The last wave of goodbye

Tuesday, December 13, 2016. 3:59 a.m.

I cannot go back to sleep. My aunt from my mother side, whom we, her nieces and nephews, all called Mamah Rida passed away yesterday. Before I heard the news of her death, my cousin Gita, Mamah Rida’s daughter, messaged me that Mamah Rida was just back from the hospital for a check up. Her hip condition had been worse for a couple of days.

She had this pain in her hip for a few years now. One day she was trying to lift a big bucket filled with wet laundry and something in her pelvis system broke. That incident changed her and she became a large woman with a limp. But she was as cheerful as clear morning skies.

Anyway, back to the day I heard the news, I thought there was nothing serious with Mamah Rida. I thought it was just an unusual spike in pain in her hip that would be mitigated by drugs the hospital gave her. I phoned my mother to tell her this news and urged her to see Mamah Rida but she couldn’t because my father took the car.

I still remember how my mother said it, thirty minutes after our last call that afternoon. “Kak, Mamah Rida maot.”

And I still remember how my body reacted to the news. Sudden weakness on the knees. Excessive need to sit down. I was in a wedding favor shop with V and she thanked the attendant guy and rushed me back to our parked motorcycle.

It was hard to grasp considering Gita just told me not long before – only few hours before – that Mamah Rida was home. I was so naive to think that someone with an illness is better after they see a doctor.

On my way to the motorcycle, after experiencing utter disbelief, I finally bursted into tears. What triggered it was the memory from my childhood: I was about 5 or 6, in my grandparents house with my brother and Gita. Just the three of us. And Mamah Rida as our caregiver.

She took care of us during the days when my mother and my father went to work. She was sometimes mean to us and how at that time I hated her and was so scared of her. She shared this glare with my mother, the glare that terrified me (still does), and I couldn’t wait for my father to come home because by then Mamah Rida won’t be so mean to me.

And to see her, wrapped up, lying lifeless in her cramped living room, in her tiny house, my heart ached. To see her figure under the sheet there… so quiet and still.

When my mother finally arrived at Mamah Rida’s, she untangled the head tie and made Mamah Rida’s face visible. And I couldn’t help but cry like a baby. To see her, eyes closed, with the frown that once scared me, with her lips went grayish, I wonder whether death was painful to her. And I hope now that what pained her was the damage in her hips and that death was what set her free.

After the funeral, I went home and arrived at 10 p.m.-ish and super tired after the hike to Mamah Rida’s final resting place up in the slippery muddy hill. I went to bed straight after taking a cold shower and devouring the leftover pasta we cooked the morning before.

And then here I am, waking up in the middle of the night to the fact that I just lost an aunt. A funny and cheerful aunt. I kept thinking about her tiny house. The sad place she lived and ultimately died in. I recognize most of the furniture as the one that was once in my parents house. Mamah Rida had so little in her possession so she took used cabinets, clothes, utensils, and many things and junks my mother decided not to use again.

I heard later that she managed to travel to Sukabumi few days before her death to attend to something I didn’t know of. Her pain worsened right after she went back home. I hope that she was happy on that day when she was away.

But I couldn’t help but feel deeply sorry for her. In other version of stories, she could have at least led a productive, happy, and prosper life. She may not be a college graduate like her sisters. But she was really kind. She would love to cook us seblak or bala-bala with pempek dressing or extra spicy noodle during our visit to her house and vice versa. I could see that that was her happy moments. She loved to serve and help others. I felt sorry that her life was cut too short.

Then I remember something that Dumbledore said to Harry.

Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.

I want to believe with all my heart that the life Mamah Rida lived was full of love and joy and that others felt this too in her presence.

It’s hard to go back to sleep. My mind kept rewinding Mamah Rida’s exciting contagious high pitch laugh in my head, her voice when she spoke to me, her fondness of saying “Dasar boneng!” and her repeated story of how I always asked for a present every time she was back from work when I was very little.

“Dulu kamu pas Mamah Rida pulang kerja teh sok minta kado. ‘Mamah Rida, koda! Mamah Rida, koda!’ Gitu ngomongnya. Inget gak?”

I always liked it when she told me that story. The last time we met was this year’s Ied holidays and that story came up.

I will surely miss hearing it from her again.

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The curtains were blowing in the gentle morning breeze. Looking at the children, Death said quietly, “Cry, Heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life.

Glenn Ringtved


This is originally written as my journal (ahem, diary) post at the time I couldn’t sleep. I suppose I could share it here for others who may recognize themselves in the story and may find some consolation, if any.

Featured image courtesy of Lukas Budimaier via Unsplash