R.I.P (in response to The Rose Tinted View)
Ahamed Nizar, a close friend of mine from school (the one that called me The Lone Guitarist), wrote a post last night about the passing of a close relative. While typing a comment on the post I went down the old memory lane, 330KM down to Ampara, 2 years back to 2007.
I still remember my first experience, when my grandma passed a few years ago. It was the same thing, though we had to travel cross-country to get to the funeral. Took us 8 hours to get there, by the time we got to Ampara the body was leaving the hospital, and as they followed behind us it began drizzling. It didn’t rain, but around that time I noticed tears forming in my mothers eyes (it was her mother who had passed). I couldn’t feel anything in mine, but inside I felt it, the shocking reality of it.
The worst part was, the last time they had come to visit, I stayed inside my room. I’d usually go say Hi, and get asked what was wrong with my hair, and I’d brush it off and get back to whatever I was doing. But this time, I stayed inside and spoke on the phone. She was sleeping that time, though, she hadn’t been well for a while.
A few weeks later, Dad walks into the room in the middle of the night and says “Wake up, Ummamma has passed. We’re leaving soon.” Sitting up in bed after that, and just looking across to my brother, I didn’t know what to feel. I couldn’t accept it, until Mum came in and said that she had fallen really ill and was terminal. Mum didn’t say she had passed, she still had hope.
We travelled faster than usual that night, thinking about it right now it might have just been 6 or 7 hours. We left at 2 AM and got there by around 8. Coming in to the town, we noticed the people already on the roads walking towards our house. The Ismail Lodge, as it’s known over there, is a place everyone knows as “MP’s house”. And at that point we had to slow down, and that moment just felt so… strange. Like everyone had been waiting, waiting for us.
They took the body into a room and got with the usual procedures. None of us in the family had shed a tear yet. The rest of the family, my mothers side mostly, were there already. Appa (grandpa) didn’t look sad at all, maybe it was because there were so many people there, I think he felt glad that she was appreciated. I wonder if he appreciated her.
Her children who were abroad were already on their respective planes. We set off to the mosque. We all looked at her face one last time, she was covered in white, she looked pale. Then they covered the face, and placed the body on a metal bed-like thing, that we carried to the mosque.
As we made our way to the gate, there were women wailing from the windows, and among the faces I saw my mothers. I saw her face drenched in tears. For the first time I saw her reach out at something she could never grasp again. My eyes are welling up as I type this.
We walked about the same distance as from Dehiwela junction to the Dehiwela Grand Mosque. There were people in front and behind us, all the men of the town were heading to the same place. By the time we got there the hole had been dug. It wasn’t a son that got into the hole, though, there were so many people close to her that anyone could have done it. So we all picked up some dirt and threw it in.
Once they started covering the hole, we went in and prayed, after which there was a huge line of people waiting to give their salaam’s to the family. This was where it really hit me. Having to receive salaams from far more than a thousand people (the town has a population of 10,000 of which about 75% of the males have deep respect for our family), there are few words I could use to describe it.
By the end of it, we had to give salaams to our own family. To my cousins, my uncles, and finally Appa. It was incredibly emotional at that point, I felt a catch at my throat. When my cousin gave salaams his hands began shaking, and tears fell off his face, he flung his arms around Appa and buried his head in his shoulders. That right there was a moment I won’t forget, it’s still crystal clear in my head.
I wish I had a picture, but maybe you could imagine it. Picture him doing that with a line of people making their way out of a mosque, and a graveyard in the background, with a man and a shovel closing up a grave.
A picture speaks a thousand words, but sometimes all you need is one. And in this case, I think it should be: Closure.