Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Some ghosts can never be buried.

This is not a post about food. It's about dealing with death. I experienced my first encounter with death when I was about 3 weeks past my 9th birthday on 06.06.76. Or at least I can't remember any deaths before that.

I feel like talking about it after reading this article.  The author describes his reaction upon hearing about the infamous plane crash that practically wiped out the newly formed Sabahan ministerial cabinet. The writer was 9 then, the same age I was.


My mother was especially agitated. She was moody and when she spoke, her voice was shrill. I sensed a crisis but what it was I had no idea. I could hear the despair in her voice, then anger, then grief then distraught. What could have evoked such powerful and desperate emotions in her? As the morning wore on, I found out. She broke down more often, wailing, calling out my uncle's Kadazan name.

Joinod! Joinod! Why do you have to leave us so soon? It was the most awful heart wrenching plea I had ever heard.

Uncle Peter was her older brother. I had always thought of him in the abstract - as a good looking charismatic Kadazan leader. And now he was also a newly appointed minister. I heard about him - about how he was going to do great things for our community.  I didn't actually know what those things were but and in my mind I thought he could perform magic. It was like we had got on an aeroplane and were ready to take off to a wonderful future. He was this larger than life person, able to sweep and carry one along on his wave of can do.


The next thing I remember is being at a funeral service or perhaps it was a wake. Not sure what exactly. Not sure where exactly. My grandmother was there. And I was totally unprepared for what I saw. She was in hysterics. I had never seen her like that and never would again. Wailing inconsolably, she struggled against her friends who were spoke kind words, held her back. I imagined if not for them, my grandmother would have flung herself across her son's coffin, beat upon it and torn her hair out. Her cries, her plea, the same as those uttered by my mother, rang in my ears and filled my heart. I wanted to shut my eyes and cover my ears.


To this day, each time I read of 666, I hear my grandmother's anguished wails for a son gone too soon so suddenly, and see her struggling against her patient resilient friends. And I pray that I will never have to know such sorrow.

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