Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dead Management 101

YES, SHE WAS THE RESIDENT of that old folks' home. Yes, it's not a Muslim old folks' home. Yes, she was the only Malay there. Yes, she was a Muslim. Yes, I know that for sure. No, I'm not her son. No, I'm not her youngest brother. No, I'm not related to her. I used to stay in her house. Yes, I'm probably the only person she considered a relative in the whole wide world.

And so I signed the document and attached it with the original copy of the death certificate issued by the hospital, duly signed by a pretty doctor whose name so beautiful it sounded like a song from the 60s. I went down to the morgue to meet a guy sitting behind a counter. He checked the papers and told me to put down my name and address and IC # in a big register book. I followed him to a room in the back to check that it was Aunt Su's body that I'm taking out from the morgue because there had been cases people took out the wrong body from the morgue especially when too many patients die on the same day. Aunt Su was on a bed made of stainless steel that's cold to the touch. I untied the knot of a sack they put her body in, pulled down the wrap to look at her face and I'm thinking, my time will come when I will end up the same way wrapped up like that and left on a bed made of stainless steel so cold it might as well be Oslo in December.

From the hospital, I rushed to see a guy in charge of a grave plot. He needed to see the death certificate, yes, photocopy is all right. I got an OK from him to bury Aunt Su at a plot number reserved for women. I'm not sure how much I paid but I thought I paid him extra on account he was friendly and almost sympathetic about the whole thing but I told him people die every day so there's no need to be sad or to feel so bad about losing the people you love. He asked me who died. I told him my landlady died this morning after being hooked on a life support machine for almost a week. I made a mental note to ask about the bill from the hospital, but that would have to wait because I gotta rush to a masjid to go see the people-in-charge-of-the-dead and to arrange for kereta jenazah to go take Aunt Su from the hospital and bring the body to the masjid so the people-in-charge-of-the-dead can wash her up, wrap her up and be done with all the necessary stuff before you bury a dead body for good.

That done, I rode in the kereta jenazah to the hospital driven by a fat pakcik with a missing tooth in the front that he looked almost cute for a guy that age that he might as well be an oversized baby that got away from a nursery. And then we drove back to the masjid and set Aunt Su in a bilik-mandi-mayat of the masjid. The women in charge of mandi mayat came to ask me where are the relatives? I told them I'm the only one she got. Yes, she stayed somewhere around here. Which house? That old folks house. What? That's not a Muslim house! Are you sure she's a Muslim? Ma'am, it says right here in the letter to confirm that you are dead as a doornail; Sharifah Suraya. The women said they were short handed and so I told them I could help. I've got experience. They asked if I have the letter from the state? I said no, but I've washed a lot of deads who perished in petroleum fire in Iran and Saudi Arabia. They said that's OK, we'll get help, and they got volunteers who turned up from a housing area around the masjid. I told them I appreciate it very much. When Aunt Su was all cleansed and wrapped, they asked me how come this came about. I told them a bit of that and a bit of that. By the time it was time to perform solat jenazah, they were almost in tears from the story I had told them and so I said don't worry about it, ma'am, people die every day.

The funeral was brief I thought I could have performed the rite myself. All you've gotta do is read everything in a small book provided by JAIS and just fill in the name where there's a blank. But this is a proper country and you're gonna need a letter from JAWI or JAIS to read that book at a funeral. You're gonna need the letter because the land where the deads are buried belongs to the state.

I got to the registration office three weeks late and they imposed a fine on me for not being fast enough to take care of the papers for the dead. After two weeks I got the official certificate that yes the person with so and so name is now dead and has ceased to be a voting citizen of this country. That simply means Aunt Su can't come back to life as Aunt Su. She's gonna have to need a new name if she comes back on and that would mean another couple of trips to the registration office, commissioner-of-oath and other stuff they'll figure for you to do until you give up and wish you are dead in the first place.

One last trip I gotta do was the hospital. I go see a desk clerk who told me to go to level four to pay all the outstanding bills. That done, I got the receipt and a question from a pretty looking girl; are you sure she's not your mother?

