Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Chronicle of Mak's Illness - Part I


My mind has been going round and round, at times in circle.

And I am still not seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Obviously, I know I would not get anything out of this mind-less activities - the pun was intentional. To see light at the end of the tunnel, one has to travel in straight line, and not in circle.

I have the been reflecting of events in the past 2 1/2 months, and they left me wondering, puzzled and bewildered. We aren't sure (yet) of what inflicted mak. A week after her death, we are still in the dark. We know a bit more now, bits and pieces, but the final jigsaw may not be forthcoming.

It may not come at all - for that we need to do post-mortem on her, which was not part of the plan.

For closure, I would like to know. For our own health, and that of my siblings, I need to know.

As I have mentioned, even after Mak's illness took turn for the worst, I was still of the opinion that Mak would get well. After all it was (only) infection. It was not (even) terminal. It was not the most difficult things modern medicine had knowm. Nothing that antibiotic could not handle. She was on Tienam at Ampang Puteri, supposedly a potent, if expensive, antibiotic.

But it did not work.

There was an underlying condition that would not allow Mak to get better. Was it cancer? Was it some form of blood disorder? Mak was adamant at Ampang Puteri that she did not have cancer. There was no indication from her siblings, or mother (nenek to us), that they were, or are, afflicted with any form of cancer.

We would like to think that we are a cancer-free family.

But now that the reasons of Mak's illness are not known, I am left puzzled. 

And bewildered.

Hussein Onn (1 July 2012)

On 1st July 2012, a mere 2 1/2 months before she passed away, she was happy and healthy at my house. We had a small thanks-giving feast as her two grandsons were embarking fresh initiatives in their lives. She was seen chatting with her sister, and children. I did not see whether she was really eating, but there was ample of food for her eventhough she was not a fan of lamb, nor nasi mandey to be honest (it is too dry for her taste, she told me).

Other than looking tired - she even slept mid morning that day, but I thought she looked healthy. And very normal that day (week).
Mak napping mid morning after the the lamb went
on the panggang. I did not think this was abnormal
It was about 3 pm, when Maksu and family arrived and by then Mak was her normal self. Or so I thought.
Mak was all smiling watching the antics of her grandchildren, as seen
with Aishah and Tajuddin. She was seen as a bit more serious
throughout the day, but I attributed it to her being tired.
From there on, my memory starts failing me. How long were she in my house? Where did she go after staying at my house? As far as I know, she did not return to my home, until the day of her own funeral.
Mak with her sister and KSham. She was attentive, listening
to her sister. But she is still ok then. There was no complaint
about her health failing, not abruptly anyway.
Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Kelang (Thursday 19 July - Saturday 21 July)

When she collapsed in Shah Alam, and subsequently admitted to Ampuan Rahimah hospital, while I was not there during the initial period at HDU etc, she was her jovial self at the general ward the next day. I spent a whole day there with her - I remember that very well since I had to ponteng solat Jumaat to do that, only to find the I could even see the mosque, and hear the khutbah from mak's ward. I spent another half day the next day - after visiting Cikgu Wari at SDMC, before she was discharged that Saturday afternoon 21st July.

We watched with sympathy her Indian next door bed-neighbour, who was pregnant, but she was afflicted with a severe case of epilepsy.

She was cheerful and looks healthy on the first days of Ramadhan. I had a breaking fast session at my sister's in Shah Alam the next day together with Mak (Sunday 22 July).

Actually, I was at Sukarno Hatta when I was informed of her admission. I was preparing for the worst actually, but upon arrival, she had stabilized. I was so glad that she was all smiling when I saw her, and I believe she was all smiling when she left the hospital.

She had collapsed due to hypo. So I thought there was nothing serious. A common condition for those with diabetes. Nothing hot milo cannot help!

But one thing we were told at Ampuan Rahimah, which we did not follow up is the cancer marker test HTAR was doing for Mak. They were looking from this perspective when informed of Mak's daily battle with fever. In other words, we were told quite some time ago that there could be some underlying problems with Mak that would cause her infection - and fever - to persist. The test itself was supposed to be completed in Sept, and Mak was supposed to have an appointment at HTAR for follow up review.

(Mak at this stage was in good health. I even managed to visit HCM City with my family, and Mak even sms-ed me asking whether I had made it there. I replied, informing her that I am in Vietnam. So at this stage, there was no worry about her health.)

Hospital Ampang Puteri, Ampang (1 Aug 2012)

After she was discharged from Ampuan Rahimah, I am not sure when she went to my sister's home in Ampang. Another sister (in Australia) was pestering mak about her knee, so KSham asked if I cold help her bring Mak to an orthopaedic at Ampang Puteri. That was the 1st of August. "Mak cik," the surgeon exclaimed, "For a 73-year old, your knees and legs are in very good condition."

That was his verdict after doing a series of tests on Mak.

"But since she has diabetes, she should be brought to an eye specialist to have her eyes examined," the doc told us.

From him, we learned about the severity of diabetes. The nerves on the legs, the internal organs, and the eyes may all be affected if one has diabetes. I did not know that, I learned many things about diabetes from an orthopeadic surgeon.


He gave some vitamins, and something to increase mak's appetite. So while we were waiting for the pharmacy, we looked around for her wheelchair. She can walk on her own, but not for long and only for short distance, so it seems natural for us to start looking for one for her. We bought some mihun goreng at the lobby (they were already selling kuih raya on the early days of Ramadhan), and left for home.

With her being given a clean bill of health, knee-wise that is.

I spent 15 more minutes with her at my sister's house, before excusing myself to go back to office, and within 10 minutes of sitting down (at the office), a text message from my sister informing to come quickly as "Please come. Mak jatuh."

