Sunday, 7 August 2011

Coz certain things are inevitable...

There's something about a very late or very early phone call that immediately spells trouble. I don't like late night or early morning calls... it makes my heart jump and my ears perk on high alert to hear if anything is out of the ordinary. When Mother's chatting on the phone in Afrikaans, I know she's talking to one of her many siblings, just a few more minutes into the conversation and I'll figure out exactly who she's talking to.

Mother and her family are weird like that. Their first language (mother tongue) is Afrikaans yet every single one of them converse with their kids in English. So when they talk to each other, they'll speak in Afrikaans, but the minute one of them addresses one of their children, nieces or nephews - they switch to English.

Back to unwelcoming phone calls. It's always bad news. On Wednesday, my aunt (mother's sister) was taken to hospital and diagnosed with lung cancer. She's only 48 years old. Now I've lost various members of my extended family suffering from various ailments over the past two years, people I've known... people I've been "close" to... but the prospect of death has never been this close to home since I lost my Grandmother in 1994. Mother's family is quite close, so this is different than the other aunts or second aunts or grand aunts I've lost before... not that we've lost her yet.

And not that she cares. Mother's family don't do grand emotional displays... or should I say, they're very strong so nothing really cripples them emotionally. Looking at her in her hospital bed, she complained about the TV and the remote and joked about how dying would be easier than watching all the crap on TV. And when Mother called her yesterday to ask whether she should visit her in hospital she said in Afrikaans "Save your energy for the day you need to bath me".

Still, I can imagine it must be difficult for my Mother to watch her older sister - the sister she's been close to for many years - laying in a hospital bed with lung cancer.

It made me think about my own life and my own sisters. I don't want them to be all sad and maudlin. I want them to remember all the times I complained about how much I hate this effing world, quote a few of lines from Chris Tucker's movies, laugh, make dua (pray) for me, let it go and LIVE their lives to the fullest.

I suppose it doesn't hurt to plan for the inevitability of death, no matter how depressing it may be. So if anything should happen to me, I've asked my sister to delete both my Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as this blog. There's nothing worse than looking at a deceased person's profile and reading their last words and trying to analyse their timeline, wondering if they had any indication that they'd be dead within a week. It's just plain spooky and disrespectful. I definitely wouldn't want my words hanging in the air, waiting to be plagiarised or desecrated at someone's whim or fancy.

The art of losing isn't hard to master.


  1. Your aunt reminds me of the actor on his deathbed who was asked by a young admirer whether dying was difficult. He replied "Dying is easy, comedy is difficult".

    A blogger called "Mutley the Dog" died last year. His children allowed his blogging friends to make comments in his final post and deleted his blog a few months later.

  2. I don't think that anything on the Internet is ever lost because the entire web is spidered regularly. So that which you do in life may really echo in eternity.

  3. I came across an enlightening article on qadr and tawakkul recently. It touched on so many aspects of life, including illness & death.
    Your aunt's fortitude in handling the news is testament to her faith. May Allah grant her remission.

    I have an aunt who also didn't despair when told she had breast cancer. The doctors didn't think she'd survive, but Subhanallah, she's in complete remission.

    When her son was murdered a few years after she survived cancer, she maintained that strong acceptance in Allah's Will.

    I've also told my sisters to delete my accounts when I pass away.
    I think I may have been okay with having my blog kept open, but that's no longer necessary, since I shut it down recently-well only I have access to it.

  4. Two days ago I was lying in my bed, lights out, thinking about the inevitable you're talking about. If there's one thing we people can do well it is fooling ourselves. We can just choose not to think of things that are too depressing to face. Like our own death. We switch to scientific mode and tell ourselves it's a part of life. Or we switch to religious mode and tell ourselves we will meet our maker. But sometimes it really hits us: we get scared and actually feel our fear. No rationalizing, no Who-wants-to-live-forever-anyway? crap. We get scared and panic. I felt it two nights ago, and it's no surprise. My grannie's dead, then her sister, and my mother's two brothers and a few months ago her sister... There's no escape. It'll happen, and it's easy to switch to survival mode and rationalize or suppress the whole thing, but it's there and I'm really scared. What are the odds? How many more years? I think that's why I have a blog and try my best not to be too serious all the time. Thanks for sharing that post, Azra.

  5. I take the view that your writings - apart from your kids- is all that you can leave behind to ensure that you never really die. Apart fro the confidential stuff, of course. Or things that would hurt.

  6. I have an agreement with my best friend to show up and remove my internet history, accounts, and any and all sexual items from my home.

    My mother's family tends to act very flippant about serious matters until they are actually happening. They immediately become pragmatic and clinical when faced with matters of emotion.... until you get them one on one.

    As much as I am a spiritual being, I prefer my mother's approach to things over that of my father's side of the family where everything requires 10 mentions of God's will, crying, drama, and pity.

    I can't help but think that the time your mother spends with her sister now will be a comforting experience for both of them. For your aunt to not be alone when she needs a hand to squeeze... and for your mother to not be alone as she transitions toward life without her sister's phone calls.

    Bless you all hon. I will keep you in my thoughts.

  7. I am so sorry about your aunt that is so upsetting.

    I haven't made any "arrangements" for if anything were to happen to me. It's interesting to think about though.

  8. I read this post the other day, and thought I commented...sorry, love.

    I'm so sorry to hear about your aunt. The sorrow is inexplicable when it hits so close to home. Though it is nicer when a loved one takes it with a grain of salt - because death is, after all, a part of life. Though these next months might not be the best, there is at least time, a forewarning.

    Your post also made me think about whether I would also ask for my family to delete my profile of social networking sites. It's a smart thing to consider... now if only I could keep all of my passwords in order!

  9. it's refreshing when one talks openly about death and dying. it prevents tip toeing and hush hush conversations with many awkward pauses. May God grant your Aunt ease and shifa. iA.

  10. GB - I have told my sister to let everyone know, in a post or a status if I should pass. I think it's only right that people know.

    LL - I'm sure there will be elements of my words out there, but I'd rather have my profiles deleted lest someone confuse the living with the departed.

    bb-Aisha - I do admire her strength... and at the same time, I don't see death as this big black hole so I understand her sentiments in not wanting to grieve about it. Your aunt is certainly blessed to have that kind of iman!

    RCB - I think more than anything, we fear uncertainty - the uncertainty of death. What happens afterwards... where do we go to? And the truth is we just don't know. We don't know when we'll die, or where we're headed to!

    Colin - My writings will stay behind, that's true. But if I'm dead it would mean nothing to me. I am however, concerned more for my family and what they will have to live with after I'm gone.

    Angie - Thank you for the well wishes and blessings. I agree that there's no point in being a drama queen and crying for days on end when we all have to face the inevitability of death. My Mother's family don't do self pity either :)

    Diedre - Thank you :) It's definitely something to think about now that we've become so accustomed to our digital lives on the internet.

    Michi - It's true... my aunt at least knows her time on earth is limited and it's not this sudden news like- God Forbid- a car accident or an equally disturbing loss.

    Fathima - Ameen! I dislike those hushed conversations and can't understand why people can't be honest and upfront about certain inevitable things :)