What were the signs?
This happened a few times in the three days between
Boon’s death and cremation. On the screen of the mobile I could see that there
was a new text message. But when I tapped on the text messages icon, there was
no new message to be seen. Was he trying to send me a message?
On one of those evenings, also between the day of his
death and cremation, I was going through the photo library on my laptop. I was
looking at a photograph of Boon when the application hung. The picture was
taken at a coffeeshop where we used to eat kaya toast and mee pok. He wore a baseball
cap and the grin on his face was very cheeky. I wrote in my journal that day: “You
are worried that I will forget you? Don’t worry, my dear. I won’t.”
On the day after the cremation, I woke up and made a
mental list of the things I had to do. There were a lot of things to sort out:
financial and legal matters; the matters at his workplace. I had run out of
black clothes, so I put the laundry into the washing machine first thing in the
morning. And at the back of my mind the whole morning was the reminder-to-self
to hang the clothes out to dry before going out.
As usual, I crammed far too
many things to do in the few hours of a morning and I had to rush to shower to
get ready to go out. When I stepped out of the shower, I saw that the door of
the washing machine was open. This had never happened before.
something on the floor beneath the opened door. It was the black checkered top that I wore to the
cremation. Boon liked it especially. In fact I did not use to wear it very
often until after he saw me in it once and said that I looked good in it. I
wore it to the cremation for this reason. And there it was on the floor. I
picked it up.
“You’re still here,” I said aloud. I hung the blouse and all the other
clothes. I was smiling because when I returned to the flat after the cremation, when I walked inside, I felt like a swimmer in a sea that had suddenly lost its current. The air seemed vacant. And the emptiness made me dejected. I felt abandoned.
“It takes time for the departed to leave. It’s like
shutting down a computer,” said the priest, “You have to close all the
different windows, one by one, and then you can shut down the system.”
I was sitting in Father Yin's office at the church. I had gone
to see him because I wanted to hear from him his account of what happened when
he went to the ICU to pray with Boon on October 12. Before that afternoon, Boon
had not moved for close to two days. Whilst the priest was praying for him,
holding his hand, Boon moved his head from side to side.
The priest told me what he could remember from that
day. “I saw him and I could tell that it was not good. So I held his hand and I
prayed for him. I prayed for repentance and for forgiveness. I prayed for him
to have peace of mind.”
When the priest asked me why I needed to know all this,
I said I was planning to write about the whole experience. I had seen some
things. There had been signs at home.
“Hmm. I am not surprised. But are you
worried? Do the signs frighten you?” the priest asked.
“No,” I said. “I believe that these things cannot have
happened without God’s sanction. They are either from God or God has allowed them
to happen. I say this because I have drawn closer to God because of
“For a young person who had big plans to die so
suddenly, the death comes as a shock.”
Yes, Boon had big plans. He had bought a beautiful
apartment with a rooftop garden in the east and he was planning to move in in
December, in time for Christmas. He had asked me to move in with him.
“Isn’t he already in heaven?” I asked. “Isn’t he with
God? Why are there these signs?”
I took the priest’s advice and prayed for Boon and myself. I prayed for acceptance, I prayed for peace. I prayed for us to love God above all things.
What I know now is that death is not a point in time.
It is not a moment. Death takes place over a period of time. For the
chronically ill, the period of dying is drawn out. For the person who
dies suddenly, death also does not occur only at the point when the body fails. It takes time for the soul to be reconciled to its new state. Like his
mother and me, like his friends, his family, Boon’s soul had to come to terms
with Boon’s death.
I was part of this process. And I thank God for the
privilege. Though it was heartrending, I will still say that it was a privilege
to witness his soul’s struggle to be alive and his reluctance to leave this world; it was a blessing to be
guided to pray for him to look towards heaven. And what a privilege to pray for his soul to be reconciled to God's plan!
To pray for Boon to set aside wholeheartedly and gladly all his cares and concerns for the earthly
realm, all the ties that still clung to him, and to prepare himself for his journey home.
“We can no longer be together. You are gone; I am
still here. But we are together in God. In the biggest scheme of things, the best possible thing has happened. That
is all that matters. It really is.”
(to be continued)
Labels: faith, grief