It's World Cancer Day. I lost my Mama exactly two weeks ago. She had colon cancer. Stage four. Mama was my aunt. My mother's sister. She took care of me when I was little, so I called her Mama. My mother had another sister whom my cousins and I called Ibu. We lost our Ibu to cancer too.
Imagine losing two siblings to cancer like my mother did. Worst nightmare ever. My mother is one of the strongest people I know. Every day I pray for Allah Ta'ala to grant her ease and protection.
Compared to my other aunts, I had always felt closest to Mama. Maybe because Mama used to babysit me. Maybe because both of us had suffered from infertility issues. Maybe because we had always been the hati tisu gang in our big, strong family. Maybe because of Hajar. Hajar was Mama's daughter. She was adopted. Hajar called me her sister. She was the kakak I never had and I was the adik she never had. Mama lost Hajar in a horrible accident on her way back from school. Mama was completely shattered. For over 30 years, every time Mama looked at me, she said I reminded her of Hajar. "You two were so close... Imagine if Hajar was still alive today, looking at you, all grown up." I knew my kakak Hajar through Mama's memories and grief. Sometimes they are so vivid that I find myself missing this kakak I have no recollection of.
Growing up, I would visit Mama every once in a while, though not as often as I wished I could. Where I live right now, Mama was the closest relative I had. It gave me a sense of belonging, knowing she was 15 minutes away (particularly when you're stuck in MCO life and your parents are across the state). Mama would make my favourite ayam masak kicap and my son Ikhlas would shamelessly request his Tok Nanny for teh o panas. Then we would flip through old photo albums while munching whatever kudapan Mama had in her balang. Mama would talk about how she missed arwah Hajar and most of all, arwah Papa. I believe Mama never moved on from Papa's passing. Something about her changed and Mama was not the same person I knew. It was like- half of her spirit had lost its way to her body. Papa was the ultimate love of her life. Mama would always mention him with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes.
The day I found out Mama had cancer, I knew I was going to lose her. I knew Mama would want, more than anything, to return to Papa's arms in heaven. Her first words to me when I visited her was, "tolong maafkan Mama." Her last words to me was, "you will always be my daughter." I got to hug her. I got to kiss her. I got to say I love you. I got to say I'm sorry. I got to ngaji beside her till she fell asleep. I got to help her wear tudung and sit. I got to imamkan her solat once and I got to suap her makan a few times.
"Mama ingat tak mama pernah suap Wani lauk sama macam ni masa Wani kecik? Nasi. Sup. Potato. Carrot. Mama hancurkan potato dengan carrot sebab Wani tak suka sayur. Mama ingat tak?"
I even got to gaduh with Mama for a few minutes. She insisted on giving me all the duit that people sadaqah when they visited her. Mama took them out and placed them in my hands. So many sampul duit in my hands. I said NO. She became persistent.
"Kau tak ambik, kau berdosa."
"Haih. Ye lah, Mama......."
I put them back in her bag when she wasn't looking.
These moments were brief and may not seem much, but these were my rezeki. My final moments with Mama. Alhamdulillah. I may be secretly grieving in my own way, but I have made peace. Especially knowing that Mama is no longer in pain, insyaallah.
Sukalah tu Mama, dapat jumpa Papa dengan Hajar.
I hope you won't forget me, ma. 'Cause you too will always be my Mama.
Al-Fatihah Hajjah Siti Fatimah binti Haji Ismail