Memories are for the living


  • Humour Me
  • Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014

file pic of survivors remembering victims of the 2004 tsunami with flowers. - Reuters

Memories are for the living

My husband comes from a huge family. As the youngest child, he used to have 17 siblings. My husband’s late father married my mother-in-law after his first wife passed away, and he (FIL) breathed his last when my husband was only two years old.

My husband didn’t remember much of his father as he was still a toddler when his dad left him. He didn’t have much time or opportunity to create memories with his late father. 

When we were newly married my hubby used to joke that his family was so huge that someone is always getting married, giving birth or passing on. It didn’t take long for me to realise that he wasn’t kidding. In fact after some time, I even got used to him receiving phone calls from relatives, sometimes in the middle of the night, to inform him of either  good or sad news i.e a wedding, arrival of a new family member or the death of one.

Death is quite common in his family and it’s a subject that they speak about openly and deal with casually. They treat it like what it should be, a natural thing.

I used to feel awkward around death and at funerals. I did not really know what to say or do especially to someone who had just lost a loved one. Well, I‘m still unsure of what to say, but I’ve learned that there are times that presence is more important than words. Not so much for the recently demised but more for the living survivors distraught at losing a loved one.

My first experience dealing with death came when I was probably nine years old. My uncle, he was still in his thirties, passed away leaving my dad’s family shattered. My dad who was very closed to his younger brother held the funeral at our place.

As a child I viewed death as something cruel as I wasn’t actually an obedient child. It didn’t help that the Malay soaps my grandma used to watch often portray death as grim and punitive. Often there were hideous ghosts lurking somewhere. Not to mention occasions when the deceased turned into a pontianak for the sins she committed.

That aside, a friend recently lost her mother who had been ill for several months. Doctors had days prior to her mum’s death informed her family of the slim chance of her making it through.

I think death is so final that no matter how informed or prepared one is of the prospect of losing someone, it is never easy.

To me what is tragic about death is that it cuts off the two-way communication between the dead and the living. If only there’s a way we could connect even when our loved ones aren’t physically around. I wish there’s a technology that enables this.

Imagine texting or chatting with those in the afterlife in real time! Better still, posting a status on a social network sites to inform our demised loved ones of what we’ve been up to. Or to log in to find out how they’ve been keeping up.

Death is mysterious to me because no one knows what really happens when we get to the other side as nobody had ever come back from the dead to tell the story.

While some communities deal with death as a celebration others see it as a taboo. It’s not something to joke about.  As to the superstitious ones, they’d actually knock on wood every time the “d” word is mentioned.

When my paternal grandma was around she always told her grandchildren to pray for her long life. And long she did live! She died when she was in her 90s. My late grandma would never allow talk of death in her presence. 

Over the weekend,  my family and I went to see a performance by a Japanese contemporary dance company Nibroll called See/Saw at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. The dance piece was created following 2011 Tsunami. It explores the subject of life and death and portrays emotions awakened following the aftermath.

I like what Nibroll’s founder Mikuni Yanaihara said on the subject of death. Yanaihara said, if people only think about life and death, life will be a lot simpler and the world would be a better place.

Yanaihara also choreographed and directed the dance which was the first to be held outside of Japan. She said she created the dance to commemorate the tragedy because people she said, tend to forget easily.

I was pretty much moved by the intense performance. It evoked all kinds of emotions in me from sorrow  to excitement to restlessness. The show kicked off with the question why people regardless of culture and religion, offer flowers to the dead? One of the answers offered was perhaps those left behind are offering memories they have of the demise as flowers may well symbolise memories they had created in their life time. 

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opinion , Humour Me , coping with death , loss

   

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