Monday, February 25, 2008

Lessons of life - Part One: Surrendering to the Almighty

It is an understatement to say that my life has changed since last October - it has turned 360 degrees! The loss of a spouse is something too big to be swept under the carpet, or to be brushed off with a statement, "Life goes on...". Nonetheless, that is what I often get. I guess what people are trying to say is that I've got to look ahead and plan out the future that is spread out in the horizon, instead of making the episode a handicap.
Throughout these past few months, I have searched for as many reading materials as possible on death and how others handle it. What I have realised is that in the Malay society, death is a topic so sombre and taboo, that most drown in their emotions and sentiments. Although the Malays are almost synonymous with Muslims, their practice is often more cultural than religious (perhaps an entry on this will be coming soon). On the contrary, the westerns are often more open and questionable when dealing with the issue. To me, they're all worth pausing and reflecting on. This entry is about two lessons I have learnt in the most significant episode of my life, of which I have either mentioned in passing in my previous entries, or in great detail with a few chosen close friends.

I consider myself very fortunate (Alhamdulillah) that the death of my late husband happened while we are in a foreign land, thousands of miles away from home. I know that if it had happened back home, the impact would not be as much as it is now. To me, it is not only a lesson worth pondering for me, but it should be worth a reflection for others too. For me, it is a test of my independence and capability to use my judgements; juggling my faith (Imaan) and emotions in handling with issues pertaining loyalty to spouse, love to family, trust to friends and relatives, and many more.

How can I not consider that the incident tested on my loyalty, love and devotion to my late husband? At times when he had restless and sleepless nights, I could not ignore him by falling into deep slumber; though that's what I sometimes did. At times when he could not eat and was throwing up the contents of all that was in his stomach, I could not turn my head away in disgust but to keep on encouraging him. At times when he made visits to the doctor and was sent away only to come back another day, I could not leave the health of my beloved to be decided by those who claimed to be experts in the field of medicine (hence my persistent queries and questioning).

Yet, I remained baffled and helpless; unable to put his ailment and woes to an end. Somehow, I do not regret all those. My only (slight) regret was not being able to spend more time with him in his last 24 hours because I was too busy attending to others. However, I had managed to spend solid hours minding and caring for him in the hospital from Friday to Sunday afternoon(26th - 28th Oct 2007), giving him all the attention I could. He was given a single room all to himself and we were together all the time. I remember him looking up at me and smiling, and us holding hands together. I remember walking him to the attached bathroom, waiting by his side when he sat crouched at the sink, vomitting his heart out. When he slept on the bed, I slept on the chair; when he slept on the chair (he was always very uncomfortable and restless), I slept on the bed.

But I also remember the amount of tears that wet my cheeks that weekend, as I realised that his health was deteriorating, instead of improving. It saddened me to bits to see the man I loved so much withering and becoming very frail. At that moment of hopelessness, only faith to the Almighty helped me to move on.

I am emphasising here again that ever since my late husband was diagnosed with cancer, I never failed to perform my tahajjud prayers (take note: I never did much of this previously), repetitiously reading in the last sujud:

"O my Lord! let my entry be by the Gate of Truth and Honor and likewise my exit by the Gate of Truth and Honor; and grant me from Thy Presence an authority to aid (me)." Surah Isra (17) verse 80

Yes, I sought for the presence of 'an authority to aid me', and Allah gave me just that. In no time, thanks to the existence of this blog, ex-school mates, ex-colleagues of mine and late husbands', friends, relatives, fellow-bloggers and total strangers were all knocking on our door, offering assistance. How does one explain meeting a relative, unknown to be in the country, in the Emergency unit at the hospital? How does one explain the financial support which flowed into my account totaling to a generous amount, that would only make you gape and gawk in disbelief? How does one explain the offers of alternative treatment from far-away countries and even as far as China? I received unbelievable support from family back home, the local Muslim community and the local Malay community - physically, mentally and spiritually. Not to mention the prayers made in the holy month of Ramadhan by the ummah worldwide. They were all 'sent' by the Almighty as authorities to aid me. Alhamdulillah.

