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Saturday, February 12, 2005
11:27 pm

Bidding goodbye.

Today, my mother shook me awake at 11:51am, telling me that my grandmother had suffered a heart attack, and the doctor said she wouldn't be able to live past today. So my family hurried down to Tan Tock Seng just in time to witness her passing away - she was pronounced officially dead at 12:55pm.

I think today is a day I won't be forgetting in a hurry.

So, the moment I stepped foot into the hospital, I started crying. I don't like hospitals very much (with good reason, if you ask me) and being woken up with such terrible news isn't particularly heartening. Once I stopped crying like a baby, I felt like we were all part of some badly-acted serial you see on the TV, all of us intently watching the heartbeat monitor, fervently praying that she can last a little longer, long enough for everybody to get to her bedside before she departs for good. I would say everything felt very surreal, because it is appropriate to feel so at such a given situation, but no, it wasn't surreal at all. Everything felt too real. Too damn real.

It's quite odd how I can remember everything that happened today in the hospital so clearly, with painstaking detail. I remember sitting on the floor, next to my grandfather on his chair, both of us bawling away. I remember all of us frantically talking to my grandmother, hoping she would hear us, telling her to stay for awhile, wait for awhile, for the rest to come, before she goes. I remember staring at everybody's red-rimmed, swollen eyes, feeling curiously detached from everything and everyone. I remember touching her ice-cold hand, and being scared to death at how awfully cold it was. I remember not knowing exactly when she passed on, because it was so peaceful, she literally slipped away without any of us noticing it for sure, I think. I remember staring at her face after that, wondering why it looked so yellow and sickly, and my eyes were playing tricks on me then - I kept thinking I saw her chest heave up and down, as if as she were still breathing - but of course, it was just my imagination at work. She was dead by then, of course she wouldn't be breathing anymore.

After the hospital fiasco, everything was a whirl though. Going to my uncle's house, preparing for the wake, falling asleep on the (very comfortable) couch, eating, all those Buddhist rites we went through...they are just haphazard pieces of my memory, randomly drifting around in my head.

But still, like I said, I won't be forgetting today's happenings in a hurry.

Well, the thing is, I do feel sad, but not all that sad for her. After being stuck in the nursing home as a vegetable for three years, reduced to simply lying on the bed and literally stoning, with no means of communication to anyone...I would say this is a release for her. At least she doesn't have to suffer anymore. What I always dreaded was that she could actually hear what we're all saying to her for the past 3 years, and was struggling to respond, but couldn't? Imprisoned by her body, helplessly wanting to scream to everyone that she's alright and to stop worrying about her, but unable to...that's honestly a horrifying thought. If that was the case, death has unlocked the door to her prison of a body, setting her soul free to fly away. We should be happy for her then, no?

Then again, perhaps she had already gone away 3 years ago, when she was reduced to such a helpless, unresponsive state. So, her departure now seems like a mere formality - a physical departure, because I would like to think that her soul had already soared away on its wings long, long ago. I would like to think that she didn't have to suffer all the bedsores and infections that the stroke had left her with, paralysed. I'm glad I had the chance to see her (alive) for one last time, and say goodbye, though.

This is the first time I have experienced the death of a close relative, the first time I had to participate in the wake activities, clad in the mourning attire, required to go through all the ceremonies. I must say it has opened my eyes quite abit. It's the first time, but unfortunately, I know it won't be the last time. Age has this nasty tendency to creep up on us all eventually.

Ah-ma: leave in peace, and rest well. I hope know that you've gone to a better place now, so take good care of yourself, wherever you may be now. Goodbye, goodbye.