06/02/2017

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR.







Hey Zengarmy,


*Disclaimer: this is one of the most personal
posts that I've ever written and published
on this blog. It took me one week's time to
boil down every emotions that came across my
mind  from the beginning till the end  into
this tiny piece of work. No words could ever
describe what I REALLY felt, but I hope what's
written here is sufficient. Sometimes I wished
I were a better writer, but I'm not, so here
you go — enjoy reading my trail of thoughts!


As most of you might've already noticed, I disappeared from almost all
of my social media for the past two weeks, for a good reason and I'm
finally ready to share it with you now. I would really love to start out
this post by telling you that the reason why I was gone offline for the
past fortnight is because I was too busy celebrating Chinese New Year,
but sadly that's not the case. On the 28th of January 2017, which was
the first day of Chinese New Year, I lost my grandma  to the Heaven.
Tears had been shed, but this post is not really about gaining sympathy.
It is, rather an encapsulation of what I've been feeling & experiencing
for the past few days, in which I hope this post will be as insightful as
I intended it to be, as dealing with the death of kin is something that
I wished somebody would've given me insight prior to the experience.





If you had been following my blog for a while, it wouldn't take you long to
figure out the fact that I'm not much of a "homey" person. Even though I'm a
person who feels a little bit too much most of the time (you can count the
amount of posts themed around sadness on this blog), I would definitely
admit that I'm a cold blooded person  I consider myself an heir of the
Slytherin house from the Harry Potter universe. Yes, I do love my family,
but most of the time I would rather be alone than attached to them. So,
when I received the news that my grandma was admitted to the hospital,
I wasn't much troubled by the news, unfortunately. It was only until a few
days later when I received a call personally from my mom, that I realized
something is wrong. The feeling of nervousness escalated quickly as my
mom asked when I was going home. "It's... not very optimistic", she said.






"She wants to go home. So we are fetching her back home now."
After the call I sat down on the edge of my bed and physically
couldn't mouth a word for God-knows-how-long-it-was. It's true
when they say no one could EVER be prepared for the death of
kin. It doesn't matter how kindly you've been treating your loved
ones, you will still feel as if you've been ill-treating them all this
while. Why didn't I do this? Why didn't I do that? Why why why?
You're gonna lose people in your life and realize that no matter
how much time you spent with them or how much you appreciate
them and told them so, it will never seem like it was enough, ever.



We all know that our time on this Earth is fairly limited, & that
eventually all of us will end up lying underneath a white sheet,
never to wake up anymore. And yet, it's always a surprise when it
happens to someone we know. It's like walking up the stairs to your
bedroom in the dark, thinking that there's one more stair left for us
to step on, when there's actually none. Your foot falls down through
the air, and there is a panic moment of dark surprise as you try and
readjust the way you thought of things. The way you thought that
there are limitless staircases before death befalls. Anyone could be
taken away by Death at any time, but we always waited until they're
gone to say the things that we never had the courage to say before.



We always waited, nobody is exception.






The night was clear and crisp when I arrived at my hometown.
It was 2 days before Chinese New Year, but when I stepped into
my grandma's house, I can't sense a tinge of festivity. Not even
a tiny bit of red color could be seen around the house. And for
the first time in my 21 years on Earth, I knew the Inevitable
is on His way. She is not going to make it and we all knew it.
The body I saw laying on the bed is no longer recognizable.
It was as if life was being sucked out of her & all that's left
was merely a dying pool of cells barely holding it together.



"Go on then, hold her hand." I was prompted by many of my aunts
to gently hold my grandma's hand & whisper into her ears to let
her know that she's not alone. I brushed my palm with hers, only
to realize that it no longer feels warm. I mumbled a few words
as I was not a very proficient person when it comes to speaking
mushy language out LOUD IN PUBLIC. Typical Asian prototypes.






Okay. Maybe I lied about the "not-even-a-tiny-bit-of-red-color-
could-be-seen-around-the-house" part. But you get what I mean.
This is one of the only few pictures that I've managed to capture,
before I eventually lost it. Different from what I've expected, my
grandpa handled grief so much better than anybody else in the
family, or at least he managed to make everyone else think he
did. I was told that throughout the day my grandpa would walk
around the house and pretend everything is as usual — maybe
this is the way he deals with grief — by acting nonchalant.



I kept on asking myself: what would I do if I were in the same
position as my grandpa? Would I do the same? I probably would.






On the night of the reunion dinner the ambiance was slightly lifted,
which is good, in my opinion. I had great chats with a few of my
cousins — both older and younger, but we talked nothing about
death. There are a few moments when I can sense the impending
topic of death in our conversations, but it was appropriately halted.



