 years. It was a very sad time to meet everybody. I gave CYH a kiss and said a prayer and said goodbye. I’d a chat with Jack who promised to update us with any news.
JJ took us to lunch at the popular Basil Thai in Bangsar Village where her beautiful daughter joined us. We ordered sticky fragrant rice with steamed siakap with lime and chilli, stir fried kangkong wth belacan, stir fried black pepper beef and mango salad with dried shrimp. That was a feast and all washed down with icy cold fresh juice. We’d a wonderful time catching up and then it was time to leave. They gave us a lift to Pasar Seni where I wanted to get tee-shirts for Babe and fridge magnets. While we were in the shops, the heavens opened and I’d my first encounter of a typical Malaysian thunderstorm. Thankfully, we were indoors. As soon as it began to subside, we rushed to the bus station which was just opposite the complex.
We were hoping to get a direct bus to Port Dickson but it was only running at 7 pm. So we took the bus to Seremban and from there another bus to Port Dickson. We managed to fall asleep on the first leg of the journey. In Seremban, we warmed up at Dunkin Donuts with coffee and bought a selection of yummy doughnuts for Abah. Then we boarded the bus back to Port Dickson. I was busy checking out the route because it was nearly 20 years ago I was last on it. From PD we took a cab back to my parents house. It was nice to be home.
One of my cousins were having a majlis cukur jambul for her first grandson. It was a baby’s rite of passage where the baby had it’s first haircut, done accordance with Malay tradition. It was also a celebration for the arrival of the lastest member in the tribe. Prayers were recited or sung known as marhaban or berzanji. The new parents took turn to carry the baby to their closest family members including moi, village elders and religious leaders who then snipped a lock of hair. It was also customary for those who did the honours to present the baby who was now bawling his heart out with a little gift in cash or kind. The locks were put into a young coconut shaped into a bowl. The guests were then presented with a quintessentially bunga telur in a bag packed with towel as a party favour. Thank you so much.Once the ceremony ended, the hair was then buried.
A ray of hope flickers in the sky
A tiny star lights up way up high
All across the land, dawns a brand new morn
This comes to pass when a child is born
A rosy hue settles all around
You've got the feel you're on solid ground
For a spell or two, no-one seems forlorn
This comes to pass when a child is born
And all of this happens because the world is waiting,
Waiting for one child
Black, white, yellow, no-one knows
But a child that will grow up and turn tears to laughter,
Hate to love, war to peace and everyone to everyone's neighbour
And misery and suffering will be words to be forgotten, forever
We then joined the rest of the guests for a traditional Malay spread. We helped ourselves to fluffy steamed rice, chicken and pineapple in spicy coconut milk, fiddlehead fern salad, lobster sambal and dry lamb curry. It was very, very spicy but very, very yummy. It was also a very hot day that I indulged in tall glasses of icy cold syrup. It was lovely seeing all my relatives again in a different setting. We didn’t go home straight away because it was my second cousin’s daughter first birthday and they were having a party. While preparations was being made, Dee and I took refuge in one of the air-conditioned rooms and had a short siesta. About an hour later, we joined the celebration wishing the one year old Amanda, a very happy birthday. Then it was time to head back to Port Dickson.
I settled into a routine by accompanying my father to the market every morning. It was a time for father-daughter bonding where he told me of events that had happened. He was so proud of my sister for putting everything down, no questions asked to look after my late mother. There were tears but he was very happy looking after my late mother for nearly 20 years. When I mentioned this to my sister, she was again in tears. The tears were never far away to be honest while we stored away our mother’s things. We kept all her things and we planned to give some as gifts to close friends and relatives and donated to the mosque and charities. May Allah keep our mother under his care. Amin.
My sister and I also popped over to her house in Pucong to collect her car. We spent the night there before driving back the next day. We don’t want to leave my father alone too long. But first, my sister wanted to have a hair-cut and I had mine trimmed too. We bought Hainan Chicken rice for the children and brought a few packs to Port Dickson. On the way back, we stopped at MacDonald for double cheese burger with chips and polished it along the way. We passed a few places where we’d picnics as a family and the tears flowed freely again. We missed our mother so much.