As I was driving on the MRR2 heading to Ampang, I had thought that my sister might be lying to me. I thought Mak had gone, and that she was trying to be kind to me by not informing, or giving half-truth statement. I was getting teary - while I was driving, but to be honest, if she had gone by then, it would have been easier to accept it as I had given her one of our best services for her, minutes earlier. I was preparing - psyching myself - for the worst.

When I arrived, I saw her lying flat on her back, but she was conscious. I was relieved. By then, KSham had called for an ambulance and her neighbour doctor, who quickly concluded that she did not collapse due to stroke. But she was in pain due to her fall. A couple of times she even throw up, while being carried to the ambulance.

But help was on its way. Soon she was on the way to Ampang Puteri.

Hospitalization at Ampang Puteri (1-13 Aug 2012)

Again, hypo was the reason of the collapse. She had not eaten much that morning and by then time she had her mihun goreng, it was too late. She had wanted to go to her room, while my sister had gone to her room (leaving her alone at the living room). That was the mistake - Mak could not, and should not, be left alone at all.

That was the start of day that Mak was never left alone again, until the day she passed away.

So with her room not yet ready (she spent about 2 hours at the day bed, and she was getting restless), we pestered Ampang Puteri - at Mak's behest - to give us something that's available (i.e. upgrade her), so Mak was accorded a VIP suite that day upon admission. I guess it was her children enjoying the facilities better as we were all there. We were feasting in the dining room during the breaking of fast. The foods were nothing to shout about - nasik bungkus mainly, but hey, we were in a suite we thought was priced at RM1,000.00 a night (later on we found out that it is actually about RM600 a night).
Mak is a bit more cheerful after her admission that day, even watches
the news with us. She was not critical at all while at Ampang Puteri,
but there was no doubt that she was ill.
We had thought of continuing at the VIP room, but we decided against it later. We thought we should spend the money on medications and tests. There is nothing a normal single-bed room could not care for her.
A suite fit for VIP, but it is nasik bungkus for breaking of fast
that evening. No complaint I guess, it is a new experience of berbuka puasa
with Mak at the hospital, an experience that we will undergo again
and again the next few weeks with Mak. This is taken on Aug 1, 2012.
So all in all, she spent 12 nights at Ampang Puteri. It was a very long 12 nights and 13 days for many of us, obviously more so for Mak, and we took turn to care for her. She continued to have her daily fever, and daily recovery; she continued to have vertigo. "Mak pening," she would tell us. "Mak pejam mata, dan jangan gerak," we responded, holding her still at the position whem the vertigo happened. But she did not show anything that would give us an indication that this was it; that she would be leaving us very soon.

I thought initially that she would be hospitalized for a couple of days; soon days turned into weeks, and I was getting edgy that she was not showing any sign of recovery. The doctor had changed her antibiotic multiple of times, and each required a couple of days to see the effect of the new medication, but Mak continues to have fever on a daily basis.

We weren't heading anywhere with Mak's illness, except that I now know a bit more about antibiotic - Tienam and ciprobay. I have no idea why they had to name an antibiotic after the country Vietnam! ;)

I would normally be at Mak's side early in the morning  - about 7 am to be precise, and I would normally do the day shift. Typically Mak would still be asleep when I arrived. I did not think twice about being there - normally I don't have to do much anyway, but was hoping my presence would give her some strength. Someone from the family had argued that the reason we put her at Ampang Puteri (a paid private hospital) was that we can rely on the nurse to do their job and take care of her, but even at this stage, we knew Mak wanted her children to care for her.

24 hours a day.

It never crossed my mind that she was demanding too much out of her children. I thought that that was the least we could do. She has 12 children, so if we were to take turn, it would not be a chore at all, but will be a great change of pace and life for many of us, and a way to show our gratitude. Sharing the tasks of caring for mak would make it easier for everybody.

It is not everyday (or everyone) we were presented with such opportunity. I didn't think of it that way then; I was only doing it for her, because she is my Mak. But in hindsight, Allah had given us - her children - our last chance to care for someone who had cared so much for us throughout her life.


And she would know it if you were not there. Even at night. So don't you just slip out - you better let her know if you need to go down to get coffee or newspaper. Oh, anyway newspaper is hand-delivered everyday, so you don't need much other than to just keep her company. Just sit there and read the newspaper. Keep her company, and helped her when needed, or when asked.

Or chat with her; it was not too much to ask, was it?

Mak finishing the satay Akmal bought her. Perut, ayam for her -
at least 4 cucuks I can see in her tray. I think she finished her fruits,
and the homemade bergedel too. Her two daughters can be seen preparing
more meals in the background. This is taken on Aug 5, 2012.
At this stage, Mak was still ok with her food. She was eating the bubur nasik KSham cooked for her. Eagerly. She thought it was good. And it was good. On the other hand, we complained that there was no menu to order at Ampang Puteri, so we can't instead shared her (hotel) food ourselves. But there was ample of good good nearby and elsewhere. And De Palma Ampang also on a daily basis offered Bubur Lambuk, so one day I took a couple of packets home. They are so so. One day, Mak asked for satay, and I told Akmal to buy them in Kajang for his nenek. That evening I thought it was one of the best buka puasa we had with Mak for a long long time. To me, it was the highlight of Ramadhan (2012) to be honest. Ample of foods - satay, Kenny Rogers and home cooked delicacies.

And of course, there was Mak.

