A tribute to “Abah”
This is a dedication to Abah. My beloved hero. A great person to me, an ingénue.
“Abah, I still miss you, in a miserable, heartbreaking way. I still think you are one of the most beautiful people in my life.”
He was known for something, which had disappeared, and that was elegance, grace and manners… God kissed him on the cheeks and there he was. The first thing that strikes my memory was his beauty – his inner kind of beauty. He had secrets, he was kind, he was worldly, and had incomparable strength and indomitable patience. As most people would put it, Abah was a completely original creature – honest, warm, loyal, elegant, sweet, bright, and totally dependable. He had his own special sound and rhythm.
He’d never hurt a fly.
“Abah, you are my precious gem, that shines through my life.”
Ever since I was acquainted with what reality means and got to know a man called Abah, he had been my ultimate role model, my captain, in guiding my vessel through this vast ocean called life. His patience and understanding were beyond comparison. My siblings and I had never been scolded nor beaten, despite our mischievous and challenging behaviour. To him, we were his constant entertainment.
Despite having busy schedule as an army personnel in Engineering Squadron 15, it had never been a hassle for him to bathe and take great fuss over us: feeding and accompanying us until we slept peacefully. The reminiscence is painful, memory still fresh, the melodious sound of his lullaby, zikir and nasyid. According to Mom, that was the sweetest memorable moment when we were young.
During our schooling years, whenever we called, from our boarding schools or overseas, the first thing he would do the next morning was to deposit money into our accounts at the bank or post office. To him, whenever his children were apart and far, the greatest concern was whether we had enough food to eat.
Adolescence. Mention being the parent of a young adolescent and other adults may roll their eyes and express their sympathy. They see images of bedrooms in which lost homework assignments share floor space with potato chip wrappers and grubby sweatpants. I was given complete freedom and never limited by any strict authoritarian ways. Having said that, his gentle supervision was incessant. No one can guarantee that young adolescents will grow into responsible and competent adults.
He was a very quiet person. His influence on me, however, is enormous. Not a day, I would forget his advice and guidance.
In his relationship with Mom, what I saw was an inspiring 40 years of partnership, love and understanding. Although it sounds surreal, never once, I saw them fighting. They were very happy and their life was harmonious despite life’s ups and downs.
Those pious qualities have molded my siblings and I into what we are today. To always love, cherish, respect and keep his good name.
After retirement, Abah and Mom ventured into food and catering business. Challenges and problems would crop up inevitably but he was famous for his patience and generosity. Always a smile on his face, he would never turn away a beggar. That was his one of his distinctive traits.
He was very creative with his woodwork, gardening, fishing and rearing chicken, ducks and etc. Wasting time was never really his habit.
…and even then I dare not languish, dare not indulge in Memory’s rapturous pain; once drinking deep in that divinest anguish, how could I seek the empty world again?”
Two years after Abah left the business world, that was in the historical year of 1996, he was diagnosed to have Parkinson’s Disease. The news devastated our family. The first thought that rushed through my mind was; “Why him? Why him? Did he deserve this suffering?”
Mom always reminded me that Allah swt was testing Abah’s faith. Allah swt would only test the faith of someone special but not those who would not be able to withstand it. Abah was extraordinary.
For seven years, he went through difficult times. From a strong healthy man, he was gradually transformed into a helpless, weak and totally dependent man. Even then, he never complained nor whined. I was humbled and there’s a haunting sadness of having to see all this happening right before my eyes. A Malay proverb says – “berat mata memandang, berat lagi bahu memikul” (seeing something is much easier than feeling it yourself).
At first, “Parkinson’s disease” seemed to be a strange illness to me. However, since Abah was diagnosed to have this illness, I had learned a lot about it. During the early years, Abah and I were actively involved in the Malaysian Parkinson’s Disease Association (MPDA). We met many friends who had the same illness. Somehow Abah found the association’s gathering rather entertaining. Both of us gained a lot of knowledge from the specialists during the monthly meetings.
From 2002 onwards, Abah’s physical condition deteriorated – he was more frequently admitted to hospital. He became totally immobile and had to be taken care of like a small baby. This was the time when his children’s responsibilities and contribution were very much needed. We would bathe and care for him just as what he did for us when we young. We felt that we had to prove our great love for him.
