Death, she wrote.

May 9, 2007

Funerals are seriously depressing shit.

It is the inevitable. I know, and everybody knows. Logically, we know that that’s actually the best thing to happen for her. Uncle said when we cry it’s not actually for her, it’s for ourselves, it’s selfish. It’s true, Mom said, she had actually had asked for an injection to end it all. And I cried even more.

Yet, when I think about her, I don’t think of her in bed, the white of her eyes dirty yellow, pupils unseeing, jaundiced skin hanging loosely around fragile bones, breathing laboured. I don’t think about how her cells were eating away herself, how she had only two teaspoons of milk for ten days, how her mouth was jet black, how when we dabbed some water on her parched lips she started drowning in it. Or how, when I asked, why is she not on the drip, she has no nutrients! They said there was no point as her body functions had already stopped functioning.

I think about her last month, bedridden and sometimes comatose, but stringing her longest sentence in days when she sipped her favourite beverage proclaiming “kopi-o siang hor jia” (black coffee is the best). I think about her at New Year’s already a quarter her size, yet insisting to play mahjong and cards with us. I think about her after her diagnosis when she could still come by my house, sleep in the guest room and ask about how my “friend” was doing in Australia. And sometimes even farther back, when she taught me how to make ba zhang (my grandma’s ba zhangs were the best until she stopped making them about ten years ago when she became too old) or when we hung around the void deck of the first Bishan flat with all the toys she had gotten for me on our shopping expedition. Most of all, I thought of her smiling, and how I greet her Mama oi, hor mo.

Mama siang chin chye.

At her coffin when everyone said their goodbyes, I said, Hello Mama.

And I cried and cried and cried.

But that is what I want to remember of her, the her in her obituary photo which I actually thought was a very flattering shot. Not the Buddhist chants and the undertaker barking commands at us for one ritual, one procession after another for a good five hours. Not the sterile viewing gallery, the robotic legs leeched to the coffin, the torturous creeping to the chamber and how the room vibrated so we knew that behind the door she had burst into flames.

And though this is probably the most cliche thing to say, it has thrown at my face once again the mortality of man. No, this is not the first person I know who has died. Yes, I know, as one of my colleagues so unfeelingly put it, at the wake no less, it’s not so tragic as it’s not as if she was in the prime of her life. (That pissed me off, really. Shen lao bing si, we know that full well. I know because of that, it logically should not be as “sad” as some other deaths around. But really, should we be comparing which deaths are worse than others?)

In any case, it has somehow left me in an oddly contemplative state.

Like, I am the oldest grandchild and she never got to see her first great grandchild (although I never had, and am not having, the desire to have children). Like, I am scared of cancer. Like, I should stop drinking pasteurized milk (because it apparently causes cancer). Like, I should really start treating my mom, and the people around me, better. Like, maybe I should brush up on my Teochew before it is lost to the younger generation forever.

Weird. That’s why I put it down here, so hopefully it will quit running about in my head.


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