K Sham and family, my family and I, Aishah and Tajuddin, and Farah and family were all there for buka puasa on Aug 5. While we did not have the VIP room anymore, we used whatever extra room beside her bed (i.e. corridors) to have our breaking fast meal. I am sure Mak was happy at that point in time - her children and grandchildren having meals at her hospital room, next to her bed.
Just beside her bed, her three cucu are waiting for
the time to breakfast. Satay and Kenny Rogers
for them that evening. Aug 5, 2012.
That was not the only buka puasa with Mak. My family and I had had another buka puasa with Sarah cooking Laksa johor which she ate too. That was another good private session with Mak. I am sure individually KSham, Ani, or Aishah would make buka puasa a more joyful events for Mak.

On a daily basis.

They spent more time with Mak than I did, to be honest. For that I am thankful and grateful to them.

All in all, in hindsight, I thought it was a rewarding Ramadhan in term of caring for Mak, and having buka puasa with her. If she was living in Taiping, we would not experience this, or may experience this only in the later part of the month when we returned home for Raya.

For that, I am a satisfied son.

But Ampang Puteri kept on changing her antibiotic as they seems to have no effect on her, kept on doing MRI, CT Scan and many other tests that at times they seems redundant, as they yielded no new information about her health.

I was getting agitated, and beginning to think that APSH was getting a bit incompetent in getting to the roots of Mak's illness. 

"We need to get a second opinion - very soon," I told KSham. "We are not getting anywhere with Ampang Puteri."

There were many things I did not like at Ampang Puteri. They wanted to do X-Ray on Mak, so the nurse went in to wheel Mak out to the X-Ray lab. But Mak was complaining that she was tired and didn't want to go. 

So I told the nurse to "please bring the X-Ray machine to Mak's room!"

"Tak boleh. X-Ray department suruh bawa Makcik kesana," the nurse tried to justify their action.

"Kalau Ampuan Rahimah pun boleh bawak XRay machine pergi ke pesakit wad biasa, takkan Ampang Puteri tak boleh? Mak kata dia tak larat," I was beginning to question them. I was adamant that Ampang Puteri could do better to lessen the pain and agony of their patients.

"Hanya doctor yang boleh authorise X-Ray machine di bilik pesakit," kata nurse lagi.

"Then call the doctor for me; I will talk to her." I was beginning to get irritated. At Ampuan Rahimah, I saw it with my own two eyes how the X-Ray technicians wheeled the machines doing X Ray at the normal ward itself. "Anyone pregnant?" they asked other patients and guests in the vicinity, before doing the X-ray on the patient in her own bed.

You are talking about first class service in a third class ward.

If I were the Health Minister, I would tear the Ampuan Rahimah Hospital building down. The building is an eye-sore, but it is a wonderful hospital, manned by wonderful and hospitable staff. I have no complaints the 3 days Mak was there. The doctors were attentive; nurses served patients with a smile.

But here at Ampang Puteri, Mak was not getting the services I thought she deserved.

In the end, Mak's X-ray was done in Mak's room. So it can be done; so it was not a problem. But you had to fight for it. If that was not sheer laziness on their part, then I don't know what that is. If they are hiding under some SOP, I would like to tell them to get rid of that SOP. The staff manning the facilities should let go of their ego in wanting patient to visit them and do their job in the comfort of the room.

It is about the patient, and not about them.

But that was not my only complaints. "Give us a couple of days for us to test the new antibiotics," Dr Shakinah would always tell us. It was always experimenting with drugs, or it seems that way. They need more time to do this and that.

And Mak was not getting any better.

The doctor herself was puzzled at Mak's non-responsiveness to the treatment.

That was certainly not a good sign.

(to be continued)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Have you ever really loved a woman?


This was written way back in May 2007 - for mother's day, and posted in my now defunct Yahoo 360 blog. Now that Mak is no longer around with us, I thought I should re-post it here. And yes, Mak had read it; I am sure she was amused, if not embarrassed of what I wrote here.

I did not write this just because I wanted to eulogize her since she is no longer with her. That's too typical, and I am not a typical son. I wrote this as a tribute when she was healthy, alive and kicking, so to speak, and she had read them - may be at my sister's.

And we did talk about this entry in 2007.

She told me that life was not that bad as I had written. Aaah, I am sure I was not exaggerating, but it was just Mak's way to trivializing of what she had gone through, or she enjoyed doing what she did that it was not even a chore for her. Not the way we (men), or kids of my generation, would think.

I am sure she took things in stride - the goods, the bads, and the uglys. All and sundry. No question asked. No holds barred.

Nonetheless, I knew at time, things were difficult. So it is a credit to her to be able to hold the family together. I can never think enough of her.

Mother’s Day Special
I wanted to write a proper essay mother's day essay for Mak - perhaps an award-winning one (in my dream obviously), but looking at my schedule, I am a bit tight for time (and talent I guess). Normally I would need a week to write - well, actually an hour to write, if I have the materials ready in my head and in my heart, and another week to incubate it. As this project in Kerteh is sapping whatever remaining of my energy, I asked a sister of mine for help. Instead, I got a response that says, "Well, why bother with an essay, when she is better off with deeds?"

Well, thank you so much for reminding! I told her.

Mak when she was growing up. The first picture was taken in 1954 when she was 15. 
 I think she would give (seniwati) Saadiah a run for her money. Strict and strong willed are how 
I would described her as a mum. She's a Minang, that's why.

With help or otherwise, I needed to write. It set me thinking hard for the next 3 days. I was trying to write an essay that culminates her childhood in Port Dickson and Mersing – my maternal grandfather Adam Chemana, a Minang from Tasik Meninjau, was a custom officer, so he would be stationed near ports. Sure we have heard many times of the childhood days when we were kids, but trying to put them onto paper, I found my memory failing me, I think I would need to interview her be able to write properly.
This one was taken in 1960 in Johor Bahru when she was 21. 

