In pitch dark she is reaching to her beeping phone. It is 2.30 am. Her niece is calling her through Facetime. She takes the call. “Aunty, I am so sorry to wake you up but grandma’s condition is getting worse by the hour. We thought you need to know”. She only can manage an um and hangs up. She mumbles something like ‘Please keep me posted”.
Her husband is awake now. “What’s going on?” he asks. “Oh, my mother is slowly falling into coma” she replies lightly. They are now sitting on the edge of the bed with the light on. “I think you should go there” he adds. She nods agreely. She is now trying to digest what she has just heard. Actually it has been a nightmare for her as a migrant living faraway from her family to receive such call. That horrible call. Well, the past year she has been preparing herself for this but when it actually happens it is not as she expected.
Two hours later, beep…an incoming call. It is her sister, crying. “It goes so fast right now. We need to let go of her. I have called the family to come”. She shows her a room filled with family. She tells her sister “I hope she is not suffering. I am ready to let her go. Just stay at her side so she knows you are there. Just call me if there’s any news”. She hangs up again. After that she immediately books a flight, departing that afternoon.
In the meantime it is 6 am. The sun has risen. Her daughter is awake now. Her husband tells the daughter “Mama is leaving to see grandma this afternoon”. The three of them eat breakfast together. Her husband decides to take a day off work to support her. 10 minutes after the daughter left for school, her brother-in-law calls. “Mother has just passed away. What is your plan? Are you coming?”. She gives him her flight info. He assures her someone is going to pick her up tomorrow at the airport. “Ok, the funeral will take place the day after tomorrow”.
She calls her colleagues, telling them she is leaving for 1,5 weeks for her mother’s funeral. Her husband calls their family and friends. The whole day condolences are pouring in but she is numbed. She has not cried. Actually she is exploring her feelings; sadness and disbelief and yet relief that her mother is now freed from pain, are mixed altogether. Yet she has not cried.
After checking in at the airport, she proceeds to the immigration. The officer looks at her passport and asks her “Where to Miss? Ah, on holiday?”. She replies “No, it’s family matter. I am attending my mother’s funeral”. “Oh, I am so sorry. My sincere condolences. And regardless I wish you a good flight”. She smiles and thanks him. After 14 excruciating hours on the plane, she lands safely on time. There she experiences the same situation at the immigration desk. And she thinks, the first two strangers who offer their condolences are the immigration officers. It begins to feel like a real deal. Her mother passed away, she is … dead.
The car is approaching her mother’s house that is packed with people and flower arrangements. She steps out of it, hears people murmuring. oh that’s the daughter from abroad. Then for the first time she sees her mother lying peacefully in her coffin. It is so strange to see her like that. Family, nearest and dearest are there. They come to hug her, support her. She is so tired but she can’t sleep despite her family warning her to take a rest.
All she wants to do is to mourn her mother privately but unfortunately it is not possible as there are always people around the coffin. Even at the ungodly hour when she sneaks out of the room to come to the coffin, there is no privacy. She recalls this as experiencing the reverse culture shock. In the country where she lives, mourning is very private but not here. In her own culture mourning is clearly a public occasion. She forgot this apparently.
08.30 am in the morning the family leaves to the church where the service will be held. There she meets more family and friends. She holds an in memoriam speech, commemorating her mother’s life. Her niece sings a song as requested by her mother. She stands there receiving condolences, warm words and thoughtful attention from those who have known her mother. She is so exhausted and sad but still there are no tears.
It soothes her and her sisters to see many people accompany their mother to the cemetery. This would have pleased their mother. After a short prayer, the coffin is laid to rest six feet under. The cemetery workers put the ground on it. Slowly the coffin leaves her sight. Upon realizing this she murmurs “The coffin. I can barely see it anymore”. A minute later she goes on, this time with louder voice “Now, it is gone. I can’t see it anymore”. Panic overwhelms her out of the sudden. The last bit of her mother is out of her vision.What to do now? Then she starts to feel what she unconsciously has been trying to avoid the past 36 hours: sadness, feeling left behind, losing her mother.
From murmuring she is now weeping like a child. Well, she is a child who has just lost her mother. At once many thoughts are entering her mind at that very moment. It is like she is playing a 35mm movie with her and her mother on it in slow motion. She tries to dig into the moments they shared together. She comes to realize she is weeping her dead mother but yet life around her goes on.
A year ago today it was I who received that horrifying phone call. Under circumstances I am doing good now. There are situations that instantly remind me of my mother and most of all of the fact that I am now an orphan. I am still not really used to that status though but I am ok with it.
Sincerely sorry I broke my promise that I wouldn’t bother you with my mourning this year. Firstly I was hesitant to share it here for this is so private, I bare my soul publishing this. I still vividly remember it almost to the minutes. 12 October last year seems like yesterday. I remember what I did and felt that day, the day before and even the weekend prior to that. That weekend I was happy due to lovely autumn weather, my family and I went for a ride to neighbouring village in Germany.
As part of my grieving I decided to put the story in this post. I hope this might help me through today as it is business as usual at work.
Thank you for your time reading my story. To those who have just lost their loved-ones, mourning is very personal. Take your time as I am taking mine.