The Grandest Love of All

August 16, 2008

I slept with my grandmother yesterday, and we chatted until 3 am about her life experience. I dozed off on her lap during some moments, but made sure she didn’t see. Everytime I woke up, she was still talking! It was so funny, at the same time, heart-warming. She just wanted somone to talk to, someone to sit there and listen to her, someone to love and cherish her. Ultimately, this is all grandparents would ever want. They don’t need Chanel bags, they don’t need diamond earrings, they just need their family to love them.

We all get lost in our own schedules, more often than not, forgetting these precious beings. But it’s good to reflect back and consider their feelings. It’ll definitely put our feet back on the ground.

My weakness is the elderly. I love them. If you want something from me, just bring your grandma along, I’ll be sure to say yes. I can cry looking at old people begging on the streets, as opposed to young ones who are just too lazy to get jobs. Once, I saw an old lady selling tidbits at some corridor, and it was just so wrong, that I just had to buy everything in her basket. Where were her children?

About this time last year, I wrote an article that got published in The Star newspaper. Just give it a read, hopefully you’ll feel like calling your grandparents, or if they’re no longer around, you’ll pray for them in heaven.


GRANDPARENTS are God-sent. They are the ones with home-made kuih raya all year long, they are the ones with juicy stories about our parents, and they are the only ones who can tell our parents off for not getting us that nice handbag we’ve been eyeing.

I was lucky enough to experience moments with all four of my grandparents. Sadly, three of them have returned to God. The third death affected me the most as I was closest to her. She was my father’s mother, and she was a real gem.

Don’t let her petite fragile frame fool you, because she was a lioness. Maids were terrified of my Tok, and that was a blessing to all of us as our whims and wants were attended to immediately, lest her fearsome temper be unleashed. She lived in the bedroom downstairs because she was too frail to climb up the stairs.

One night, I didn’t come down for dinner because I was full. Even with weak knees, she climbed up the stairs, pausing a few times to rest, finding her way to my room. It took her 10 minutes to climb 20 steps. When I asked her why she had not just called out to me to come down, she said she came up because she was too worried that I hadn’t eaten.

For the last three years of her life, Tok had many health complications, from her failing kidneys to her weak heart. As her health deteriorated, she had a tube permanently sticking out of her chest and both her legs had to be amputated.

Her second home became the intensive care ward, as she would be shuttled back and forth between the hospital and home. I used to sleep with her whenever she was at home in one single bed, hugging her, listening to her silent breaths.

I remember how much she loved to sing. Her favourite song was Sayang DiSayang, and she would sing it with a smile. One day, she sang it to me, but this time it was different. She was in a hospital bed, legless, with tubes and needles everywhere, as I sat there squeezing her cold hands.

When she opened with the first line “Angin menderu, dahan jatuh menimpa batu”, a tear rolled down my cheek as I realised this could be the last time I would hear it. And, indeed, it was.

It was time for me to leave for Britain to continue my studies. Tok wanted so much to send me off to the airport. She held my hand all the way during the 40-minute drive. When I about to leave, I begged for her forgiveness and blessing. She waved to me, with a melancholy smile, and tired eyes. I kissed her forehead, and that was the last time I saw her.

When I got the phone call that she was critically ill, I caught the first flight home. As I was about to board the plane, my dad called. Tok had breathed her last in the presence of my whole family, all except me.

I asked them to go ahead with the funeral, in accordance with the Muslim practice to bury the deceased promptly. It probably worked out for the best because seeing my beloved Tok lifeless would have been too much for me to bear.

After 12 long hours in the plane, I found myself outside her room. Slowly, I turned the doorknob and pushed the door open. All I could do was stand outside and look at her empty bed, her clothes and kain batik, folded neatly. I stepped in with a sad, sad heart, sniffed her clothes, and sat on her bed, numb.

Two years have passed but not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.

Now, my other grandmother, Opah, is my remaining gem. She is living with us, staying in Tok’s room. They had been best friends who would spend hours talking to each other. During Raya, they would wear matching baju kurung. My dad would lie down in between them, and they would massage his legs, one would take the right, the other would take the left. It is very rare to see in-laws that close nowadays.

I make sure I spend a lot of time with Opah because I know how precious a grandparent is. Some mornings, I’d take her out for breakfast to eat her favourite nasi lemak at the stalls and, some evenings, I’d take her out for a drive. On Friday mornings, we would visit Tok’s grave.

Being 87, Opah won’t be with us for long, I realise. One day she will go but, at least, she will leave knowing that I love and cherish her.

There is a reason why grandparents are called “grand” parents. The love between a grandchild and a grandparent can be the grandest love of all.

The last time I ever saw her.

I still miss her. Every single day.