The way to go

In the face of death, one is of­ten re­minded of what re­ally mat­ters in life.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR - By JOAN M. WONG

WRITE on Death,” Eve­lyn said. “My fa­ther has just died and we were un­pre­pared for it.”

Hers was a con­ser­va­tive fam­ily in which it was taboo to speak of Death. Her mother stopped her each time the sub­ject was men­tioned. “Don’t say such things,” she rep­ri­manded, and changed the sub­ject.

Ja­nine fool­ishly de­cided to say things about Death. Her friends ad­mon­ished her: “You’re be­ing mor­bid.”

Ja­nine looked into the mir­ror for signs of mor­bid­ity. Her gray­ing hair was her one out­stand­ing fea­ture. It an­nounced she was now el­derly, an “Aun­tie,” past 70 years. And yes, nowa­days she did think of Death, of go­ing away and never re­turn­ing to this earth.

Yong Tai came to her mind. She was an 80-year-old lady who lived in a nurs­ing home. She had had a stroke, was quiet and un­com­plain­ing. Con­sid­ered se­nile, she was of­ten bul­lied.

Yong Tai, how­ever, was both alert and lu­cid.

In one par­tic­u­lar in­stance, due to care­less­ness, she was al­most dropped whilst be­ing lifted from her wheel­chair.

When later she re­marked: “I could go any moment,” it was more

At the core of each in­di­vid­ual is a blue­print to live har­mo­niously and to care for his neigh­bour. a sim­ple state­ment of fact rather than of blame. She faced the neg­li­gence to­wards her with­out anger or re­tal­i­a­tion. Such for­give­ness was all the more re­mark­able when she re­vealed her pain: “In­side of me,” she con­fided to some­one, “my heart is full of tears.”

An­other time, she said to that same per­son: “It’s good of you to visit your mother reg­u­larly. It gives me a chance to talk to some­one else.” She was ap­pre­cia­tive of even such a small act of kind­ness from any­one who paid at­ten­tion to her.

As Ja­nine thought about Yong Tai, she saw that the lat­ter’s peace­ful and serene spirit had bright­ened up the nurs­ing home. When the time came for her to go, the place would be less bright for her ab­sence.

Peo­ple like her are not dimin- ished by in­dif­fer­ence nor cru­elty. Ja­nine re­flected that even Death, which rules that noth­ing can be taken to the grave, is pow­er­less to rob Yong Tai of her spe­cial value. The for­giv­ing per­son she has be­come en­ables her to face Death with equa­nim­ity. She has been freed from fear. On the other hand are those who har­bour thoughts of re­venge and anger, and be­come vic­tims of their own ob­ses­sions.

Within our hearts is a fear of retribu­tive jus­tice, if not in this life, then in the next. Our con­science in­forms us of this. A per­son may em­ploy rea­sons to con­clude the Here­after is just so much con­jec­ture. No one has ever re­turned from the dead to tell us about it. There may be no af­ter-life at all.

Yet, the heart has its own

is a fort­nightly page ded­i­cated to se­nior cit­i­zens. We wel­come real-life sto­ries – happy, sad, in­spir­ing, heart­warm­ing – from read­ers who are 55 and above. E-mail them to startwo@thes­tar.com.my. Con­tri­bu­tions which are pub­lished will be paid. Please in­clude your full name, IC num­ber, ad­dress and tele­phone num­ber. rea­sons. In an ef­fort to an­swer the unan­swer­able, in the Chi­nese cul­ture, for ex­am­ple, paper repli­cas of all kinds of lux­u­ries are of­fered to the de­parted, and burnt. From the ashes, arises the hope that the cit­i­zens of the Un­der­world have re­ceived them.

The hope for this to re­ally hap­pen flies in the face of im­prob­a­bil­ity and re­fuses to be de­nied. It is “hop­ing against all hope.”

Yet oth­ers have an even stronger con­vic­tion than hope. They hold that what they be­lieve and live by are re­al­i­ties, al­though they run counter to what is seen around them. They choose to be lov­ing, un­selfish and truth­ful. They do not com­pete with the Jone­ses, or Ah­mads or Wongs, nor to get ahead by any means what­so­ever, or to be on top at all costs. Theirs is an al­ter­na­tive way of liv­ing a sim­ple and un­pre­ten­tious life­style.

At the core of each in­di­vid­ual is a blue­print to live har­mo­niously and to care for his neigh­bour. How else to ex­plain the stan­dard words: “Rest in Peace,” which the liv­ing in­voke upon the dead? Through­out the world, peace talks con­tinue. In the end, peace is what the hu­man heart longs for.

For peace to hap­pen, an ad­just­ment in pri­or­i­ties has to take place. Sac­ri­fice, for in­stance, so of­ten taken for granted, needs to be ac­knowl­edged and val­ued, whereas ar­ro­gance with its tro­phies of pres­tige, wealth and power, ought to be rel­e­gated to its proper place, some­where fur­ther down the scale of ad­mi­ra­tion!

The dilemma of hu­man ex­is­tence is that some­where, and it could be any­where, be­tween Hope and Faith, are doubts. The more one pon­ders, the more doubts will sur­face. At the ex­treme end is Despair. When Death draws its fi­nal cur­tain and black­ness de­scends, the an­ni­hi­la­tion is to­tal. The thought is so re­pelling that most peo­ple, Eve­lyn’s mother in­cluded, shrink from it in ab­hor­rence. How not to cringe from a black noth­ing­ness from which there is no an­swer?

It takes the moment of Death – al­ways a sur­prise, even when known to be im­mi­nent – to com­pel a search for the truth, for liv­ing to be ten­able. The search for the mean­ing of life then be­gins.

One un­de­ni­able fact is Death’s abil­ity to strip one of ev­ery­thing one pos­sesses in life. Yet the good­ness which a per­son like Yong Tai re­turns for ha­bit­ual mean­ness, can never be wrested from her. Even from the grave, it will cast a glow on the re­mem­brance of a frail old lady who lived, and faced death, fear­lessly.

Ja­nine con­sid­ered this could be the way to go.

Peace is the an­swer:

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