But how do I broach the subject? Mak, tell me again your childhood day sebab Aman nak tulis about you in my blog. Nah, it is not fun that way. One need to be subtle to get the best stories. In hindsight, it is just as easy for me say to give her some money; take her for a holiday, or doa for her. It is much easier to go and buy her chocolates or flowers, and write a greeting card to her. It didn't require much effort on my part. It does not require looking at her eyes, and say, Mak, I love you so much, with all of my heart and you mean the world to me. This piece, while it is no masterpiece, had me thinking about her for the past week or so.

Mak is one woman who gave birth to 12 children, raised 13, almost singlehandedly. It was at the age when there was no washing machine, and no gas stove or microwave. Early in the morning, there will be ‘kain setimbun’ (a pile of dirty clothes) to be washed, not to mention all the soiled lampins. Definitely there was no pampers then. Sure, she got help during her many confinements but that's more of an exception than rules. You know I can’t handle even a sebaldi of my own shirts and trousers when I was schooling. It was hard work and in the end I would revert to the dhoby at maktab. How many times did I ‘rendam baju’ and conveniently ‘forgot’ them? Boy, it smells, and the water would even turned jelly-like. No, don’t get me wrong, I am not a pampered person. It is just not fun to do the laundry then.
In the 60s and 70s, it was only the kerosene stove for her. If you don’t control the fuel properly, you will soot the periuk and at the end of the day, it will be another task to scrub them away. Fortunately our lives then were a bit modern compared to many still using woods as the fuel. I am sure when she growing up, she would help nenek cook using woods. When she needs to blend anything, it was also the batu giling and batu tumbuk; blender was only introduced in our home in the early 80s.
She was married to Bapak in 1961 in Asam Kumbang
Taiping. I don't know how they met, but I believe
bapak was living nearby, while working for Pejabat Tanah Taiping.
And for all the chores she had to do, she still managed to cook cookies for us. In Aulong, she loved to bake bread (or kuih lopeh) early in the morning. It will be fresh bread for us for breakfast before cycling to school in Taiping. In Lenggong, I still have the vivid memory of her grinding the rice to produce the rice flour for kuih lompang, while we kids watched or helped out occasionally.

I am not saying that our lives (or hers) were full of hardship all time. On the contrary. I am sure she had fond memories of her childhood in Port Dickson and Mersing. Bapak as a government officers brought enough food to the table. I don't remember not having much food on the table at any one time. The food sumptuous, and thanks to her cooking, delicious. It didn't become a thin teen due to her food - I became a teen due to the less than edible Dewan Makan food mainly. 

But I think perhaps her greatest challenges started after bapak’s death. She was 45 and it was only 8 months earlier she had given birth to her 12th children. From her other 12 children, only two were working and their earnings were meagre. The rest were either still in school or uni, or in the cradle.
Life must have been difficult then. Fortunately we didn’t have pay anything for the house – Bapak was prudent enough to have it insured. I don’t remember the part immediately after his death that much as I was away at the uni. She had to be a strong-willed woman to bring up everybody. And it is a credit to her I don't remember much of the challenges immediately after his death - I think she shielded them from all. We only had to do our part in studying hard for our degrees!
Twenty three years on, except for her youngest daughter who is still completing her degree in aeronautics, everybody else is independent. It is not my intention to flaunt anything here and there is nothing to be flaunted to be honest (we are an ordinary family with an extra-ordinary mum), but her next door neighbours would always be envious of her. She had been to Mekah a couple of times, and she had been around the world, practically. Sure no family is perfect, and hers too has her own ups and downs, but hey, that’s what life is all about. If I can achieve a fraction of what she had achieved with my own family, I would be grateful.
This is the real thing. This is the very batu kisar that Mak bought while we were living in Lenggong. She bought
it from Kedai Pak Lah for I think RM27. With this batu kisar she would grind the rice to make us
kuih lompang and many other tasty kuihs. I vividly remember us kids sitting around the batu
kisar while she was grinding the rice. Of course we helped out pouring water during the grinding
process. (No wonder my first job with Perak Hanjong Simen involved grinding clinker into cement!)
It is now sitting happily in my garden as an ornament and a reminder of tasty kuihs that she used
to make. Below is the lesung which mak gave me for safekeeping in my house. They are in my display cabinet in the living room. Both
the lesung bowl and arm are still intact and in working order. They are treasures from my past.

After all that has been done, there is still much left to be said about her and to her, especially from this writer, for he is not known to open up his heart to saying his feeling that often. I believe that mak would appreciate this as much as other material gifts that her daughters would buy for her on this special day. This one is from your son; from the depth of his heart.
"Mak, I love you so much."
I know it is not about paying tribute for just one day in a year. Neither would mere words be able to repay her for carrying me for nine months, and bringing me up. More would need to be done while she is breathing. I know that. But as human, we are not infallible and many times we forget. This piece is a reminder to me.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all a Happy Mother's day tomorrow. May be Cikgu Dr Fatanah, Aya, Shema, Jaghah, all my sisters who may be reading this. I am not sure I know all my audience (if any!), but whoever you are, have a good Mother's Day. Not forgetting the mother of my two children, Sarah.
Tags: makmother'sday
Saturday May 12, 2007 - 10:42pm (SGT) Permanent Link | 6 Comments

Monday, September 17, 2012

Selamat jalan, Mak (Al-fatihah)

In hindsight, I would have changed certain things. In hindsight, I now know so much that I think I know how to treat mak's illness.

In hindsight, that is.

She has had some of the best medical minds trying to help her. Beyond local specialists (Dr Leslie from Gleneagles, Dr Rashidi of DEMC), she even had one Prof Dr Frank, a professor of medicine at the ANU (Australia) monitoring and advising Mak's medical conditions and needs. I even conferred with the UKM dean of medical faculty Prof Dato' Dr Raymond.

But in the end, Mak passed away at about 4.40 am on Sunday morning with nearly all her children in attendance. Mak has 13; everybody (except for Naza, who passed away years earlier, and her daughter who live in Australia) - K Sham, the blogger, Aboy, Ani, Ata, Rasi, Fadhil, Farah, Zali, Mas and Aishah (and her sister MC Kam, and some of her cucus)  - was there there at her death bed by 3.00 am paying their last respects, and was taking turn in reciting the syahadah to her ears, and/or reciting the yaasin. Many had not been sleeping for the past 40 hours, or more, by then.

She was never alone the past two months when she was hospitalized. I can vouch for that, for she would never allow us to leave her, and her children duly obliged her. At least one children was with her every time, all the time.

Everybody loves her so much; she will definitely be missed.

If I were to interpret certain events leading to her death, and the events proceeding it, it is not to portray her as a saint. She is one for sure, as a mother giving birth to 12 children and as if that was not good enough, adopted another. 

That's my mak for you.

When the nurse informed us that her heartbeat is falling - and her heart failing -  at about 3 am, we knew the dreaded moment has come. Earlier, I was adamant to let her fight on (and do the CPR to resuscitate her, if her heart fails), but in the end, I decided against it. I thought it would only be fair to let her go in peace as she has indicated to me (and others too) earlier.

As I was reciting the syahadah at her ear, I was watching closely her facial expression and breathing. Personally I could not detect any transition between life and death, other than the feeling that her breathing was getting slower and slower.

Alhamdulillah, she passed away peacefully in front of her children and grandchildren at 4.40 am. She was calm breathing to her last. Most were in tears, and controlled sobbing, when the doctor pronounced her dead. Aishah, her youngest, was the hardest hit perhaps, understandably so.

I left soon after thanking the doctor and team for their support of mak during her last days, and left for home at 5.00 am to start the process of burial. At home, the family had cleared out the living room and a bed was waiting in the living room for mak.

That was the very same bed that she was using many years ago when she was ill, in the same living room that we then had turned into her room as it was very spacious, and yet, private.

She was coming home at last. She had decided that my home was where she is heading, and I can't be more proud to accept the honour. It is once in a lifetime opportunity - one can only have one mother.

At she was nearing her destination, Hussein Onn was getting darker; it was about to rain.
At 7.02 am, Mak arrives in this van. It was still dry, but dark cloud starts gathering at BTHO at this stage
Her son in his baju Raya welcoming her as the van reverses into
the porch. It was the same baju raya he used to celebrate the last raya
with Mak at K Sham's.
Welcome Home, Mak. Mak disambut anak dan cucunya Arif (left) and Akmal (taking this picture).
All well dressed as a show of respect - after all it was still syawal and the house well-lighted
to welcome the most important person in our lives. This was her home for many times
whenever she visited KL, and she would stay here for long periods
I did not think so much about it then as I left HUKM in bone dry condition at 5 am, but later I was told that as she was about to leave HUKM for home (~6.30 am), it was raining heavily there.

And it rained all the way from HUKM.

I don't think it is a mere coincidence. I think there is more to it than normal KL rains.

In different circumstances, I would baulk at such preposition. But, as in many old Malays folk tales, langit yang gelap, dan hujan yang turun seolah-olah meratapi pemergian Mak, and hujan tidak berhenti sehingga Mak selesai dimandi dan dikapankan. At HUKM where the journey started, we were worried that it was going to flood. At the mosque later in the morning, I was worried that it would not stop and would cause problem with the burial process itself, but it did stop eventually.

To my relief.

And I believe that wholeheartedly that explanation - she is a mother of 13 children, so she was a special person in God's eyes. After all, paradise for her children lies underneath his feet. I do believe that yes, not only her children, and siblings, were crying for her, that even alam turut meratapi mak.

Before she was taken out from my house, I managed to have my last moment with her - at my (and her) home), albeit in the glaring eyes of everybody. Again, wrapping my arm around her, with her face cover partially opened up, I said to her ear, in a soft tone, that only she would hear me, "Selamat kembali Mak. Terima kasih kerana mak datang balik ke rumah Aman. I am so honoured Mak ada kat sini, tapi selamat jalan Mak. Perjalanan terakhir mak dari rumah Aman. Maafkan aman kerana tak dapat menolong menyembuhkan mak."

With that I kissed her cheek, and bade her farewell.
0845 hours - Mak leaving home for the last time for her final journey.
The rain has started, sharing our sorrow with the world. That I have no doubt.
Farewell Mak. Mak leaving home for the last time,
never to return again. View from my home as the van left my house
heading to the mosque. I feel like alam pun menangis pagi itu. Gerimis pagi

Personally I thought her last journey was as smooth as one gets, despite the rain. She arrived at my home by 7.00 am, she was taken away from my home at 0845 hours. I wish her last stay would be much longer than that. But redha since in the end Mak had returned home (to me), even though it was not in the circumstance that I had envisaged. By 9.30 am, she was all cleaned, and dressed up by her daughters, and all her sons.

Soon everybody was paying her last respect to her. By 10.30 am she was taken to the main hall, where scores of people recited the yaasin and was never left alone. By Zohor, the solat jenazah was performed on her - I did not expect the number of people turning up to be honest, for that I have to respect the BTHO community. Easily we got 5 saf on the men side; I can't dare to estimate the actual number though.

And the saf (lines) are very wide or long, if you must) at Surau Al-Amin, Bandar Tun Hussein Onn.
Anak cucu mak mengusung jenazah mak di Surau Al Amin
Bandar Tun Hussein Onn

By 2.30 pm, the last rites were recited for her. Again, all his sons were involved in burying her - a few had the privilege to be in the grave with her. I had told them earlier that I am waiving my right to be there; not that I don't want to do it for Mak for one last time, but I thought I have been with her for nearly 50 years, and I want to give that privilege to my younger brothers who spent less time with her.

