8 days ago, my nenek died.
My nenek had sixteen children, but had to give four away. My mother was number eight. She was given away.
I saw my nenek only rarely. Once a year at least during Hari Raya, where I’d take note of her gaunt frame, thinking that nenek has lost a bit of weight.
Every year my mother would have to re-introduce ourselves to her, “Najib is teaching now, and Nabilah is still in university”, and she’d say “Alhamdullilah”, giving thanks to God for our achievements. It’d have to repeated every year because of her poor memory.
Her name was Hawa Bee, or Nenek Hawa Bee as everyone called her. When we were small, me and my brother called her Nenek Ubi.
The last time I saw her was last year, this time not on Hari Raya because I was away. She was very weak, lying in bed. They’d put oven mitts on her hands so that she would not scratch herself or remove the tubes that were attached to her body.
8 days ago, I saw my nenek’s body on the bed, covered by a white cloth. I did not see, at first, because her body was so halus, so fine, that one could easily miss it.
My mum peeled the white cloth back. I said a prayer and kissed her on her pale cheek. One on each side.
The next day after the mandi mayat, the bathing of the body, they laid my nenek’s body wrapped in a kain kafan, the white cotton cloth, in the living room.
One by one, her children, followed by her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, siblings and other family members took turns to kiss her and say our final goodbyes. In that small room in Serangoon on an unsuspecting Tuesday, one could feel the intense love, respect and sadness from everybody present.
We went to the cemetary. It was my first time seeing the burial process. They use tractors now to fill the graves, my mother said. They lowered the body into the earth.
Goodbye Nenek Ubi. I will miss you.
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