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When You’re Gone

Posted by on 14 April 2010

My dearest Mama,

Today is your birthday and hardly the right occasion to talk about death. But that’s just what I’ll do — write about how much I’ll miss you once you leave this earth. Because I want you to know how much I love you. I want to let you know what I love about you. And I want you to know just how much I will miss you when you’re gone while I still have the chance to tell you.

Always beautiful in my eyes... (effects via

My mother, who'll always be beautiful & ageless in my eyes... (special effects via

I mean, I just don’t get the point of those touching eulogies that people make at funerals. Sure, they’re full of wonderful memories. But what’s the point? Those eulogies are made to a person who’s no longer there to share in the memories. So I will tell you all these things while you’re still around to hear them.

I don’t remember specific details of our mother-daughter relationship as I was growing up as a child. But I do remember going everywhere with you — to the wet market, where  I learned how to pick out the freshest fish (and have a bevy of children following me around for reasons that we never did find out); to the supermarket, where I learned the concept of comparing prices, managing a household budget, making ends meet; to the schools where you taught, where I’ve seen you mold young lives, making me wish I could be a teacher like you; to your friends’ homes, where you taught me etiquette and how to behave in a proper fashion; in the kitchen, where I learned to beat eggs with a manual eggbeater, fold egg whites into cake batter, make the yummiest leche flan in the world.

I am certain I also learned from you how to be strong even though I can’t pinpoint any single defining moment. But I know, without any doubt, that I possess this strength that I have now  — as a person, as a woman, as a wife, as a mother — because of you.

But what I remember the most is how you became the bestest friend that I ever had. There I was — barely 16 and reeling from my first bitter taste of heartbreak. I opened up to you and found solace in you from all the pain that wrecked havoc with my fragile teenage heart. Oh what a relief it was to have someone who understood me and the sheer agony that I was going through. I remember thinking to myself, “Why didn’t I open up to my mother sooner?!“. That’s when you ceased being ‘merely’ my mother and became my best friend in the whole wide world.

Many years later, when my heart was broken for a second time and I felt as though the world was caving in all around me, you were there for me, as well.

As a matter of fact, I can’t remember a time when you weren’t there for me when I needed you. Like the day I was to give birth to MyEldest. DH was still on his flight back to Malaysia at that time and I felt so alone. Then you came and oh, what a relief it was for me to have you with me inside the delivery room. The sight of all that blood must have terrified you, given how you coached me and encouraged me from a certain distance only ;) But you were there for me, there’s no denying it. And you saw your first grandchild from the very moment he breathed his first gasp of earthly air.

You know how I always get annoyed every time you tell your friends all about me — my accomplishments, my website, my travels — right in front of me? It always embarrasses me. But you know what? I just realised how much it makes me happy. Because I know I make you proud. And I am happy I make you happy and make you proud. For who else will talk about all my accomplishments when you’re gone one day?

I love your laughter and your optimism (something that I, unfortunately, never managed to assimilate somehow), your spontaneity, your generous nature, your forgiving heart, your endless patience. I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance to tell you that. Well, I’m telling you now :)

When you’re gone, oh, how I’ll miss the little things that we always do together.

I’ll miss all those heart-to-heart talks in the darkness of my room, or in the warmth of your room, in the car while I’m driving, or over the kitchen sink.

I’ll miss our morning walks around the neighbourhood, when we talk about Makkah and your medical consultations and our private little jokes and everything else in between.

I’ll miss our ‘fashion consultations’, with me as the grouchy fashion consultant whose views you always consulted before buying a certain scarf or skirt or blouse.

I’ll miss our daily SMS exchange, oftentimes just to say ‘good morning’ or ask how the day went. You know how much I panic when I don’t hear from you within 24 hours ;)

I’ll miss our weekend dates over lunch or tea, a different restaurant every time — just you and me. Even the children understand that those trips are just for Lola and Mama and that they can’t tag along. Perhaps, one day, OnlyGirl and I will continue that tradition long after you’re gone.

I’ll miss our virtual tutorial sessions, sometimes over the phone, sometimes by SMS — be it about Excel or how to use certain features in your phone. (The only exception is the installation of your new monitor. It was RoundBoy who did that for you!)

I’ll miss trimming your hair. And dyeing it. And I hope and pray that I will never have to shave off your hair again ever. (I had to do it when your hair was starting to come off in clumps when you started chemotherapy last time, remember?)

When you’re gone, I’ll miss your hugs. I may be all grown up now, with children of my own but I’ll always be your little girl who needs your hugs.

When you’re gone, I’ll miss your reminders about my meals, my medicine, my children’s needs. I shouldn’t complain about your ‘nagging’ now because I know I’ll miss them when you’re gone.

When you’re gone, oh, I can’t tell you just how much I’ll miss the very best friend I’ve ever had, the best mother a child can ever hope for.

When you’re gone, I’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know, my Mama, so much more than all the words in the world in any language can possibly express.

Happy birthday, my dearest mother. Thank you for carrying me for 9 months in your womb. Thank you for giving birth to me. Thank you for caring for me and watching over me and raising me and teaching me. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for all the laughter and the memories.

Love always,


Post Script:

I worked on this blog post several months ago. I thought of posting it as a surprise to my mother on her birthday. But then I started thinking — what if something happened to my mum? What if she doesn’t get to see her next birthday? So on the 19th of February, I emailed her the final draft of this post, telling her that I wanted her to read it immediately, lest tomorrow comes too late. Never mind if it’s no longer a surprise for her birthday. What was more important was for her to know how much I love her and how much I’d miss her when it’s her time to leave this earth.

In an ironic twist of fate, my uncle (my mother’s only brother) died of a heart attack some two weeks ago. And his sudden demise made me realise more than ever just how important it is to let the most important people in our lives know how much they mean to us right here, right now. Because for all we know, tomorrow might never come at all.

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