14

My mum’s been gone 14 years today. Over the years the unbearable has become somewhat bearable but there are still days when her being gone weighs heavy on my soul and it suffocates me. I get a kind of panic attack when I remember that she’s dead, as in not coming back, ever. As if I’m newly bereaved. As if she’d just died.

My last night in Morocco last week, when I suddenly recalled that she would not be home when I got back to Singapore, a sense of dread took over me and a great big sob rose from my chest. I had to plead with myself to be okay, please be okay, because I knew this already, this is not a surprise, she’s been dead so long, please, please.

This song is so emotional for me because of the last two lines.

I sometimes wish I’d stayed inside my mother

Never to come out

I lived in her womb way past my due date. She was my first home and I didn’t want to leave. I must’ve known. I had to be evicted by way of a scalpel. I yearn for a time I don’t remember.

God, I miss her. I will never not miss her. I was 18 years and nine months when she died and I’m 32 years and nine months now and it will never not shock me that my beloved mother is no more. There is nowhere in the world I could go where I will not miss my mother.

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62

2nd Ramadan

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have turned 62.

I was finally able to convince dad to buy a new sofa. Our current one is old and tired, and the cushions are in desperate need of changing – but no one makes B-shaped cushions this size anymore. I was thrilled when he agreed, thrilled when we eventually decided on which kind, and I was still thrilled when making the deposit. A new sofa…that would really change the look of the house. I hit submit.

And immediately, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. A new sofa…means getting rid of the current sofa. The sofa mum liked, and chose, and bought when furnishing our new home in 1996. A new sofa means…not looking at the armchair and seeing her sitting there. A new sofa means…losing a tangible part of my memory of her. A new sofa means…disrupting her interior design. It’s not like we haven’t moved things around since she died, or purchased new stuff. But the sofa set is a major part of the house…it feels wrong.

Truth be told, I have half a mind to shove the current sofa set into the spare room; it doesn’t matter that it wouldn’t be where she left it, as long as I could still see it if I wanted to.

In four short years, it’ll be 18 years since she passed – the exact number of years my mother’s father had been dead when I asked her, all innocently and impropos of nothing, “Do you still miss him? Do you still cry?” To which she answered, “Yes, I still miss him a lot. Yes, I still cry.” If somebody were to ask me the same questions in 2022, I would say the same thing.

How could a person whose toes I still see poking out of the sandals that I don’t have the heart to throw away, whose cracked heels I still feel on my legs where she would deliberately rub against to annoy me, whose random notes are still everywhere in the house, whose legendary fried rice I still taste in my mouth, whose mirror still reflects her face, whose laugh I hear when I laugh…

How could a person so, so alive in my mind be so, so dead?

I need to hide within a storm So have the lightning come And bring the winds that scream And spill the fog all over town And break through every door And strip away the trees And raise the rivers high Just help me drown And hold me in your standstill ground I will sink down And you’ll be washed away You’ll be washed away

It’s June, and I’ve already lost three people. Two to death; one to life.

Death is much easier to accept. At least they couldn’t help it and you know there is no coming back from it. Losing someone to life is abstract and riddled with what-ifs and maybes and hopefullys – down to the last second. Until holding on becomes more painful than letting go. Then cue Cheryl Strayed: “Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” Cue Rumi. Cue Rachael Yamagata’s entire discography.

I took a real beating. A kick in the stomach. I was down on my knees. I could barely stand. Defeated, I did the only thing I knew would give me solace. I took out my prayer mat. I cried many tears into that mat. I made supplications I had never made before, and I felt an instant relief I had never felt before. But it doesn’t end there. It’s an ongoing process, as it should be.

My yoga mat is the other mat I started taking out more regularly. If the prayer mat is for my heart, then the yoga mat is for its physical encasement. Hatha yoga invigorates me, whilst yin yoga teaches me to find calmness in keeping still.

I discovered Yasmin Mogahed. She was sent as a tool to steer me back to the right path. She fed me verse after verse until it got through to my thick skull. Accept, even if you don’t understand. Nothing is an accident. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. If something is taken away from you, it is for your own good. And know that it will be replaced with something greater. You are going through a purification. Yes, it hurts, but trust the treatment. Pain never comes without a purpose.

And over and over and over and over again.

I can’t claim to fully understand now. But I’m beginning to see where I went wrong and why things happen the way they do.

It’s not okay, but it will be.

I’m not okay, but I will be.

Will we ever get to the other side?

We bandied confessions, tears, forgiveness, reassurances and hopes
in between sleepy good mornings and sleepier good nights.
We showed our feet
and our food
and uttered familiar names of people and places.
As usual I become your dictionary/thesaurus and I’m only happy to.
Your laugh, that hair, your hands, and mine.
It’s like you never left.
We cleared out the grey; everything is clear now except
For one.