Death of my grandmother

My grandmother on my mother side passed away today. According to my mom she died at the age of 90 years. My grandmother wasn’t a Muslim, so the customs and traditions are different to what I am used to, my grandfather died about 10 years ago, I have a vague memory of the rituals. What I do remember that was interesting was he was buried in his best clothes and his belongings and a few items were buried with him.

My grandmother’s body will be kept at her home a few days before being buried. Giving a chance for relatives from afar to visit her. As we arrived my mother sat beside her mother’s body and cried. In islamic and malay culture it is generally not acceptable to wail aloud for the dead nor shed tears, but in this culture it was allowed.

My stepfather tried to calm her down, while my aunts comforted her. Interestingly I had a glimpse of what it would be like if it was my mother that died and I was the one on the side. My only regret was we haven’t visited my grandmother as frequent as I would like, and even as last week we heard the news she was sick, my sisters and I couldn’t find the time to visit her in Limbang. I was actually thinking this saturday was the only time I could, unfortunately today was the day that she had passed.

I couldn’t understand the dialect that my aunts and uncles spoke, but as they explained, the body will be buried tomorrow afternoon at around 2pm. I can’t help but to think how I can fit in my grandmother’s burial with attending a few planned open houses tomorrow.

I was not that close to my grandmother, but thinking of her I do feel a sense of love and respect, and knowing that it felt like it should be enough, but it didn’t. I wasn’t sure if she felt that she was loved and cared for at the end of her life. Most of her kids had migrated from Limbang to Brunei and only visited her occasionally. Sometimes bringing goods, if she asked for money they would give her, she even asked me a few times and I gave what I could, she would appreciate it when she was gifted with a carton of cigarettes as well.

My grandmother was a heavy smoker, despite that, she lived a long life of 90 years. If genetics played a part in that, I would be very fortunate if I was to grow as old as she did, unfortunately on my fathers side, he had lung cancer from just being a passive smoker. So my chances are 50:50 on that one, a chance I won’t take to become a smoker.

As I drove back home, I was pondering on what legacy I would like to leave, on how I would like to live before I die. How I would like to be treated. I think it is important to visit those who are dying and the dead, to remind us ourselves that we won’t live forever, and to remind us what we want to do in this life right now.

As sad as I was seeing my grandmother dead, I was a lot more sad seeing how sad my mother was at her mother’s death. I think it was 2 main factors, 1. Was that she hadn’t visit as frequent as she liked recently, and 2. My mother hasn’t been able to speak to my grandmother in the last 8 years since my mother had a stroke that had impaired her ability to speak.

It seems that I care less on my conditions of death, but I care more on conditions of my life and relationships. I think we should treat each other as if not just everyday was our own last day, but as if it is the other person’s last day as well. As if it the last day for everyone, treat each other kindly while we can.


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