His story of his mother reminded me of my mom.
My mom is 80 years old and barring some ailments to the legs which we have been trying to ease with glucosamine and chrondoitin with some small success, she is healthy, praise the Lord, thank you Lord. However for the last few years my mom has been talking about death, wondering when the Lord will take her. There is no fear in her, she is always eager, always ready to meet her Maker. Last year when we visited my father's grave, she said, "you are happy dear, you are already with the Lord". She had given instructions for whatever savings she has to be used for her funeral expenses, including for buying her casket. We just smiled at her, refused to be drawn into her eagerness to meet the Lord.
When she dies, I will be grateful that she has lived a long life, that she is happy, that she got to see her children married, bearing and raising children, that she got to see her grandchildren successful and happy. Above all, I will be happy that she has become a devout Christian and like her, I burst with hope that she will see the beatific vision upon death.
I will grieve, for even now tears came to my eyes as I thought of what she had gone through. My maternal grandma was ill with leprosy, she lived in a leprosy centre in Kuching, leaving my mother and aunt bereft of a mother's love and care. My mom was motherless at the age of about 10 years old. My maternal grandpa did the best he could to bring up his three children, but nothing could replace the love of a mother. My mom married at about 18 years old and bore five children - Jacinta, Patricia, Martin, Lily and me. I am the middle child, for my Iban name she named me Sarimah, after the film star Sarimah, her idol.
My mom was widowed in her forties. She raised us three youngest siblings, gave us the best she could offer, always ensuring there was rice on the tikai bemban - no, not on the table, but on the straw mat, as we could not afford to buy one. There was just this round marble-topped table but that was used for my study table. The table was bought during better times, when my father was still alive. The marble table top is still with us, kept by my eldest sister, Jacinta, with whom my mom is living now. I guess it keeps her connected to the past, its joys and pains. On most days the rice was served with daun ubi, changkuk manis, paku, kemiding and several times a week, fried eggs and fish. My late uncle Jangin was an avid angler, he always gave us some portion of his catch. Meat was a luxury, we had it on several occassions a month, after Jacinta sent money home - Jacinta was a teacher. My children ever asked me whether I missed the good food, etc. I told them I didn't, for how could I miss something I never had.
Even with the little we had, mom always ensured that I brought money to school, enough for me to buy meehoon, kuih or nasi lemak. In those days, a packet of mee and nasi lemak cost 30 cents and kuih, 20 cents. A packet of mee and a piece of kuih was enough to see me through until I got home from school by about 1.30 pm. Together with my aunts, sometimes mom worked at the pepper garden of our Chinese neighbours, earning RM5.00 per day. Out of the meagre sum, she made sure there was some money for me to buy books. I was so much in love with reading English novels. Apart from borrowing books from the school library, I bought Women's Weekly novels, then priced at RM1.00 each. It was ironic - we were poor but my mom ensured that was a luxury I kept. It bore fruit mom, for the things I read made me curious to know the world, it fueled me to be successful in my studies, so that one day I could eat the food described in the novels, I could wear beautiful dresses like the ones I read about, I could see places mentioned in the books. I passed my passion for reading to my daughters mom, and like me they found the immeasurable joys of reading. Today my shelves are overflowing with books. Thank you mom, for feeding my passion for books.
We went to church every Sunday. I was in the choir. In those days I liked to sing and I sang at the top of my voice. I seldom sing now - well only karaoke during Gawai at the long house where folks are not too bothered with whether you got the pitch right or hit the high notes well. When I was in Form 2, I particpated in a talentine competition, nama utai ulih, nadai lumor wai, keruan enda ngemuaska ati ti ka belagu. It was only in my late teens that I realised I was no Uji Rashid material, one of my favourite singers in the 70s. Yes, some people learnt late... Mom never complained about my singing, I guess she allowed me to express myself, unknowingly nurturing the budding of my self-confidence.
When I was still studying in Niah, I helped mom with the farm works on Saturdays and school holidays. Like most folks in Niah then, we planted pepper and paddy. Working was not unpleasant for my aunts took me under their wings. They told stories that made me laughed, they helped me carried the raga - the rattan basket - when it was full and heavy with ripened pepper berries. After school, I made sure our house was spick and span you could lie down on our anak tangga without having to worry about dirtying your body or clothes.
After I graduated from university and started work, I invited mom to stay with me - I wanted to care for her like she cared for us. However she said no, she couldn't leave my sister and my nephew & niece - she was looking after them. Then a few years ago I once again asked her to stay with me, again she said no, your sister, brother in law and Ann-Marie need me, she said. I will move in with you after Ann-Marie starts to walk by herself, mom said. That's my mom, always humble, always giving of herself, but finding joy in doing so. Truly the faith is alive in her. May God continue to bless you mom.
When I heard and saw how some mothers and mothers-in-law are meddling, I vowed to myself not to be one, I vowed to be like mom, always giving of myself, always nurturing, always giving joy to the people I love.