Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eidul Fitri, Mika, my Mother, Sponge Bob and the Solace of the Cemetery - pictures tell stories

Early in this morning of 1st Syawal, as droves of Muslims made their way to perform the Eidul Fitri prayers at mosques all over Malaysia, Mak Ndak (my auntie), Mikhail and myself sneaked towards the Bukit Kiara Cemetery which hosts the final resting place of my mother, Arba'yah binti Hj Mohd Hashim. While there I took some pictures (as is my habit in all cemeteries). And these are the stories that the pictures tell...

My mother is a gardener. My auntie Mak Ndak tells me that she was that way even
in her childhood days, always pottering around in the lawn outside my grandfather's
house in Kuala Kangsar, the royal seat of the Sultan of Perak. It was her gardening and
digging about that unearthed a small trove of ancient golden plates. I think that the number of people
who discovers hidden treasures is quite small. And those who discover them by accident
is even more minuscule. I do believe my mother was born under a lucky star. As a
gardener I thought she would be pleased to have a bouquet of yellow roses posed in
a small tin watering can. Me and Heche found it at a florist just the evening before.  I think
it turned out pretty, don't you agree?
There she is, the indomitable Mak Ndak- Giving her greetings of peace to the spirit of my late mother, her
much beloved second youngest sister, and making her doa (prayers) for my mum's peaceful and joyous
 after life. As we left much later, I heard my auntie whispering under her breath, "InsyaAllah (Godwilling),
Ba'yah, I will be joining you here one day..." I know I am being selfish, but I found myself praying that
the fateful day will be delayed as long as possible, for my Mak Ndak has been a pillar in my home and
a reservoir of memories of my mother that is simply priceless to me. Allah knows best...
While we were at my mother's grave, Mika wandered away and crossed over to the section
of the cemetery for babies and little children. I looked for him until I saw him returning from a
distant way, looking rather pensive and busy. What was he up to?
He came across a little grave of a baby, and crouched down to read the
inscriptions, that would normally state the name, date of birth and death of the dear child.
Then he abruptly stood up and gazed across the babies' graves, as if he was looking
for something or someone. I could not contain my curiosity much longer, and
I asked him, "Hey, Mika... what are you doing over there?"
He replied back, "I am looking for my friend! Remember... the baby that I gave a
present to? Remember...?"
Indeed he did. When we were here last time, he stubbed
his Crocs on a stone and his Sponge Bob character fell of his Crocs. He left it at
the grave of a baby as a gift. But he was looking at the wrong place, because I remember.
So I said, "I know where your friend is! Come over here first, Mika, you need to help me
find another grave for Mak Ndak..!
For my Mak Ndak wanted me to find the grave of her late aunt, Hajah Aminah Saad. So with
Mikhail in tow, we started to make our way down the line of graves near my mother's. It is not
far from there, Mak Ndak said. So Mikhail started to check the inscriptions on all the readable
grave stones, sometimes commenting, "Hey Papa! This one died in Ramadhan... I guess he
is kinda blessed, right?"
Right, Mikhail. After a while we came across a grave stone with exactly
the same black marble as my mom's and after pushing aside the shrubbery that blocked it, found
my late grand aunt's final resting place. Mika and myself were flushed with pride to find her.
So Mika did the honours and recited the al-fatiha for his great grand aunt, Hajjah Amina
binti Mohd Saad. I am somehow pleased that he has made acquaintance with our
ancestor. I think my mom would have been pleased too.
Mika in his one-Croc Sponge Bob continued his search for his friend. He found his 'friend
and 'the gift'. It was nestled between the grave and the stone marking which gives the number
of the grave in the cemetery's registrar of the dead. I was apprehensive that perhaps someone
may have simply thrown away the Sponge Bob, perhaps thinking it to be a mere litter. But instead
an unknown person took the little toy and wedged it where we found it.
I asked Mika if the baby was a boy or a girl.
"It's a boy, Papa!" he said after checking the tombstone.
Before we left, Mika gave the greetings of salam to his friend, and once more
recited the al-fatiha (the Opening Verse of the Holy Quran).
Amiiiiin.... (Amen)
Before we left, I asked Mika to wedge Sponge Bob back to its original place.
Mika complied and said, "Yeah, Papa... the baby will find it easier
to grab Sponge Bob and play with him from there..."
We returned to my mother's grave where Mak Ndak was waiting for us patiently.
Mika turned to face her grave as he recited the al-fatiha. "This is the fourth
al-Fatiha I am saying for Tok (Grandma)!"
So Mak Ndak and myself dutifully
raised our hands in doa behind him. His recitation was longer than normal before he finally
sighed a profound, "Amen!" Then smiling impishly, Mika confided in me...
"I did two bonus doas for Tok!"
 That's Mika for you.

I don't think I am a good dad. I set way too many bad examples for him. For like it or not, as adults, we become de facto teachers, by the things we do or by the things we omit to do. For the young, whether he or she is our son, daughter, niece or nephew will inevitably look up to us as an example. I pray that where I am amiss, God and His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and the Companions and Saints will cover my son, Mikhail. For I am someone truly sensitive as to his weaknesses. And boy, do I have my weaknesses... 

But when it comes to the cemetery and graves, sunshine, I am happy with Mikhail's contentment and curiosity around so many dead people. There are many adults out there who still cringe with fear at the mere whif of graves and the deceased, which I think is a rather ridiculous and short-sighted attitude. After all, we are all gonna end up here one day. Alhamdulillah, may we be gathered by God the Most Compassionate and Most Merciful in a worthy and noble company of kindred souls. Amen.

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

No comments: