Saturday, November 23, 2013

Just Visiting.........

After a very busy Saturday morning clinic, I went back to the ward to visit a dear friend of mine. A Malay College old boy network, senior to me by a good 10 years, we did Haj together in the mid 80's. He, dying slowly but definitely of cancer, squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, his left lung riddled with tumour masses and inflammatory fluid, his right lung still cancer free from the look of chest X-ray. Myself, a week earlier I thought I was also dying. Funny, how 'little illnesses 'can change one's perspective  to life, and  once healthy, back in the grove, you think the world is yours ! Today, I am still groogy and feeling fuzzy in the head with a tinge of that 'pregnant feeling', but already  on the verge of thinking the world is mine.

Mashaallah, this heedlessness , this'ghaflah' ! Astagfirullah hal azim.

" Doc, Dr Ashoka has not put up any referral yet for you to see Yang Mulia Sutan Kahar Budiman ...", the ward sister muttered politely reminding me I have no business here
" No. I am  an old friend of Yang Mulia. Just visiting....."

Sutan Kahar Budiman [ not his real name of course ] in his days could have done better than Sammy Davies Junior and  Matt Munro put together. A karaoake expert. A livewire at dinner gatherings. When I went into his room he was standing, looking breathless plus plus, plus supported by his children and wife on both side. He was a shadow of his old self, half the size. His hands and feet are cold and he appeared ashened. Fear sketched on his face.

I reorganized his bed, made it more upright and reconfigured it into a trendelenburgh position to prevent body slippage, and with the help of his son, got him back to bed. Standing and getting more anxious would not help his poor oxygenation in the lung.

"My friend , I know this difficult time for you... it is difficult breathing for you but you have to reallywork on your mind to take away your anxiety and ease this real breathing difficulty.  This may work if you try hard enough and sabr. Concentrate on ...ya Salam, ya Salam ya Salam....or ya Latif. Think Astagfurullah, Astagfirullah,... and  do a lot of 'Selawat on the Nabi'.....This will help you immensely." I am being diplomatic for want of something to say. He needed to be ventilated, but for what ?? To prolong his agony and give his family a false sense of something being done!? His time is up......I can see the futility of it all.

I know the score. In a few days time at the most or even tonight, Sutan Budiman may go into coma due to respiratory failure. May need to be  ventilated artificially. But as long as concious level is still intact, it is critical at this time to be in continuous remembrance. It eases the pain and the fear.....

Success is a mind game as the cliche goes. I would venture further from this. From my perspective, Life[ and  for that matter even in death ] is a mind game. If we are in continuous remembrance of Him throughout our lives,  insyaallah, even near death , we could still remember Him. And the difference is tremendous. It could well be 'husnul khatimah' and not  'suul khatimah' !

Remember the 'evil whisperer' at work.

As I sadly walked away from his room towards the cafetaria  for a late late lunch my memory was drawn to another near death incidence, some six years back. Then, I had a small piece of TOL land in Cyberjaya. I gave permission for Wak Karman from Indonesia to stay FOC on the land while he and his wife worked on a nearby farm owned by a Chinese farmer.

He must have been about half my age but hardship made him looked older. Wak Karman , being ambitious , I think, must have borrowed some money from the infamous Acheh triad to organize his own farm on some abandoned land in nearby Putrajaya. The long and short of it was that his business venture did not work. His farm was Ok but he could not sell his produce fast enough. His Chinese towkey friend, who now considered him their rival, just pulled the carpet from under him. Vegetables aplenty but no market. Wak Karman was a dead duck in a week! Figuratively and literally. His Acheh connection did not take too kindly to unfulfilled promise......

One morning the village was rifed with the news that Wak Karman was found paralyzed from neck downward, sustained after a presumed fall from a rambutan tree. The tree was at the most part, only 8 feet tall ! In Serdang Hospital he was diagnosed to have a clearcut, precise  fracture at the C4 C5 vertebrae and the CT showed clean trans-section of the spinal cord. From my perspective a nice place to wack someone really hard from the back with a long wooden thing. It was clearcut homicide, if he dies, and surely he was going to die. His breathing was laboured, his abdomen was distended from retained urine and inability to move his bowel. His young wife knew it and there was already 'desus desas' amongst the small  ' illegal Indon 'community in Kampong Meranti about potential candidates taking over 'the vacuum' with his impending demise.

The 'desus desas' was not on just generalities. There was already 'open 'discussion' on the 'specifics', whether the new suitor should wait for the three month 'eddah' or whether that was not necessary since it was common knowledge in the kampong that the couple was having a hard ' patch ' for over 4 months already and has ' not been together' . Such is justice and the nature of things operating at this level of 'illegal communites' here which not many people knew. They are basic people coming here to earn a morsel here and a morsel there, no time for superficialities and facetiousness of the upperclass!

Wak Karman was brought home to his kampong Meranti house to die and his friends expected him to die 'fast'. Many working days already 'wasted' with them milling around his house. Yasin were read, and prayers and prayers had been organized, and he was still there in bed, unmoving but muttering loudly,

" Apa ini Tuhan, apa ini Yasin !...Mana ada Tuhan !!?? "
And now a different kind  and round of prayers needed to be organized again. This must be the local 'jembalang' that has gone into him.  Wak Karman was on the whole not religious, as most of them are anyway, but this cannot be him, they surmised rather collectively.Several kiyai came. And they failed. His friends were getting anxious and exasperated. The Indons illegals are a superstitious lot, I must say, but they are a close community, helping each other in time of needs.

One night , I took time off from my call and decided to just pay him a visit.
His small hut was full of friends, some milling outside, some reading the yasin and most staring into space in despondence. The was an air of total despair that I could sense in that small, house, dimly lit by a 'pelita' powered by old used cooking  palm oil.

" Wak ! I want you to repeat after me, 'la ila haillallah muhammadarasullah' "
"La ila haillallah Muhammadarasullallah! ", he shouted
Then we read the al ikhlas together.
After that, without my guide, he did the Azan!
Mashaallah !
Everything suddenly became so much brighter.....

I walked out into the night and according to my younger brother, who stayed back for the night virgil, the 'illegals' unanimously voted and conferred me an automatic 'honourary kiyaiship'. I did not have to pay any entrance or membership fee !

The next evening Wak Karman died.
During his burial, the local police decided to pay a visit at the local cemetery, and all his friends  fled, including all the grave diggers, only leaving  the poor  imam to read the 'talkin'.
May Wak Karman's soul be amongst the blessed........

Ya mukalibal qulub, thabit qalbi ala kaa di nik
Ya mukalibal qulub, thabit qalbi ala kaa taatik
[ oh the One who changes hearts, firm my heart on your religion
  oh the One who changes hearts, firm my heart in Your obedience ]

Nik Howk

Similar Articles in the blog:

1. Cancer

2. Unto Him is the journeying

3. Book : Purification of the Heart

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