It is well to give when asked but it is better to give unasked, through understanding
Kahlil Gibran, 'On Giving,' The Prophet, 1923

Lebanese artist & poet in US (1883 - 1931)

Every time I think of this, I cannot stop feeling so small and weak. There was nothing I could really do, other than to turn to the Creator of all creations, and to surrender in the truest sense. Only then did I understand the meaning of tawakkal. Life can not always be planned. Unfortunately, we (especially Malaysians) are often so cautious about every step we make, often ensuring that every decision into the future must be backed up with a strong lay-out; a five-year plan or a ten-year plan (talk about visions!). I was one who succumbed to that sort of living. There's nothing wrong with planning, but once it limits your trust in the Almighty, it's a total No! No! No!

Through hardship, I believe that Allah is simply trying to make us better humans. I must also mention that in battling through the wild waves, not all who approached to help managed to do just that. Some had 'good intentions' but were overshadowed with doubts and negative vibes that actually made a very troubled me more confused and restless. With 'good intentions', sometimes people forget the main objective of living and the concept of surrendering to the Almighty. Unkind words were thrown to my face, scribbled in my comment section (in the blog), and whispered behind my backs! Whose life was it anyway?

Some accused me of being the controller - not wanting to bring my late husband back to the land called home. Some persistently offered ways and methods of travelling back home. Some became pessimists who thought of all the horrible things that could possibly happen in a foreign land - differences in mazhabs, availability of Muslim cemetery (duh??), etc. I don't mind people sharing viewpoints and concerns because it always means that there are people who care (?!), but not respecting our decisions was a bit far-fetching, don't you think?

My late husband and I shared a life full of love and respect for one another that we openly discussed and decided our lives based on rational factors that were according to the religion. So, why couldn't people accept that BOTH of us had decided to fight the battle where we were at the present time. He was unfit to travel (whatmore on a flight of 13 hours, when he could hardly bear 3 - 4 hours' car journey to Durham a month earlier) and did not even get the doctor's approval to do so. He did not want to put himself into such agony and distress. The only thing he told me was, once the doctor says I can travel, I want to go to Mecca to repent and perform my ibadah there. And on the issue of death and burial, Don't you ever transport me home - have me buried as soon as possible; let me rest in peace.

In retrospect, the main lessons I have learnt and wish to share here are:

1) To understand the concept of totally surrendering to the Almighty, without any reservations

2) To offer the sincerest help to those who may possibly be in need, without hesitation

For the umpteenth time, I extend my gratitudes to the Almighty for choosing me as the one to be tested upon, and to all who have helped in any possible way - only Allah will be able to return your kindness and good deeds in the hereafter.

This entry is just my reflection - it does not intend to belittle, mock or ridicule anyone (my apologies if it has). My intention is clear: we learn from life and should always attempt to improve it and make it better. I am still in my journey through life and I'm trying to make the best out of it by pausing and reflecting...

29 comments:

bAiTi said...

Salam, Kak D,

May Allah ease everything for you + your kids. My du'a will always be with you, insya Allah..

:)

juwaidah said...

Salam D...

Your reflections always made me think about my life as well.. You're right.. We can plan but it's up to the Almighty whether to permit it or not..

Take care! :)

Raden Galoh said...

Dearest D...

This is a profound piece of your heart. It surely makes me pause and reflect too.

Indeed, it is a strong faith that builds a person to be a stronger being. And you have proven that is so. Despite the trials and tribulations, you have made wiser decisions. I do learn a lot from you sis. Thank you so much.

take care. My do'a is always for your and your family. Semoga Allah mudahkan urusan...Amin.

idham said...

Dear D,

*You do what you think is best for you and your children. You do what your beloved arwah suami has wished for. Others can help and others can advise and critics - but others are not in your shoes. Berat bahu mata memandang, berat lagi bahu yang memikul.

That is a wonderful Du'a - thanks for leading me to that ayat. I have since then checked out the ayat, and included in my du'a too.

Ada insan yang di duga dengan kesenangan - tapi mereka gagal dan tewas dengan kesenangan yang di beri. Ada insan yang di duga dengan cabaran dan kesusahan - namun mereka lulus cemerlang dan menyuluh terang setiap kegelapan.

Prasangka, riak rasa, cemburu hati - bisikan negatif dari sudut hati empunya diri*

WallahhU Aklam.

anggerik merah said...

Dear D,
masyaallah..Thanks for sharing.

NJ said...

Salam D,

Hang in there dear. Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do! Insyaallah.

al-amiNJ said...

