August 4, 2011


A Muslim Graveyard in Malaysia.

Been down lately with a few death news from friends, hubby's friends and relatives. Yesterday one of my cousin, age younger than me died due to complications of the heart. Some of them did not make it to Ramadhan, some are fortunate to die in the month of Ramadhan. There is no authentic hadith saying that those who dies in Ramadhan is promised Jannah. This is not necessary, especially for non believers and non practicing Muslims, but for a practicing and believing Muslim, death in Ramadhan is like death during ibadah. It's like death during performing salah, which is InshaAllah a good death.

I know it is taboo in certain cultures to talk about death, like the Chinese. They are very superstitious about almost everything, even numbers. In the Chinese community the No.4, pronounced as 'sei' also means death in Cantonese dialect. In certain buildings, beds in hospital and house numbers in certain housing areas, here in Malaysia you will noticed there is no house No.4, instead it is replaced with No.3A .

A Chinese Graveyard.

In a Roman Catholic hospital where I used to work the No.13 is also superstitious. There is no bed No.13 or room No.13, it is instead replaced with a No.14A. In Chinese though No.14 means death for sure. Being a nurse, dealing with death and the dead is something like checking the temperature, doing dressings to wound or giving medication, its part of the job. Death in hospital is common and we deal with death often. We prepare the body, clean, dress and send them to the mortuary for collection by family and relatives. Only the Muslims dead are not sent to the mortuary, they are not touched and prepared by us. Only families are allowed to prepare them in a special preparation according to Islam.

Cademstown Graveyard, United Kingdom.

While I was working in Saudi Arabia, death has come to me in an unexpected shock. Dealing with death at work is not the same when dealing with an unexpected death. I have a senior, T , she actually inspired me to come to work in Saudi Arabia. She used to stay on the same floor with me and had just finished her final exam and waiting to move out of the hostel, while I was a fresh new student nurse. She used to sing this song a lot every time as she passed by my room to get to the pantry. One day I stopped her and ask her what was the name of the song. It is called Reunited by Peaches and Herb. That's how I got to know her.

One day, she came back to our hostel. All the girls were gathering around her and she was talking about her experience working in Saudi Arabia. I was just listening from afar, because all the seniors were there with her. That was how I was inspired to go to Saudi Arabia. It was MONEY at that time, Allahu Akbar!!! When I finally arrived in Saudi Arabia she was still there working in the same hospital, different unit, she was in Adult Medical and me Paediatric Surgery. We were not friends immediately because we were not friends before.

Eventually, through one of ...oooh ...this is going to be quite long. My Group girl named J, meaning she was in the same group with me in the nursing school, have a sister named P. P is working in the same unit with T. So they were quite closed. One day J invited me out together with P and T. We went to a Sweedish Compound. Housing areas for expat are called compound and different company have their own compound for their staff. We ate and drank and chat and finally left. T brought back some bottles (me, being naive didn't know it was home made liquor).  That was Sunday. Tuesday night she came over to our place in Block 6, with barbecued chicken wings and supposed to be a farewell gathering since T had finally decided to discontinue her contract and is going back to Malaysia for good. 

Next Monday, while I was preparing myself to break fast (iftar), there was suddenly a frantic knock on my door. J, paled and panting asked me to follow her. I said,"I can't I am about to break fast". She insisted that I follow her, so I quickly grab my dates (tamar) and hurried off with her. Half way through the panic I heard the azan and quickly break fast. I asked her what was  going on? She said," T has been missing, nobody has seen her since Thursday and that she had never been to the airport and that her slippers are still outside her room". All this is too confusing to me. 

We finally arrive to Block 13, ground floor, Room No.13 (conincidence?). Pak Qudus an Indonesian  aid who work there as a supervisor to mind the compound was there with P, with a bunch of keys. I still didn't get it at that time. If you are of faint heart, do not continue reading, as this MAY affect you.

"Who's room is this"? I asked, they told me its T's. "What's going on"? I ask again. P said, "something horrible might have happened to T, nobody has seen her for a few days". "That is why we are here to check on her with Pak Qudus, because she had not answered the door too.

Finally Pak Qudus opened the door and peep inside, he quickly closed it and told us not to look inside. But curiosity always kills the cat. It was very dark, as it was already sunset and curtains were drawn. Finally once our eyes were adjusted to the dark room, there she was in white pyjamas hanging from the only place where she could hang herself, on the ceiling light. Once, the message was finally sent to our brains, all 3 of us started to frantically ran helter skelter, screaming Öh My God" , Öh My God","Oh My God".

We were in complete shocked. I was so afraid that I imagined she came down and followed us.  We were sedated that night. The police was called and investigations were carried out. We were asked to come back to the crime scene and was interrogated by the police.  I was so afraid to return there. I finally agreed after some persuasion. We were asked separately for the reason why we had  the door opened. Since all of us gave the same answer so we were fortunate not to be remanded. T has packed her bag, her flight tickets were there and they also found bottles ( the home made liquor bottle) among the pillows which she laid on the floor, presumably, in case the suicide attempt was not successful. She had wrote 3 letters, one for P, one for her family and one for the employer. We finally knew that this was her second attempt to her life and that the previous attempt has had her admitted into a Psychiatric Ward and diagnosed as Schizophrenia.

To me, this was an experience which will never be completely erased from my mind. It has been 23 years, I still remembered it well. Her remains was finally flown back to Malaysia 3 months after post mortem in Saudi Arabia. I was not able to come back to my room in Block 4. I stayed with a very good friend Z in Block 6.   ( May Allah bless her with great blessings for her kindness to me). She has accommodated me for 3 months, accompanying me to my room to get my stuff, and even send me off to work when I am on night duty. I thank Allah for all that had happened, because, if not for this I would not have stayed in Z's room and learn about my true self, a Muslim. I read the Quran everyday, I started to perform salah regularly. When there was a vacant room in Block 6, I finally moved there. 

I perform the Hajj that year and finally put on the Hijab after that. Subhanallah....Alhamdulillah...the ways that Allah shows his servant to the right path...if I did not grab it at that time. I don't know what kind of life I would be leading now. My initial niah to go to Saudi Arabia....was for money, well after 5 years of servicing the hospital (The Roman Catholic Hospital), my take home pay was only RM550. Money was the only reason at that time to leave my country and find a greener pasture. I did not get the same amount that everybody has had SR5000 (about RM 3500)...Allah has planned for me to get it now, later in my life... Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah oh Allah I Love You!

All of us will, finally come face to face with our own death. Have we prepared our self for the hour? What have we done daily? Are all of our time spent for this world or for the world after? I am asking these questions to myself. May Allah keep all of us in His path and guide us always...

Longing to return.