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Selamat jalan, anak mas

Today, we said goodbye to my Aunt Madeleine. She was the second-eldest of my mother's sisters, my maternal grandparents' second daughter. She died last Friday, barely 3 months after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She died at home, at 7 o'clock in the morning, with no pain.

My mother and her three older sisters were born and grew up in the Dutch East Indies, the country now known as Indonesia. By the time my mother was born as the youngest of the family, her eldest sister Elisabeth was already engaged, and she married and left for Holland soon after. The remaining three children, much closer to one another in age, developed a very close bond; and all my life, I, my sister, and my cousins, have regarded our 2 aunties more like surrogate mothers than aunts. Strangers could never tell which children belonged to what sister, the family resemblance was so great. It's the same with my sister and me -- her children often get ascribed to me. When I was a child, people thought I was Auntie Maddy's; and she was my favourite aunt.

Aunt Maddy wasn't in any way remarkable, although as a girl she had been a badminton champion; but she was a warm and loving woman with a dry wit and a penchant for telling stories, family histories, tales of tempu dulu. She and her sisters came to Holland with their mother, my Nanna Darling, in 1950; after Indonesia had achieved its independence, and it had become clear that my grandfather had not survived the Japanese POW-camp. Here, the girls finished their schooling, and then all 3 of them went into the WRENs.

Aunt Theodora, the middle sister, was the first to get married, which went much against my grandmother's idea of propriety. Which was why, when my parents first started talking seriously of marriage, she put her foot down and demanded they wait until after Maddy had been married first. Luckily, my father's best friend fell in love with her, and in the end my grandmother gave her blessing to a double wedding for her eldest and youngest daughter. My Mum and Dad's marriage didn't last, but Aunt Maddy was looking forward to celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary in October this year.

Aunt Elisabeth (Lies) died two years ago, and the sisters buried her with their mother in the family plot. Although we went to the funeral, her death barely affected my sister and me, or our cousins; while of her own 9 children, only 2 bothered to attend. There were no speeches, and the funeral people made a mistake in the music that was played, which meant that instead of a solemn hymn, an upbeat, up tempo piece was played...which no one really minded, because it was actually quite funny and we were sure Aunt Lies would have laughed as well.

What a contrast though, to today's ceremony. The crematorium was packed with friends and family. There was a mass of flowers. After a 2 hour train journey, my sister and I arrived in time for the final viewing of the body. It was quite a shock. I'd last seen her in September, and she had looked much as she always had. But what a change was wrought by just a few months of illness! She seemed shrunken, wasted away, and for the first time in my life I actually saw her as an Asian, or as they like to refer to themselves as Indo-European, woman; very slight and fine-boned. Her hair had gone grey, and for a moment I couldn't believe that this was my beloved auntie. The one person in my family who still often called me by my Malaysian name, Mata Kranjang, which had been my grandmother's name for me, and got away with it, because she made it sound like she had; more than just an interesting kind of nickname, it was a term of endearment, and she could say it without making it sound twee.

After the casket had been closed, they played 'Someone To Watch Over Me' as sung by Frank Sinatra, her favourite song by her favourite artist, and a classical piece I didn't recognise. Then my cousin George, her youngest son, got up to say a few words. And the few words became many -- he held a wonderful funeral oration, painting a picture of his mother that we all could recognise, and that moved many people to tears. Me, I hadn't been able to stop crying since I had come face to face with her earlier on, and I haven't been able to stop for very long since.

I hadn't expected this. I had felt sad when I was told the news of her death, but the overriding feeling had been one of relief that she had died so quickly and, as I was told, so peacefully and without being in pain. When my stepmother died 4 years ago, also of cancer, she was in a terrible agony, and I was glad to know that Aunt Maddy had been spared this. I also felt concern for my mother, who was devastated by the news. But as of today, I feel an enormous grief for my auntie, for my uncle and cousins, and for myself because I know I will never hear her voice again in real life or on the phone, or feel her hand in my hair, or taste her cooking which was every bit as good as my Mum's but different; and I hate that I never got to speak to her and say goodbye, because I thought there'd still be time and I was actually planning to go and see her soon and now I can't.

And I'm so scared of what will happen when my Mum goes, if I feel this bad for my aunt how much worse is it going to be when her time comes? There were 4 sisters once; now there are only 2. I know it's selfish of me to think this, but I really can't be without my mother, now or ever. She's my rock, my touchstone and my lodestar...she's my mother.

The service ended with a Malaysian song, 'Selamat Jalan', or Bon Voyage. A lunch had been prepared for family and close friends, we sat around and cried and remembered her; and then we left for The Hague again.


( 35 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
Jan. 12th, 2005 05:27 pm (UTC)
I have no words other than that it's always painful to lose members of one's family. She sounds like she was a wonderful person, and I'm sorry for your loss.
Jan. 12th, 2005 05:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Jan. 12th, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC)

She sounds like she was a wonderful aunt/human being. I can understand why you'll miss her.