We also made a trip to a very popular beach about 8 kilometres away. I wanted to get another t-shirt for Babe and also checked out the beautiful sunset. Teluk Kemang had developed so much that we missed the entrance. The place was buzzing and it wasn’t even the weekend. I think the locals were taking advantage before the crowds returned. I was so tempted to have a dip in the warm, blue sea but we came unprepared. Next time, perhaps, together with the children. Food stalls, gift shops and picnic sites dotted the beach alongside hotels. resorts and motels. We went home as soon as the call for Maghrib prayers was heard.
Earlier, we drove a bit further to feed a family of monkeys. The road cuts through a forest and the monkeys would come down to the roadside to search for food. It seemed to be quite a popular tourist attraction because there were plenty of lay-byes where people stop to feed them. When we arrived, there were already a few cars parked. No one gets out the car because these were wild animals and were quite aggressive. We slowly rolled down the windscreen and chucked out fruits, nuts and biscuits and quickly rolled them up again. They slowly turned up and there was a bit of scramble and fights before they settled down to eat. It was also quite a challenge to take photographs. The only complaint was that the rubbish left behind which were harmful to wildlife. I must remember to write to the district office to put up signs to ask people to take the rubbish home with them. If there were signs for traffic to slowdown because of these animals, I’m sure the authorities can put up a few more.
“Well, they say monkeys don’t talk and I say don’t you squawk;
monkeys may not be Mr. Spock, but they sure do talk.
I was out there in the jungle and I heard a monkey say
Sweet, baby, hey, hey, hey and that wasn’t just a mumble.
You see, monkeys got a lot to say, and all you’ve gotta do is listen,
Because their words sure do glisten, and that’s for each and everyday.
No, it;s not just jibber-jabber signifying a whole lot of blabber,
It’s words that you’ll get blushing, so careful, don’t you start gushing.
Sweet, baby, hey, hey, hey that’s what monkeys like to say,
So don’t say they don’t talk because that’s just a squawk.
I was also blessed to be able to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan with my family. I’d not celebrated the fasting month in Malaysia in nearly 20 years. Bittersweet for me. One of my nephews, Evin who was working as a chef, came over to Port Dickson to join us for breaking the fast. It was also the opportunity for him to show off his skills by cooking up a storm. He prepared sweet sour carp, prawn curry and kailan in oyster sauce which were scrumptious. He was really a very good cook and I wished him all the very best. In fact, he was offered a post in Mauritius but turned it down because he doesn’t want to leave his girl friend. Aaah … young love. We also checked out the Farmer’s Market to see if there was anything that we fancied. It was quite dangerous going food shopping when you’re fasting. But we managed to restrain ourselves.
“There is an unseen sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. We are lutes. When the soundbox is filled, no music can come forth. When the brain and belly burn from fasting, every moment a new song rises out of the fire. The mists clear, and a new vitality makes you spring up the steps before you …”
Then it was time for me to fly back to the UK. 2 weeks flew very fast. It was so hard to leave everyone but this is the reality of life. I went to my Mother’s grave to say goodbye and to have a little chat. I’m in tears writing this. I love you Emak and you’re forever in my heart. I left Malaysia at 11.30 am and arrived in a very hot and dusty Dubai at 2.30pm. I donated a prayer mat in memory of my mother at the praying room in the airport. I didn’t have to wait long and boarded the plane to Birmingham. Throughout the journey, to and fro, I watched Cinderella which was ok, Night at the Museum III kept me confused with The Mummy films, The Hobbit was rubbish and so was Jupiter rising. I hated watching films but at least it helped past the time.
When the plane touched down in Birmingham, there was a very long queue at Customs. It was worse at the non-European section where we were warned that it would take us more than an hour. I called Babe to tell him that I would be late. After about 45 minutes, it was my turn. The Custom Officer was polite and asked me how long and why I was away. She stamped my passport and off I went to collect my luggage. Because of the long queue, I didn’t have to wait long for my luggage. I called Babe to inform him that I’m out and will be waiting for him outside at the concourse. I nipped into M&S for a drink and waited for Babe. It was lovely to be back.
“Where we love is home
home that our feet may leave,
but our hearts”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.~