I stayed on till later - even after most had left, we were advised to continue to be with her at least for 45 mins, so each brother continued our yaasin reading and left soon after we were done.

There was no hiccup at all for her final journey. Everything went according to plan. I am so glad for Mak. Everything fell into its place.
Farah menyirami air mawar

I am not sure if I could accept the fact that she is no longer with us (yes, I do know I have to redha). I know I am still in the denial stage. Thinking out loud, I believe she is at one of my sister's place, and that she would come soon to my home. I have not had a good cry - I choked while reading Alfatihah during the subuh payer that morning, but I managed to compose myself. I have seen her jenazah; I have seen her buried - and she was buried only 5 minutes from my home, but I am still thinking, "Mak masih ada, cuma not at my home saja."

The reality has not hit me (yet).

Throughout the time she was ill, I refused to say my goodbye. I was afraid that her motivation to continue to fight her illness would drop if she knew that her son did not expect her to last much longer. I tried to project an image of a son who knew that she would still be around for a long time. My only consolation is that I knew that most likely Mak has been satisfied with me (I hope). I don't think I had ever had a fight or major disagreement with her. I have always gone along very well with Mak. If she disagrees with certain of my actions, then I would take it at face value.

If A is her choice, then my choice is A. But should I think it was B, and I would try to convince her of that, and most likely she will agree with my opinion or change her mind. If someone hurt Mak, than I would deem that that person has hurt me too. If someone makes mak happy, than I am happy with that person too.

That's my relationship with Mak. It is unconditional. It does not matter whether she is right (or wrong). To me, she is always right!

A brother mentioned that I would feel lost without her, since she would - before she was ill - stay at my home for long period. I am feeling it. I would feel her presence in my house - her watching the telly, her room, her relaxing at the verandah by the pond, having breakfast and meals together with her, etc etc.

Aishah, anak bongsu mak
But he has only faint memory of her, little memory of her at his home, since Mak seldom went up North to his house.

I hope Mak redha dengan Aman. I do hope  - and believe - that I have always done my best for you, or with the best of intentions. I have always supportive of you in all of your endeavors. If you wish to stay at any particular house, I would tell you to go ahead. After all you are a mother, a sister, and friends to many people, and I know I should not monopolize you.

But as a son, I have my regrets too. I know I could have done better than I had done for you. I know I should have continued to admit you at Gleneagles or HUKM immediately after Raya. Why we did not do that baffles me to this day. You were getting better, I know that, but not much better and soon you were deteriorating again.

The last week (Sunday 9 Sept) at DEMC Shah Alam, her youngest sister Mak Su, at around 4.30 pm, was frantically calling for me, "Aman, Mak cari kamu. Dia cakap nak aman, nak aman, nak aman saja."

So she put her on the speaker phone. "Bila aman nak datang?" she asked me. "InsyaAllah, by 10 pm," I replied.

"La, kenapa lambat sangat?" she cried.

I knew Mak su and most likely MC Kam were there caring for her, and she was in good hand. I was planning to drive Akmal to college and though Mak was further away, I thought it would easy to continue the journey to see mak.

"Ok, aman datang awal sikit, lepas magrib aman terus datang," I tried to console her. She said ok, may be she had choice. I arrived there at 8.30 pm.

While I am proud that she had wanted me, I was baffled with my reaction. Why didn't I just start the car and make that short drive to Shah Alam? I have the car, and at that hour, it would take me may be less than 40 mins to Shah Alam, and be with her. Instead, I arrived later and by that time, she was already sleepy, so we did not talk much. 
Pondering and praying at Mak's grave. Fadhil is one
son yang tak pernah melawan cakap mak, and the last person to leave
her that day. I am sure Mak is proud and  satisfied with him

I could have been the perfect son for me, but I was not. 

Aman minta maaf (ampun) sangat-sangat for my shortcomings towards the end of your life Mak.

If I had known that this was it, I would not have agreed to you being sedated and intubated. I thought under the circumstances, that that would be your best chance for you to get well. Being sedated means that you will feel less pain, but I should have realized that you could not take it any longer. You have been sick since before Ramadhan (she left on the last day of Syawal) - so her strength has obviously gone.

I overestimated Mak's will and strength at this point in time.

I know from my 49 years of constantly being with mak, I had never met someone with the same resolve as Mak. When bapak passed away (in 1984), she was left with 13 growing children, with a roof on top of her head, but with little money. She single-handedly managed the family and kept everything and everybody intact. 

With Kak Sham and Aboy only earning meagre salaries, and with bapak's own meagre pension, we survived the worst period on the family's life.

Now that we are doing well, and with money no longer the issue, Mak left us forever. She had done her job. A job well done, and it is up to her children to live up to her name.

I had convinced her on the last day at DEMC (Tuesday 11 Sept) that she needed the bone marrow biopsy for the doctor to treat her. For that, HUKM would be ideal. Her response was an emphatic. "OK, then do it now. Why do you have to wait?"

I had to pacify her saying that it takes a bit longer to make transfer arrangement. But by the time she was at HUKM, her condition rapidly deteriorated that it can't be done on her.

Mak, I know that you know that I love you so much. That my love for you is unconditional. That you can always count on me. I have always been consistent in this aspect of my life (even if I said so myself, at this stage).

Paying respect one last time the mosque morgue, I told her that while I may have been a filial son, this time around I promise her that I will be an anak solleh for her.