Assalaamu'alaikum D, saya tertarik mengenai perkara tawakkal. Memang benar tawakkal akan menenangkan hati (dari rasa gelisah). Orang yang mengetahui betapa pentingnya tawakkal 'ala Allah akan mengamalkannya apabila ditimpa musibah dan akan merasa nikmatnya. Bersabarlah D, dan mintalah pahala dari Allah (dari musibah ini) dan mintalah dari Allah ganti yang lebih baik darinya, kerana orang yang lebih baik dari kita di zaman ini telah mengamalkannya, berdasarkan hadis riwayat Muslim dan Ahmad dari Ummu Salamah, katanya, Saya dengar Rasulullah s.a.w. bersabda : "Tidak seorang hambapun yang ditimpa musibah, lalu dia mengucapkan inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un, Allahumma ajirni fi musibati wa akhlif li khairammminha,(maaf,kerana tak dapat type arabic) melainkan Allah Ta'ala memberinya pahala pada musibahnya dan menggantikan untuknya yang lebih baik darinya."
Ummu Salamah berkata : Maka tatkala Abu Salamah meninggal, saya ucapkan sepertimana yang disuruh kepadaku oleh Rasulullah s.a.w., dan Allah menggantikan untukku yang lebih baik darinya (iaitu) Rasulullah s.a.w.
Saya doa agar Allah kurniakan D, Iman dan Sabar yang sempurna dan hati yang selalu bertawakkal 'ala Allah. Aamiin.

Umi Kalthum Ngah said...

Assalamualaikum warahmatullah D,

Thank you for dropping by my blog.

Were we thinking about the same thing? Telepathy?

Yes! You do write from your heart..

And you do have such strengths too. May Allah's care be always with you and your children...Amin.

Wasalam..

Anonymous said...

Salaam,

I learnt alot from what you went through, you have the courage! Do what is right for the family, and not to think about what others said, for criticism is free, anyone and everyone can afford to give.

May Allah makes it easier for you and the kids. Taboo as you said for M'sian to talk about death, my husband and I never talked about it, until I stumbled into this blog. We have started talking and knows each other's wish facing sickness and death, insyaAllah.

Allah be with you, keep your spirit up.

Wassalam .... Californian friend.

Elaine Williams said...

As a widow of four years I can relate to what you have written -- it is a touching and poignant tribute to your husband and yourself. May you be well. Elaine

silversarina said...

This entry is indeed for me to pause and reflect...

Hope you and the children are doing on well.Amin.

wizcakes said...

Dearest D,

Thanks for sharing your profound thoughts. Your entries have been a wake up call for me and I'm sure others too. I take more time to pause and reflect now and when I do that I always have you in mind, wishing the best for you every time.

Ps. A colleague of yours from UIa friendly called as Pakcik claimed that he knows you. He was my colleague during out University days. I met him at UNITEN when he was teaching part time there.

wizcakes said...

Dearest D,

Thanks for sharing your profound thoughts. Your entries have been a wake up call for me and I'm sure others too. I take more time to pause and reflect now and when I do that I always have you in mind, wishing the best for you every time.

Ps. A colleague of yours from UIa friendly called as Pakcik claimed that he knows you. He was my colleague during out University days. I met him at UNITEN when he was teaching part time there.

D said...

Baiti,
Thank you for your du'as. May Allah bless you in return...

Juwaidah,
Yup, sometimes we get carried away in life. We always do.

psssstttt.. bila nak datang? Weather looks good now!

Raden Galoh,
Life is a journey and we learn something new every day. The main thing is to always keep ourselves reminded of what we have learnt yesterday so that tomorrow will always be better! Don't thank me, sis, thank Allah.

Idham,
Yup, try the du'a because I believe it really worked for me - in hard times, I saw a miracle happening!

Anggerik Merah,
The lessons I learnt were too big to be kept to myself, hence the sharing. It's no different from you sharing your experiences in your blog!

nj,
don't worry about me hanging in here! I've been doing so and my arms are all stretched out (like Elastic Woman). Allah's always with us.

al-aminj,
Berbanyak terima kasih kerana berkongsi cerita. Seorang rakan blogger juga dah pernah berkongsi cerita Ummu Salamah yang sebelum ini tak pernah saya tahu. Puas saya mencari lagi cerita terperinci mengenai Ummu Salamah, dan Alhamdulillah, jumpa juga. Allah mengetahui yang terbaik untuk ciptaanNya dan berhak menggantikan (atau tidak) kehilangan yang kita alami. Tawakkal saja...

