Light to light, ashes to ashes.
And dust, to dust.
One would expect during my years as a medical student, I would have gotten used to life, would be oblivious to the bitter taste of death. But I haven’t.
I don’t think I ever will.
There was that one time when I did CPR on an unconscious patient. Palms fixed firmly on her chest, my arms straight, my shoulders hunched, my body weighing down. Counted to 30 again, and again, all the while glancing towards the ECG, desperate for any sign of life, the slightest wave giving hopes.
As my breathe laboured, beads of sweat trickling down, the oxygen saturation dropped, the ECG flattened. Her pupils dilated, her airway collapsed, her arms hung limply, the warmth slowly leaving her body.
The doctor pronounced her dead.
I watched the doctor approached the attendant, the daughter perhaps, breaking the news gently, her expression impassive. I watched her stricken face, the shadow that fell upon the tears that followed, heard her wailings soon after. I remember feeling detached, amid the chaos, as if I was watching a drama. An emptiness I couldn’t quite put a finger on.
One could never expect death. The way it hovers over us, the gentle tug at our hearts, the acrid smell of grief. A phone call that awoke you from your sleep perhaps, a sentence uttered that brings the sky crashing down. A love one snatched cruelly forever.
The first one I lost was my late grandfather. That was 5 years ago. Yesterday, I lost my grandma. I lost one of my anchors.
With my grandpa it was different. I was by his bedside each day, holding his hands. I was there when he slipped into a coma, whispering Yasin softly into his ears. I was there when he took his last breath. I was there slipping my arm into my grandma’s, offering her comfort when I too, was shaken with grief. I saw his body wrapped in a simple white cotton, lifeless. Felt the coolness of his forehead when I kissed it for the last time. Stood under the glaring sun, as the last grain of earth swallowed each part of him.
With my grandma I knew it from a phone call. This, for someone who brought me up. This, when I’m only a week away from coming home.
This, 2 days before exams.
I wanted to scream my lungs out, stamped my feet at the unfairness of it all. But all I could do was buckled down. My chest constricted, my mouth gasping, swallowing huge gulps of air, my heart pumping furiously.
My tears, silent.
She was supposed to wait for me to come home, her smile radiating with warmth, the smell of fried custard puffs filling her kitchen as always. She was supposed to come to my graduation day, her face etched with joy, her bear hug engulfing me. She was supposed to be at my wedding, hold my first child in her arms lovingly.
She was supposed to live on forever.
Even now, even when I’m nowhere near, I crave the comfort of her presence. I crave the comfort of knowing she’s alive and well, waiting, as always. The slow paces, her walking stick supporting her weight, her legs peeking from her jubah, the blue veins visible through her thin skin.
Home seems so far away.