That's all I could do for her now. I have no choice but to be a solleh son. I have to do more for her for the hereafter, than what I had done in this world. I am one of her main bridges from the existing world to her world (alam barzakh), and she would benefit if I am a pious one.

Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat keatas ruh Mak dan dimasukkan kedalam golongan orang-orang yang beramal solleh. Ya Allah, Engkau perliharalah Mak sebagaimana dia telah menjaga daku sejak daku kecil hingga dewasa.

Selamat Jalan Mak. Alfatihah.
Selamat jalan Mak. She was about to be left alone for the first
time in two months, but our doas and prayers will accompany
her insyaAllah.


I have probably recited more yaasin the past month than I had my entire life, to be honest. So while I will continue to read them for Mak, I will not post it here.

This is a song I love because of the sad melancholic melody/lyric, but dreaded singing them. Now when I remember her, this song...

Terbayang wajah tuanya 
Membisik rindu
Memanggil pada ku

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I am adamant that this is not goodbye

I am relieved that  I decided against going to the office and be with mak the whole day today. I was not supposed to care for her today. Another bro had volunteered to be there for her, but for some unknown reasons, was not able to live up to his own promise.

By noon, Mak was complaining about breathing difficulty, and within a few seconds, she was swarmed by a group of doctors. They spent quite sometime discussing mak's conditions, in my presence. This is one thing I like about government hospital - medical services are prompt, and done by doctors.

So again, they would take her blood samples. To be honest, I don't know how many samples that they had taken from Mak. But this was the fifth hospital for Mak, and she was not getting better.

By 3.30 pm, I saw the doc in the elevator and she said, "Now we know why your mother has breathing difficulty even though her chest was clear. Her blood is acidic."

"We are now looking for a bed at the ICU." Sure enough, within half an hour, the ICU registrar and another doctor were explaining mak's conditions and their proposed treatment at the ICU.

"We need to stabilize her, we need to monitor her continuously," he said, "If we don't do it now, she may stop breathing on her own. But the procedures (mak will be sedated, intubate and undergoing dialysis) are not without risks, so go and inform everybody - her children, grandchildren, siblings - that she is going to the ICU and there are risks involved.

The risk is that we might lose her. I nodded my head, acknowledging the risk. I wanted to take it if it helped mak's recovery. We have to do what we have to do, that's my opinion.

So I went to her bed, wrapped my arm around her, and whispered softly to her ear, "The doctors are taking you to the ICU. Mak kuatkan semangat mak, ya."

She nodded her head. Affirmative. She didn't open her eyes, but she could very well hear me.

Suddenly, the reality hit me. The burden seem to be too heavy for my shoulder to carry. I was beginning to be overwhelmed; I was about to burst into tears. I was breaking down at the very moment I was asking her to to be strong for me and the family. I thought I was strong, but I was not. And I did not want her to see or hear me at my weakest moment, when she needed me to be strong.

All these while, throughout the 2 months she was sick, I tried to stay above board. I tried not have my emotion shown, especially to Mak. I tried very much to be strong for her, tried to convince her that she would recover and be healthy again.

And I did not say goodbye either. I didn't not want to. I certainly didn't want this to be my (last) conversation and goodbye. I still want to talk to her again. I didn't want to let her have any notion that this was it. I needed her to be strong. And for that, I can't afford to be weak myself.

So I cant, and I won't say my goodbye. I simply refused.

But I have to admit that I was weak. How could I not be? I was alone with her when she was wheeled out of the ward, and into the ICU. I was ready to breakdown there and then, had the doctors not called me again to discuss treatment. With my teary eyes, I went talk again to them. I was embarrassed to be seen in that way, but I had no choice.

Now mak is sedated in the ICU under 24-hour care by the doctor and nurses. And there is nothing her 13 children can do, except to pray for her. All these while, 24 hours a day, there would always be someone with her when she was hospitalized. Now we are not allowed to be by her side, except at visiting hours.

Two at a time.

I can only pray that she will get through all these, and return home. My home. She had indicated that she wants to come back and be at my place. She is nearer now, now that she is at HUKM. But I want her to be able to walk into my house - that's for sure. I don't want her to be carried into my home.

Be strong, Mak. You have always been our pillars. After all, since 1984, you have single-handedly raised 13 children, when many other families would have fallen apart.

We need you to stay strong more than ever, mak.

Pray for my mak, will you please?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Epilog Cinta dari Leederville – Part I


This entry was written and posted on Sept 12, 2007 at the now defunct Yahoo 360 blog, and I thought it is about time to re-live my time at Leederville just for the record.
Epilog Cinta dari Leederville – Part I
If Sohaimi Mior Hassan has Bromley, then my Bromley is Leederville. Leederville may not be as famous as Bromley (courtesy of the massive hit by SMH of course), but it sure brings many pleasant memories to many of us. I am sure Cikgu Nik Faridah would agree too as I think she had spent time in Leederville too; may be nearly a decade earlier.
While I spent 4 years in Clayton - the Melbourne suburb where Monash is located and sure I remember it fondly too, especially when my memory of Leederville is fast fading, but Leederville will always remain special in my heart for the simple reason that it was my first introduction to Australia and the West.
17 Feb 1981 - Leaving for Perth from Subang. From left - ChePah, WAmizah, Nazela,
Fadhil, Piee, Zai, Ime,Man Ahmad & this writer.
Dunno what Judane in short is doing in the middle of the pic.
I still remember the wee hour of the morning when a bunch of us landed at Perth airport. We saw a notice on the wall that says meat is not allowed, so one person from MRSM Seremban quickly took out his serunding and started eating them there and then; fearful that it will be confiscated and hence wasted. I don’t recall his name anymore, sorry brother.
Upon clearing immigration and custom, Zai and I were grouped as housemates at an apartment in Wembley. May be we decided there and then to be housemates, I don’t remember anymore. It was a natural choice for us.
It was a reasonably cold morning, untypical in February; we were shivering trying to figure out how to switch on the water heater – it was a gas heater, so one would need to ignite the pilot burner first. We didn’t know how.
But the smell of the cool Perth air will remain etched in my mind. It was a smell like never before. It was also so fresh, so crisp. The first night I was in a strange land – from a third world country I suddenly found myself in a first world where everything is so well organized, modern, clean and civilised.
Leederville Technical College was the school chosen for us to undergo our matriculation in order to prepare ourselves for university life. It is located in Leederville, obviously, a suburb of Perth. It is quite near city center, after all Perth is just a small city. May be a 10-15 min bus ride and we would be there.