Umi Kalthum Ngah,
Thank you for your kind words. Telephathy? Hehehe.. maybe great minds think alike! (perasan on my part!)

Anonymous/Californian friend,
Nice to get someone from across the oceans. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yes, sometimes our culture overrules our religion. Good that you're now opening up the subject matter with your spouse! Best of luck...

Elaine Williams,
Thank you so much for dropping by. I now know where to go to for help in my book-writing, which is also the topic of death and bereavement. It's a shame if we don't share what little we know, eh?

Silversarina @ Kak Rina,
Alhamdulillah, we are all fine - with prayers from friends like you!

wizcakes,
Thank you for your wishes. We never know when something we learnt from others might come in handy in the future...

Pakcik from UIA? Oh dear, I'm raking my head! Maybe a cute cupcake from you will get my memory going?! LOL (superb cakes you have!!beautiful and healthy)

F manchester said...

D,

What you & arwah had gone through and the decisions you had made, made both me and hubby think of 'Death' and what we would have done if either one of us died abroad- and we both had agreed the best thing to do is what you and arwah had decided.

I hope we had not offended you in anyway in the past, with our opinions and suggestions. If yes, please do accept our deepest appologies.

Take care.

Syana said...

Salam D :o)

Thank you very much for this entry. It has made me reflect on my life & my responsibilities.

Take care. I offer you & yr family my prayers.

Tadika Intan Gemilang said...

Salam,

this entry really touching. and yes, qada' and qadr itu ketentuan allah s.w.t.
" Sesungguhnya Kami menciptakan tiap-tiap sesuatu menurut takdir (yang telah ditentukan)" (Al-Hadiid: 54:49)

Jaga diri and didoakan sentiasa dibawah perlindungan allah s.w.t. selalu, insya allah.

Anonymous said...

D,

Saya doakan kesejahteraan anda sekeluarga

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CoveCountry said...

Hi Dear,

Remember the story of Ummu Salamah

D said...

f manchester,
Hey, no la... you never offended us in any way! In fact, you helped a lot, dear. Thank you a lot.

syana,
thanks for your prayers. Ditto.

Tadika Intan Gemilang,
Thank you kak, for sharing and for your constant prayers (and also for staying in touch!).

Anonymous,
terima kasih kerana mendoakan kami. Hanya Allah yang dapat membalas...

covecountry,
Yes, thank you for reminding. That story is clearly etched in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Salaam,

You're IIUM grad? Hmmm... that makes the two of us. Graduated in '95, alhamdulillah. Maybe we've crossed some path, one way or another.

Stay strong and our prayers with you.

California friend.

mardhiah12 said...

kak D, thank you so much for your profound entry..

cikMilah said...

..sigh...
no word by me.
Just prays from my heart...
Semuga Allah menempatkan kita di jalanNYA, di dunia dan akhirat.

cikMilah

cikMilah said...

opss, another note!
YES, tahajjud is the answer. It brings MIRACLE

D said...

anonymous@ California friend,
Ooopss.. Nope, am not an IIUM grad, but was an ex-IIUM staff! HeHe!

mardhiah12,
just sharing what i went through. Will be good if it helps someone! Thank you.

cikmilah,
yup, greatest miracle. One can only believe once experienced! Alhamdulillah I was shown light.

mad redo1 said...

I never be the one who is shy to admit when tears roll down on my cheek, and this reflection of yours certainly did just that.

there are so many things that touch the inner parts of me that I have to pause quite a few times before finishing the whole entry.

to be tested shows that how much He loves you and the way you are dealing with the test certainly enhanced your character a great deal, a positive outcome after so a number of things that have gone the other way.

thank you for sharing and my prayers will always be with you and your family.

maklang said...

moga2 mudah untuk D insyaAllah...

Dont be sad said...

Asalaamu alikum wa rahmatullah,

Ya Allah...to read something so profound can't but leave one shaken.

"Through hardship, I believe that Allah is simply trying to make us better humans."

How true-- sometime in our lives we must all learn this.

Indeed Allah is best disposers of our affairs and he brings good of all things.

May we all be bestowed with beautiful patience whatever our affliction.

Dont be sad