(so this is how a funeral plays out)

Despite the many slice-of-life reflections and turn-of-events that I frequently share online on my different mediums, especially here, the truth is they’re only a fraction of a full, hectic life. I do believe in privacy, including that some turn-of-events are best kept offline. Some things have no place online, you know? I’m not interested in responses and judgments.

Whatever that I choose to write here, I do so because they carry meaning in my life, however slight.

This piece of news has no business being here, I know this. But I’m a little shaken right now.

So I write. I must write.

This morning – no, just fifteen minutes past midnight last night – I lost a close grandmother-aunt. Hers was a peaceful death, one that we more-or-less saw coming since her hospitalization on Monday. My aunt and cousins as well as Third Bro, all living in my parents’ hometown in the southern state, traveled up to the city to be with my other grandma-aunt; these grandma-aunts were best friends. Our family were directly involved not only because we were her closest relatives – geographically and blood-wise – but also because Eldest Bro took it upon himself to sort out all the hospital matters since she was warded in the hospital he works at. He was assigned as the first line of contact in the event of emergencies, which was why Mum was second to hear the news and naturally, I was third. “Inform the rest,” she told me simply – just like eleven years ago when my maternal grandmother passed away. Then, I was first among my siblings to learn the news.

“I’m driving back now,” Eldest Bro said to Mum, hastily making his way back from the neighboring state where he’d been staying for two nights for work, “I don’t think she’s going to last till morning.” All of us scrambled out of bed and made it to the hospital minutes before 1 AM. We were the first to arrive, beating even my older cousin brothers whom we’ve all considered as my grandma-aunt’s own children (she never married). The moment we arrived, the nurse pulled Mum to her side to inform her that we lost my grandma-aunt about thirty minutes ago – the same time we received Eldest Bro’s phone call. The entire night then went by in a blur. By the time I returned home with Mum and Eldest Bro, it was 3 AM.

I woke up this morning in a continued daze; all of us made our way to the mosque by 10 AM. The procession was brisk and organized – her body was washed and cleaned, everyone present was allowed their last goodbyes, then the prayer for the deceased was performed. The needful was over well before noon. Now it’s almost 2 PM and everyone’s back to their regular schedules – work – which means I’m back to doing what I’ve been doing these days: being home alone.

I don’t know why I am so unfeeling right now.

I feel a tightness in my chest, but I’m perfectly rational and unemotional right now. Even at the mosque this morning and the hospital last night, I shed no tears. It’s not that we weren’t close – this grandma-aunt took care of my mother at one point of my mother’s childhood years and did the same for all of us siblings. In my schooling days, whenever both my parents were away, we’d stay over at her place. She was a fantastic cook while her best friend, my other grandma-aunt, was a fantastic homemaker. They were a dynamic duo. She practiced the kind of tough love (non)display of affection, but we know what’s in her heart. My siblings and I, we literally grew up before their eyes, cared and loved by them.

I feel a gaping hole now forming in my heart, my life, but its significance has yet to etch itself.

Is this how death feels like? So this is how a funeral plays out, was my thought at the mosque just now.

I’ve attended two, but was not old enough to register all the ongoing. Throughout the procession and even last night, my cousin sister was a sobbing mess whenever the deceased’s body was within our sight. Each time, I stood awkwardly off to the side – sometimes I’d pat her back or rub her forearm in consolation, but mostly I kept to myself. Grief is, after all, best dealt by oneself, on one’s own terms. I don’t even know what to do with mine – or maybe more appropriately, where it is.

I think my brain and heart are slow to emotionally react – there’s lots of reasoning in my head right now, too many rational thoughts. So this is what I need to do when my parents pass, I thought to myself last night as I followed the entourage to the mortuary. The sheer number of people who make an effort to come visit is an indication of you as a person and the kind of life you’ve lived, I thought to myself again as I followed my parents to visit her yesterday evening, hours before she passed. I found myself with endless finite questions and random, fragmented thoughts such as, at the end of the day no matter the amount of your wealth and knowledge – it’s you, did you do good to others and yourself when you were alive? and Imagine if you stayed back in the US, N – or if you weren’t done… would you have regretted not remembering the last time you met her?

So this is how it feels like when death comes knocking – way too close. This is how it feels like.

Not for the first time, all the time – I think to myself, this is why it’s necessary that I’m home.

God’s timing is perfect. I feel no regret or sadness for my grandma-aunt; she lived a full life, that I’m certain. My only prayer for her now and one I will extend throughout my lifetime, is that may she be placed among the righteous and faithful.

It’s been a long three days and an especially long morning.

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