Welcome to LTC. The writer in front of the school compound, and the boys and gals of Leederville - the class of '81. Except for KB76ers, I would have difficulty remembering all the names. After all, I only spent a year with them as I left Leederville and Perth for Clayton and Melbourne to begin my uni life at Monash. Most stayed on in Perth I guess. I dont see the KB76 ladies in this pic. I think they didnt attend this Raya function with our BM teacher.
What do I remember about Leederville Tech College? For one, one of the subjects taught was Bahasa Melayu; so in some way we Malaysian had an unfair advantage, the principal reminded us, jokingly. Well, not really, we would probably have preferred more mathematical subjects to be honest. Anytime, all the time.

I remember one Malay student from Christmas Island. He didn’t speak too much Malay. Many of his terminology were that of old Malays. He still called awek, mambang, as in PRamlee’s movie. We were then calling them makwe. Awek was not in our vocab then.
There was this old lady, who loved to chat with us Malaysian students. Everytime we passed by her house, she would be there 'waiting' for us. She would call us “love”. How are you today, love? Bye bye love. Every other sentence from her would have the word love. Initially I felt quite strange to be addressed in that manner, but quickly got into the culture. But only with the Aussies. I would not dare trying it with the Malaysian gals; for sure I would get a 'jelingan' tajam (and not jelingan manja), if not a telling off. Hahaha...
Friendly people, those Aussies.
(And we think we are the friendliest people on the face of the earth? Try and walk around your neighbourhood and count how many greeting from neighbour or strangers you would get.)
There was a Malay guy from Negeri Sembilan who had been in Australia for over 20 year living nearby. He married an aborigine lady. If you saw him, you would not know he was Malay. He and his kids look like the Australian aborigines. And no, he has no desire to return to NS anymore.
I remember Cambridge Court apartment block where many of us used to live. Zai and I on the 4th floor, and I guess that there were at least 2 other boy’s apartments and two gal's units there. We could just walk to school; probably it took us about 10 mins or so.
Zai and I infront of the Cambridge Court apartment where I nearly missed
burning down this whole building!

I remember life at Cambridge Court well. Zai and I experimented a lot on cooking. Coming from boarding school, we didn't have too much chance to learn basic culinary skills. Cooking curry for one was a disaster. For some reasons we could not get it right, and we were wondering what was wrong with the gravy. Didn't look and taste like normal curry. Until someone told us that we could use milk in lieu of coconut milk. "Coconut milk?" Zai and I looked at each other. "Oh yeah we know that," I told him, " but no kick!" It was basically a white lie. We didn't even realize we need coconut milk to be honest! No wonder it looks too watery. How we could have missed that important ingredient is anybody's guess. The next dinner at last our curry would taste and looked like curry.
But that was nothing like what I were to experience next.
One day I decided to come back for lunch at my apartment. Upon arrival at the elevator lobby, I can smell something burning. But I didnt think twice to take the elevator. Upon reaching level 4, the corridor was already full of smoke. So whose apartment was on fire? I thought. Not batting an eye lid, I opened up my apartment, and what greeted me was beyond comprehension. 

It was pitch black with (black) smoke. I could barely see my own hands.

What's going on? Then it dawned upon me then that I had forgotten to switch off my stove when I decided to cook the rice in the morning. I had cooked rice for 4 straight hours on max heat! Luckily I knew the apartment well (it was small enough). I rushed to the kitchen in total blindness, opened the sliding door to the fullest, and switched on the exhaust fan. I had to get rid of the smoke quickly.
The periuk and the nasik were totally charred, beyond recognition. I am sure forensic science would not have been able to identify the carbonized remains!
It took quite sometime for the air to clear. By then I was in tears – the smoke was so thick that it hurt my eyes. Fortunately only after the air had cleared, the landlady arrived at my apartment and asked me about the lingering smoke.
A file picture of me cooking in my Cambridge Court
kitchen. It is a small one bedroom apartment,
and the kitchen is small, but adequate
I told her I was cooking. She bought it with some reservation, I guess, seeing only thin (left-over) smokes, she can't do much and left. Boy, that was close! For sure I would have been kicked out if she found out.
Never again would I cook rice in the morning for my lunch. From then onwards, it was just fish and chips for me! (I am sure Zai, Pie, and Ime would remember the shop that sold chips lembek depan LTC.) Yummy...Fish n chips are my fav and in KL, the KLCC food court offer the best fish and chips in Malaysia.
PS No wonder lah kat US banyak yang kawin cepat.

So where is the cinta in this Epilog Cinta dari Leederville? I heard you ask.
Don’t tell me you missed them, my friends. Tuh yang citer "awek and mambang", yang the (old) ladies calling you "love" tu haper?
What do you expect? YOu think I am Sohaimi Mior Hassan? 
BTW, thanks for reading. (At least I got you reading.)
Wednesday September 12, 2007 - 07:46am (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments