27 June 2017

Memories of Grandpa: last days

Long after a loved-one is gone from your life, you can still feel the piercing pain when you think of him. Indeed, a person is irreplaceable. Only his memories will keep your heart warm and you want to hold on to those memories forever.

Yesterday was our maternal late grandpa's 11th anniversary of passing. As always, I missed him so much that I couldn't bring myself to write about him. But I have promised myself and the family members that I will write and keep him alive in our hearts.

There are too many memories of Grandpa that even after all these years I am still at loss to begin writing. Maybe starting backwards will help.

Grandpa passed on after more than a year of suffering from colon ulcer. My little boy who was then 3 years old and I got to spend time with him for two full weeks before he passed. At that stage, the extended family members took turn trying to make him as comfortable as could be. What I remember the most was his constant moaning because he was in so much pain.  Every day each of us would spend an hour or so by his bedside. Whenever it was my boy and my turn's, I would rub his stomach in circular motion to ease the pain; at the same time suppressing my tears because it hurt so much to see someone in great pain. Sometimes I just let the tears fell silently and say as many prayers as I could. My little boy, being only 3, would innocently ask me to sing the 'Our Father' prayer, thinking that the prayer would make Grandpa fall asleep like it did him.

It was during that time that I could really feel the extended family's solidarity. Aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews...they would all take turn accompanying grandpa. Sometimes talking comforted him. Strange requests and conversations took place but we just said yes to everything.

The strangest request he made was for the family and neighbours to beat the gongs for his funeral. Of course it was a scandalous request! According to the Dusun culture that we adhere to, when there is death in a household, no music of any kind is allowed. Not even TV or radio until the person has been laid to rest. In fact, if I remember correctly, no musical instruments for a week.

(I wasn't in the country when grandpa was laid to rest. The family honored his wish and did a round of gong-beating. His neighbours told us that on that day, they all heard beautiful gong beatings out of the blue, just as grandpa wished. Maybe coincidently, there was a wedding at some neighbouring village...or...)

One time when I made my daily visit to grandpa, he opened his eyes and asked me "isai pama i hiti di tinu ddi?" (Who was it that was here earlier?). Puzzled, I said the name of every possible relative that was there on that day. "Okon, kirasuk toitom-itom do kisalip miagal di dampaado. Numaan dau pohitio'd kangkab ku i buuk do tagayo". (No, he wore a dark coloured robe with cross like the priest's. He put a big book on my chest).  I felt my goosebumps raising when I heard that. Somebody told me that a person who was about to leave for the other world would see things that revolved around his faith. Grandpa was a Catholic. Could it be possible that he saw Jesus, the sign of his faith? Not knowing what to say, I told him it might have been the priest who came to visit him.

On 26.06.2006, grandpa passed on. (I wasn't there to bid him final goodbye. But at the time he drew his last breath, from far away I experienced a great sense of sadness, like my heart was ripped from me. For a few minutes, I was sweating like I was sick. Then it ended. And a text from my family came to tell me he was gone.
Maybe that's why I still miss him so much to this day).

The family said it was a beautiful day when he was laid to rest. Many people from various places came over to pay him final respect. Not surprising as Grandpa was a very popular person- always good-natured and helpful. Even his resting place was quickly prepared, because a backhoe driver who  happened to pass by the cemetery offered to dig up the burial place instead of it being dug up by the villagers following the tradition there.

Eleven years later, he is still deeply missed.

25 May 2017

Remembering grandma

Too much of culture-related content in the conference today made me miss grandma so much. We called her 'ina' (mother, in Dusun), following our mom, aunties and uncles. She passed on in 2007, and yet it feels like just yesterday I was talking to her, listening to all her stories.

Grandma wasn't the most open person when it came to personal matters. She was kind of private and the only time she actually talked about her past in length was when I met her last before she had a stroke, which led to her passing on.

So the thing I wanted to know the most was her first husband. The fact that Dusun people of her generation married a few times before settling with their final spouse is quite well-known. The reason why they divorced have to be coaxed out of them though.

And so I asked her quite bluntly...why did you divorce your first husband? At first she refused to tell...but my persistence got to her and she told me her story in an unusually gentle voice, untypical of my military-like grandma.

She, like most girls of her generation was match-made. And funnily enough, she thought at around 13 she married late. People in those days got married but didn't sleep together...until...until...they discovered what conjugal love meant. Grandma was married-off but still lived in her relatives' household (having had lost her parents early).

A few month after the wedding, an elder relative told her she was to be divorced. The reason was, her husband who stayed in his family farm had his eyes set on another girl. In those days, openly liking a person was a taboo...much less liking a person when you were already somebody's spouse.

I asked grandma "aa ko ddi tinumogod?" (Didn't you get angry?). She simply answered in the softest voice, "nunu gia katagadan?" (What was there to be angry about?)

At that moment, my respect for grandma increased a hundredfold. She accepted her destiny and moved on. Perhaps that was because she never did discover a wife's feeling for a husband. But she could still have had her pride bruised and got angry. Yet she didn't.

She lived up to the saying "If you love someone, let him/her go. If s/he is yours s/he will come back to you. If s/he doesn't, it is never meant to be..."

Grandma, a wise woman long gone. Still our inspiration.

05 January 2017

Back to Blogging (2017): rambling on New Year resolution and theme

Happy New Year 2017! My self-imposed blogging-exile is over. I've missed my blog and because life is short, am determined to write stuffs because writing is one of my passions.

We, the Dusun, generally aren't very good with resolutions. Either we don't make them at all, or we just don't achieve them, like yours truly. "And why is that?", you would wonder. Some years ago I blogged on the culture of not making plans for fear of evil spirit's interference. I supposed we the modern Dusun people must have subconsciously absorbed the cultural belief; hence, the not-so-good with resolution (just my assumption, not proven by any empirical research).

I imagine that in those days secret resolutions might have been in the form of aiming to harvest more crops than the year before. Or perhaps during the head-hunting era, it could have been, aiming to "harvest" more heads of the enemies...(and the purpose wasn't to display the skulls as trophies, but some other deeper significant which is a blog topic for another day)...

Anyway, I do have my own personal theme for each year. That, might qualify as a form of resolution. As I wrote in my FB post recently, this year my personal theme is "Kindness and Compassion, good-samaritan-style". It was inspired by the kindness I experienced when my car horn malfunctioned and kept on blaring on 2.1.2017. Hopeless, as my automobile knowledge is practically null, strangers around me stopped by to help disable the sound, showed me the parts related to the horn and advised me on what to do. That was enough to remind me that there are still many kind good Samaritans in the world. So I am convinced that if others let themselves be my angels, then I can let myself be others' angel too. That's how life works anyway.

Of course I cannot help the whole world. But doing my part for people I can reach out to should help the world. After all, it's the work of many small hands that create wonders. (BUT.., we should be wise in giving help. Besides the good people, there is a fair share of vultures out there).



Being fully aware of this, I am reminding myself that "it is in giving that  we receive".