On Friday, I drove to university deep in thoughts. A text received in the wee hours of the morning from a dear friend of my late husband's (those in Malaysia often forget the 8 hours' difference) just seeped deep into me, and made me ponder over a question I choose to write about here today.
What would be your ideal age... to die?
Most people pray for a long life (semoga panjang umur...), and a fulfilled one, that is. Yet how long would you want to live in this world? Some live to be 90, bed-ridden and nyanyuk. Is there then meaning to life anymore?
Close family members have appeared to have short lives: my only brother had 19 years of exploration, my late mother had 36 years of excitement, while my late husband had 38 years of adventure. My late friend, Jun, had 17 years of academic success - and I'd say everyone had high hopes for her. Surely, there was Hazmin, my mother-in-law's only daughter, who departed after a month of joy. Some are even stillborn - a better life promised in a different place.
Somehow, it disturbs me to think of the last moments my late kindergarten headmaster had - being trapped in a burnt car after a collision. Imagine your deathbed; where, when and how? Would you want someone by your side - to hold your hand, even if you can't really feel it? To whisper you the shahadah, even if you can barely lift an eyelid?
So, I wonder what is the ideal age to aim for? Is dying young always a tragedy? A misfortune? A defect to the lives of those left behind?
When I was a little girl, I found growing up without a mother was not something so bad. Well, it was difficult to miss something you never really had in the first place. I was four when I became an orphan - a tad younger than my Little D was when his dad passed away. The feelings I had was just empty and lonely. The lost I felt was similar to someone who was born blind - he never had vision, so he doesn't really know what he misses; as opposed to a person who loses his sight due to an accident where his sense is snatched away by the Almighty, for a reason, of course.
What is then the ideal age? 70? When you've passed your retirement age, travelled the world, brought up the children to have careers and families of their own (perhaps a dozen grandchildren or two), and had everything on the list ticked? How much of your good deeds in the world would be deemed enough, as preparation for the hereafter? Most importantly, if you think you'd live to be 70, do you have the right to say manyana? These phrases are so familiar that they are almost cliches: 'I'll repent tomorrow', 'I'll go for my Hajj when I'm in my 40s or 50s', 'I'll pay my debts later, i.e. qada' my fasts and my salahs'.
I wish to defer. I don't want to wait for tomorrow, when it might be too late.
Ergo, ideal is subjective, don't you think? Perhaps dying young has its appeal...