A phone call at 6.00 am woke me up this morning. It was Cheau Lin with news of her grandmother.
I recall with some amount of excitement when I first met Cheau Lin’s grandmother in Melaka. I’ve heard a lot about her from Cheau Lin and couldn’t wait to meet her. When I saw her, she struck me as someone who radiated an aura of kindness. Though she had a round and compassionate face, the drooping cheeks and heavy wrinkles bravely bore marks of hardship that she must have endured in her lifetime. She was the quintessential grandma that only a few lucky ones among us can testify to having and was a grandma that the majority of us wished we had.
During our first meeting, I was asked to shout whatever that I wanted to say to her because she had been deaf for quite sometime then. I suggested that Cheau Lin should get a hearing aid for her. I was then told that grandma had a hearing aid, but her vanity had put her off from using it in front of guess. She would made small talk but as she couldn’t hear my reply, our conversation was heavily one sided, mostly with her reminiscing about the good old days and complaining about growing old. It was a little odd to shout “AH MA! HO BO!” to a tiny old lady and I never gotten used to it.
As I visited her more often, she opened up and was less formal. Occasionally, I would observe her sitting in her favorite rattan chair, thinking of days long past. It was as if she was reliving them again in her head. And when she needed to move, she would use a special 4 legged walking cane that sported a front basket. The basket usually housed her handkerchief, an assortment of trinkets and packets of 555 cigarettes.
And how she would smoke those cigarettes!
She later moved to Shah Alam to stay in Cheau Lin’s brother’s house when she can be taken care of by Cheau Lin’s mom and sister-in-law. Around a year and a half ago, she suffered a stroke that left the left side of her body paralyzed. I rushed to the hospital to see her and even though she couldn’t speak coherently, she was grunting and pointing with her right hand. I saw her and I realized from her eyes that she recognized me. The doctors weren’t able to do much and suggested that the family brings her home.
She didn’t have the capability to chew solid food so liquid food, most of the time milk, would have to be pushed from a syringe down a tube that ran directed into her stomach. This must have caused tremendous discomfort and pain because she tried to pull it out ever so often. I was given packs of unopened 555s as she couldn’t smoke anymore. I tried lighting up a few sticks but it was like smoking needles that poked deep into my throat. I was thinking then that it took a tough lady to be able to smoke 2 packs of these everyday.
Her condition did not improve.
The last that I saw her alive was about a week and a half ago when I followed Cheau Lin to Shah Alam. Her once bubbly face was but a pale reflection of the image that still have with me when I first met her. Her muscles was wasted due to the lack of movement a result of being immobile for so long. She has also lost a tremendous amount of weight. When I called her and looked at her, blank eyes stared at me. It was too much to bear.
Earlier this week, I’ve heard from Cheau Lin that her grandmother had contracted pneumonia. Both she and I knew that the end would not be long and we told ourselves somehow, when the time comes, this would be a much wanted release from the months of pain she had endured.
Cheau Lin’s grandmother passed away this morning in her sleep and the world has lost a benevolent gentle soul.
John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”