I smiled to say 'will you marry me, ma'am?' Of course I didn't say that. All I said was, no ma'am, she was not my mother.


Blogger hari ribut said...

people die eveyday but pray hard you dont lose people you love everyday

12:37 AM  
Blogger zackzara said...

You need a letter to read the book at the funeral?'s so hard to live yet they make it so hard to die even.

Again, salam takziah from me, Sir. True what Hari Ribut said..gotta pray hard that we dont lose people we love everyday.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Zendra said...

Aunt Su was lucky she had you, Mr. Bergen. I guess in your time together she had probably been praying all good things for you too :-)

But "Dead Management" feels so dead-pan. I'm sure it wasn't such on that day?

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Dhahran Sea said...

Salam Sir Bergen,
As you rightly said, one day we'll be going through this ritual too; of course, somebody else will be doing it for us, hopefully? I wonder how Aunt Su went through her last lonely days at the elderly home... I sincerely hope my children/relatives will be around to take care of me when my time comes, inshaallah.

1:52 PM  
Blogger nadya.s said...

salam berg,

nad hv to agree with zendra.. that aunt su was sooo lucky to hv you. without you, can't imagine who will care for her after everybody she knew, gone?

stories bout aunt su make me appreciate my parents event more.thank you bberg for the kind reminder.

u asked too many pretty lady ' will u marry me'..

how will u react when some lady ask you the same question?
~ will sir bergen marry me? what say u?

take care sir, and hv a good weekend.

btw, abah kem salam. my abah n mama is in town for the weekend.

7:56 PM  
Blogger farah said...

Bless you, sir.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... really makes me wanna get married right now and have lots and lots of anak-anak soleh and solehah to take care of me when I'm old, and most importantly, when my time comes.


* But I have to behave first.. with lots and lots of doa..

Doakan saya ye, Sir Bergen!! (*grin*)

9:50 AM  
Blogger Zabs said...

Salam Bergen,
Satu tanunjawab yang telah anda lakukan dengan sebaikna. InsyaAllah, semoga anda diramatiNya. Al-Fatehah untuk arwah..

10:27 AM  
Blogger Mek Na said...

1. u did good job sir. may Allah blessed u always
2. alfatihah to aunt su and may allah blessed her to rest in peace
3. appreciate my parents and luv them even stronger.will do the best for them
4. suddenly feel like want to get married ASAP and start a family

3:20 PM  
Blogger hari ribut said...

no matterhow successful my son is one day all i hope for is for him to be able to baca yassin for me.

ive lost mum eight months ago,making the decision not to put her on the life supporting machine was the hardest.

9:43 PM  
Blogger anedra said...

bergen, my condolences to you. Take care now.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Bergen,

There are times when a biological mother is not all she's cracked up to be. The four women in your life are all the mothers you will ever need. May Allah bless them and you.


9:28 PM  
Blogger Bergen said...

Hari Ribut: We own nothing.

Zackzara: yes, you have to be officially authorized ma'am.

Zendra: Thank you, ma'am.

Dhahran: We won't know for sure, sir.

Nadya: Yes, ma'am.

Farah: Thank you, ma'am.

Azudesu: Sounds like a good idea, ma'am.

Zabs: Thank you, sir.

Mek Na: Yes, that too sound like a good idea, ma'am.

Hari Ribut: Yes, ma'am. In the end that matters most.

Anedra: Ma'am! I am very glad to see you again. How are you ma'am? Will be going over to your blog right after this.

Auntida: Without a doubt, ma'am. They were my mother in every way.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

Dear Mr Bergen, I have been away from the blog world for quite a while but once back I remembered to drop by your blog.

I am sorry to hear about Aunt Su's demise. My condolences to you, her sole relative who has so lovingly tended to her soul in the after journey. May you be much blessed for such a generous task.

Thank you fo sharing your life with your inimitable style!

12:54 PM  
Blogger Dottie with Dots said...

good person like you deserves good things in life


10:58 AM  

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