As his movement and activities were very limited, he became housebound. He missed his other Parkinson’s friends very much. To me, Parkinson’s patients are extremely special. They need to be loved, cared and treated with great affection. Although Abah was totally immobile, he had strong emotions just like everybody else. Sometimes, his tears would trickle while he was on his bed – the sight of which would always break my heart.
Even though he could no longer speak, his mere existence was enough to strengthen my spirit. He made me feel safe and happy. He was my companion, and my closest friend.
“An event that was expected to be gay and cheery was overwhelmed by the grayness of the weather and the chill of the blowing rain”.
On 3rd September 2002, Abah celebrated his 69th birthday. Early in the morning, I greeted him and kissed him tenderly on his forehead and cheek. Just like the previous years, there was a cake and birthday card for him. In addition to the usual cake cutting, a prayer session was held for him with all the family members gathering around him.
On that fateful day…
There was something not right about Abah. His coughing was irregular and too violent. He could not even move any part of his body. That tore me apart. I wanted to take a flight and hide in obscurity. As I was having these thoughts, I clenched my fists so forcefully that the knuckles showed up. How I wished that I could stop his pain. I prayed hard in order to lessen his pain. Alhamdullilhah (grateful to God), I managed to succeed (for the time being). He calm downed and felt comfortable. Before I went out to work, I promised to him that I would get back to him as soon as possible.
When I reached my office, I called home and asked how Abah was doing. Mom said he was fine. A few minutes later, I called up again and my brother told me Abah was sleeping peacefully in his room.
I felt a subtle rush of shivers through my body…
I quickened my pace as soon as I reached my house. I went straight to Abah’s room. His face was so serene and white… I called out his name. I hugged him tightly but there was not the slightest movement or heartbeat. But he was gone …
I wasn’t even at his side when he left me. Suddenly there was darkness around me, with tiny stars scattering in infinitum. During those few seconds, there was emotional numbness. Abah looked pale and somewhat drawn in the bleak light, so impassive as a mask. My gaze was fixed on Abah’s face with unwavering intensity. I felt extreme coldness but yet there was a light film of moisture on my forehead and neck. Or was it my on my eyes?
He had not seen the cake that I bought for him. That was the last day I helped to bathe and kiss him. That was also the last day I saw his meek smile and shining eyes staring at me. I wanted to cry, and to cry and to cry relentlessly. But the thought of his faith and patience strengthened my faith. To accept God’s fate was certainly something natural to do in this unpredictable life – accepting the fact that he was gone, forever.
When I looked back, the signs had already shown up during the last ten days of his life. But, it was too faint and subtle to be noticed.
His survival instinct inspired me to go on with my life and struggle to become a successful businesswoman. I was also determined to do my part in giving my love and compassion to other unfortunate human beings just as what Abah did.
Abah was great man who always kept a low profile. He was both a very simple and handsome man. However, throughout 2000 to 2001, his photos were seen in all the newspapers when I won the first prize for “Father’s Day Message Writing Contest” that was sponsored by the News Straits Times, the local newspaper. Finally, Abah became a celebrity. My heart was filled with joy and happiness as I knew that I had been able to show the whole world how much I loved Abah.
It has been ten months now. But I still miss you Abah …
There have been many nights when I stayed awake, thinking of you. I have spent hundreds of hours writing you letters that are stored in my heart, letters that I never completely comprehend. The very thoughts of you really tormented me and tore me into pieces. There were happy moments when I was not willing to let you leave me for even one second. Today, I still can hear the beautiful songs and nasyid that I once cherished. And I wonder why something so beautiful had to end this way …
“I will treasure every moment that I spent with you, Abah and Mom,
If I could, I would always be stoic and tough,
Forgive me, if I had not been a perfect daughter,
Forgive me, if I had ever hurt you in any way”.
Happy Father’s Day, my beloved Abah. I will always pray that you will always be blessed by Allah swt, and be granted eternal love and protection from Him, in the Jannatul Firdaus along with the holy anbia’ and syuhada – a place you certainly deserve. Amin.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers.
Dedicated to Encik Hashim Omar, a sufferer of Parkinson’s who always managed to shower his family with love and affection despite his physical disabilities …
Penned by: Gharizah Hashim, Seremban, 15th July 2003.
Ms. Gharizah Hashim with her late father. She had always stood at his side till the very end. It was her dad who inspired her to help the Malaysian Parkinson’s community and set up the Negeri Sembilan Parkinson’s Society.