Jan. 12th, 2005 05:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I will miss her, but I'm thankful that I've had her in my life for so long.
Jan. 12th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry you lost your aunt.My thoughts are with you.
::holds you tightly::
Jan. 12th, 2005 05:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I appreciate it.
Jan. 12th, 2005 05:50 pm (UTC)
the overriding feeling had been one of relief that she had died so quickly and, as I was told, so peacefully and without being in pain.
Take comfort from that and let it temper your grief. My Dad's final illness lasted over 2 years and I know the worst part for him was the total loss of dignity towards the end.

She's my rock, my touchstone and my lodestar...she's my mother.

She will always be your mother. Nothing can take that away from her, not even death.

Do you have an mps player? There's a song that I played all the way back from Manchester, I can send it to you if you like. I cried afresh as I remembered my Dad's funeral, but it somehow gives me great comfort every time I play it - Sand and Water by Beth Nielsen.

Jan. 12th, 2005 05:56 pm (UTC)
Do you have an mps player?

What's that? My PC plays mp3 and mps, is that the same?
(no subject) - hesadevil - Jan. 12th, 2005 06:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gamiila - Jan. 13th, 2005 04:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gamiila - Jan. 13th, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - missmurchison - Jan. 12th, 2005 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hesadevil - Jan. 12th, 2005 06:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gamiila - Jan. 13th, 2005 04:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2005 05:58 pm (UTC)
My sincerest condolences on the loss of your aunt. Thank you for sharing her and your fascinating family with us.

I think what you are feeling is normal, if not universal. I remember the way I felt when one of my aunts died, and my mom said, "she was my last sister."
Jan. 13th, 2005 04:21 am (UTC)
Oh no, that must have been an aweful realisation to your mother, to be the only sister left. I'm glad my Mum at least still has her middle sister, and that they're going away on holiday together in 2 weeks time. Since Aunt Maddy was always the peacemaker in the family, there's either of two things that can happen while they're away: either they come back the best of friends (they're not now), or they come back not speaking, but at least they'll have tried.
(no subject) - missmurchison - Jan. 13th, 2005 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gamiila - Jan. 13th, 2005 04:57 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2005 06:40 pm (UTC)
I don't know what to say.

It's something we all share and have to face. I still miss my grandparents. I don't know what I'll do when my parents go, expecially as there's only me.

She didn't suffer, and now she won't have to. Cry all you need to and remember her.
Jan. 13th, 2005 04:24 am (UTC)
I don't know what I'll do when my parents go, expecially as there's only me.

Let's hope you won't have to find out for a long, long time yet, eh? Let's hope neither of us has to find out for a long, long time yet!

She didn't suffer, and now she won't have to.

Yes, we're thankful for that at least.
Jan. 12th, 2005 06:51 pm (UTC)
That's a beautiful post, honey.

It's never easy, saying goodbye.

Jan. 13th, 2005 04:25 am (UTC)

My aunt believed in a hereafter, and if she's right, one day I'll see her again.
Jan. 12th, 2005 06:58 pm (UTC)
(hugs) So sorry for your loss. I understand about not being able to say goodbye. But she knew all of your life that you loved her. Saying goodbye to loved ones is painful for both, so perhaps it was a blessing that you didn't get to make that trip.
Jan. 13th, 2005 04:30 am (UTC)
Saying goodbye to loved ones is painful for both, so perhaps it was a blessing that you didn't get to make that trip.

And with us, with our Asian background, we probably would have ignored the signs anyway and just chatted about every day things. Death is the big taboo; and even if that elephant's in the room, tearing down the place around us, we don't mention it.
Jan. 12th, 2005 07:04 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry for your loss.

::hugs you::
Jan. 13th, 2005 04:30 am (UTC)
Thank you; it means a lot.
Jan. 12th, 2005 07:28 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry to hear about your aunty dying. She sounds a tremendous woman.
Jan. 13th, 2005 04:32 am (UTC)
I think that in her own quiet way, she was. Thank you for your kind words.
Jan. 13th, 2005 01:45 am (UTC)
I am so sorry, darling. It's never easy, is it? I'm sure she knew that you were with her in spirit. She sounds like a wonderful person. What a blessing that there was no pain.

Your parents are lucky to have a daughter like you, and your precious auntie was lucky, too.
Jan. 13th, 2005 04:35 am (UTC)
And thank you, too, for your kind words and support. Really, it's a great comfort to me that I can come here and write whatever's on my mind, and there's all these wonderful people here who respond with understanding and kindness and real warmth...

I'm lucky to have you, really.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 13th, 2005 04:54 am (UTC)
Thank you for being here. What are you doing up so early?
Jan. 13th, 2005 02:19 pm (UTC)
I am sorry for your loss. You and your family will be in my prayers.
Jan. 13th, 2005 02:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you, that's so sweet of you.
Jan. 18th, 2005 03:44 am (UTC)
Sorry for the late post. I am very, very sorry for your loss, G. Aunt Maddy sounds like a lovely person, and I know this must be very hard for you and your Mum. Hang in there, sweetie - I'm thinking of you and sending you lots of love and hugs.
Jan. 18th, 2005 11:01 am (UTC)
Julie! You're alive! How wonderful to hear from you :D

And thank you for your message, and the hugs. They mean so much to me.
( 35 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
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