All of us took turns to hold grandma's hand, and I, weirdly, enjoyed
every second of it. I wondered if grandma was smiling underneath
her unconscious body or if she could feel nothing at all, & I decided
to go with the former. We all chose to believe that somehow, the soul
who lives in a body that has not been able to open her eyes since the
day she was admitted to the hospital, is able to respond to touches &
sound. Occasionally we would tell her to open her eyes just to look
at us — but she never did. Not even until she swallowed her last breath.






The first day of Chinese New Year started off with an even better spirit,
even though nobody wore bright-colored clothes not even the guests.
Everybody started chit-chatting and red packets were being distributed
by the adults, apart from grandma's — which grandpa still believed she
would wake up and distribute to the children & grandchildren herself.
Everything seemed to be perfect  until the doctor dropped by in the
afternoon, and suddenly all the aunts' faces changed. By the evening
all the grandchildren were being called to sit by grandma's bedside,
one farewell after another, and I knew something is amiss. When it's
my turn, I didn't know what to say. I just stared at her face silently.
Her face turned yellowish, tongue deep brown, and fingers swollen.
"I'm here, grandma." I said, and then continued with my inner voice:
"Please. Don't worry about us. And don't suffer anymore."



And that was the last time I ever held her hand.






Towards the middle of the night, everybody in the household gathered
beside grandma's bed and waited in sheer panic. Everybody started crying
— out of regret, out of helplessness, & out of despair. All the grandchildren
were being instructed to wait outside the room, including me. "Is grandma
going to die?", I was questioned by one of my younger cousin. I looked deep
into her eyes and said "Yes". I remembered that my A-level Biology lecturer
once told us about her hereditary heart disease and how she would not be
able to live her life pass the age of 70. "It's not really a big deal," she said,
"Such is life. Imagine your heart beating since the first day you're born,
it never ever stops beating and IT NEEDS TO REST ONE DAY, SOMEDAY."



And then, I told my young cousin the exact same thing my lecturer told me.






Every second turned into minute, and minute turned hour.
Every now and then, I could hear screaming inside the room,
and everybody would RUSH into the room for fear of the worst,
ONLY to find out that it was a false alarm and grandma was still
breathing, unsteadily. And finally, when the clock ticked towards
10:40, my grandma's last breath became part of the air, eternally.



"Come back, Ma!! COME BACK!!!"



There was a sudden drop of temperature in the room, which I believed
everybody felt the same way. Rivers of tears started streaming down my
cheeks before I even realized it. I was sad not because of grandma's passing
— I believe she went to somewhere peaceful with NO MORE suffering 
but because I saw the pain inside all of us in the room who cared for her.
All the memories of grandma that's left inside our brain became the most
painful poison in the world, and the only heal is no other than tears & time.



I looked at the Philippine caregiver/maid that looked after grandma for
7 years that's almost a decade! — and all I can see is pain in her heart.
All my uncles & aunts, including my mom, burst into tears & collapsed on
the floor, still telling my grandma to come back, come back. Come back.
For me, this was the most heart-wrenching emotion that I've ever felt.
Hats off to all of the surgeons out there who have to deal with this on
daily basis! This is the reason why I can never be in the Medicine field.






Everybody started kneeling down and singing Buddhist prayers,
and then the weirdest thing happened — a white butterfly flew
into the room out of no where (I mean, of course, it flew inside
from the opened window, but I never saw any white butterflies
flying into the room before), and all of us stared at each other
unbelievably. The white butterfly rotated around grandmas bed
for a few times, then rested on top of a curtain fabric. All of us
continued to sing the prayers without stopping, & I later found
out that the prayers were supposed to last for a full 8 hours 
that is, until 6 a.m. in the morning. The old me would NEVER
be able to do that, but somehow I managed to bear through it
until 3:30 in the morning, before I finally hit my limit & slept.



The following few days consisted of a series of religion-related
activities, which I don't think it's appropriate to include here.
(I don't think anybody would be interested to know as well, haha)
It's really an eye-opener to me how complicated the procedures
are — you basically get close-to-zero amount of sleep for five
continuous days, on top of the grief you have to bear as well.



The reality is: you will grieve forever. You will not "get over" the
loss of a loved one — you will learn to live with it. You will heal
and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered.
You will be whole again, but you will never be the same again.
Nor should you be the same, nor should you want to be the same.






During the five mourning days I had a chance to have a deep chat
about death with one of my cousin (older, this time, hahahaha),
and I reached a conclusion of wanting my descendants (if I'll have
any, lol) to send me off by my deathbed happily instead of crying.
Coming from a person like me who once had the desire to take his
own life, I now realized life is such a priceless gift — and the end of
a life at old age should be celebrated because of the perseverance
it exuded. My grandma fought so hard, & she's now in a better place.






My mind kept playing this song while I was typing,
so I will just end this post with this song, hahah.



With love, yours truly.









        
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