Sunday, December 09, 2007

Impending Death.

You know, the month of December isn't usually associated with bad news. At least not for me. The month of December has always been recognized as the month of giving, family ties, love, joy and all warm and fuzzy. It's Christmas, isn't it always been like that? Ever since I was a kid. December is the month of Christmas and also the last month of the year. Family get-togethers celebrating Christmas, choir practice, shopping, gift wrapping, attending parties, baking cookies and what not. All the pondering of another year coming to an end and of the things to come pretty much fills your heart with a tinge of nostalgia, not to mention, the Christmas wish list and New Year resolution. Sadly, all that is about to change. December this year would be my very first year of receiving news accepting the fact about the impending death of a grandmother. Which explains my occasional blanking out and brooding moments, as if to have reality sinking in.

It's almost a week now that she's been lying in the hospital, bed-ridden (after the fall at her own apartment), with a condition which neither looks promising nor improving, after suffering from a fall at her own home. Things happened pretty fast, coming in after one another, crashing on us like a speeding car onto a concrete wall. Diagnosis showed failing lungs as well, after the admission and through the hush talks from the adults, things will only get worse from there. See, the Chinese have this uncanny ability to recognize tell-tale signs when death is creeping up on a person, especially with the antics displayed by the person on the death bed like the calling of deceased relatives or mindless muttering or the lost of recognization of living relatives. As superficial as it is, I have seen the predictions coming pretty true myself, even without the doctor's word. Which is why there is no reason for me to elude myself about the inevitable death of amah. What with dad already asking whether if I have a picture of her, just as a subject of conversations.

Amah is losing consciousness by the day, slowly slipping away, that sometimes, she barely even recognizes the person visiting her. Not that she's on life support or anything, but by the looks of it (from the numerous back and forth trip from home to the hospital) her condition is undoubtedly deteriorating. Even as I'm typing here, she's resting in the hospital bed. She hasn't been eating well and most of the time, she's sleeping with the occasional strange utterance of matters which are unrelated or acting up like a child, so as mom says. Of course, I only get news of amah's behaviour from (as I mentioned before) the hushed conversations between adults which usually ends with words like "be prepared". That was also if I was eavesdropping - intentionally or not. In matters as such the adults still remain as adults, doing their best to protect us from the harsh realities of life, and of course, coupled with one or two popular beliefs.

In the Asian culture, these things are better left handled by the adults and as far as a child's responsibility is concerned, it only stretches as far as hopsital visits. We children pretty much remain in the household, just waiting for crucial news while we laze around like zombies with the news of an impending death of a family member hanging over our shoulders to harbour around. Although, jie and I do try our best to keep the atmosphere as light as possible with activities that can take our minds off things. Think Channel E! on the regular, with a few movies thrown in and catching up on a few episodes of TV series to help us steer our minds away. Sometimes, I even resort to excessive cleaning (of the house) to keep my mind fresh. I mean, it's the only few ways to keep me away from staring at the telephone for hours and jumping at every ring, all the time embracing myself for the news to come from the other end of the telephone. At this point, every phone call is such a source of intolerable fear, able to stop me dead in my tracks. I can get quite paranoid when the situation calls for it. You'll never know!

Other than that, jie and I will usually joke about death, as a general subject. It does help in facing the true fact, I guess. For the past week, we've even come up with calling amah the "grand old lady" awaiting for the right time to make her exit out of this world. After all, from our mental calculations and judging from the deaths trailing up the family tree, since our forefathers grandfather, this family has been quite notorious with their elaborate exits from earth. Their deaths usually catches us off-guard, dropping like a bombshell on us relatives, almost like dropping bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Take one incident for instance, we were rushed back home from our holiday in KL with the news of impending death of the late grandfather (which we did almost immediately!). Why should amah, known for liking the attention, pull something off any less elaborate right? I just hope I'm prepared when the time comes. Bad news knows no timing.

Furthermore, the death plague is around. The death plague was created by me, something I've given a name to when the number of wakes arises in town and when funeral homes are filled to the brink. It's weird, really. From my observations, it comes and goes like a season. One moment, funeral homes and undertaking companies seemed to be almost out of business and another moment, boom, there's not enough space to even hold wakes anymore. It's also obvious with the rise in the amount of wake which can be seen held at homes, extending to the roadside as we take a drive downtown. I've seen the death plague quite a number of times while growing up in town up till today. Observations are clear from the to and fro journey from home to the hospital. Even one of jie's distant friend passed away recently in a car accident, whose wake she attended yesterday, accompanied by me. And yes, the funeral homes were all occupied.

Well, with everything being said, I don't think December will ever be the same this year (or the years to come for that matter). Things are certainly looking more gloomy than I've ever remembered. Initially, I thought the exams were going to dampen the mood of December but I've been proven wrong. Amah is currently, as described by aunts, like a ticking time-bomb, getting everybody on the edge of their seats with its ticking. It may explode tomorrow, or the day after, or even tonight itself, only God knows. It's a painful process, but I'm certainly looking forward to God's graces to help me pull through this episode. Until it happens, jie and I are still going to keep asking, "Has the grand old lady made her grand exit yet?" Not that we are hoping, but it's strictly aimed at sugarcoating the reality. At least it helps, for me. Who knows what blow this impending death might bring.

Odd though, jie is still positive that it's not amah's time yet, constantly arguing that she can still hold on. Wonder what makes her says that.

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