Dealing with Grief As Best As We Could
Recently, it hasn’t been all good time and laughter for all of us. In fact, I dare say, for Malaysians particularly, 2014 had been a rather challenging year.
What we expected last year (2013) to be a glorious Visit Malaysia Year 2014, turned topsy turvy with one tragedy after another.
MH370 – Plane disappearance
It all began with the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, commonly known as MH370 on Saturday, 8th March 2014. This scheduled international flight last made voice contact with air traffic control at 01:19 Malaysian time just as it flew over the South China Sea, less than an hour after take-off. Up until today, MH370 is yet to be found.
|The question remains, where is MH370? (Source: Internet)|
MH17 – Plane Crash
Not too long after that, another scheduled international passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 or known as MH17 crashed on 17th July 2014, having been shot down. The major shocking event caused the deaths of 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. In fact, one of the co-pilots, the late Muhd Firdaus Abdul Rahim was a close cousin of my ex-colleague, Edlynn. I was also involved in assisting a Russian TV Crew from Russia-1 Broadcasting Station with their documentary.
Flood Disaster 2014
And recently, when most of us were thinking of relaxing until year end, again, we were shocked with what people deemed as the worst flood disaster in 30 years, hitting most states in Peninsular Malaysia with the East Coast recording the worst case of all. A senior meteorological officer from the Meteorological Department National Weather Centre, Dr. Mohd. Hisham Mohd. Anip said, the full moon phenomenon; when the moon is closest to Earth and causes high tide; is among factors that triggered extraordinary flooding this year. With everything we see on local and foreign media, we could only pray for the best until things get better.
|The worst flood ever hit Malaysia in 30 years (Source: Reuters)|
AirAsia QZ 8501 – Plane Crash
Just when we thought, we could focus our energy to help the flood victims as much as we could, again, the world was shocked with the missing of AirAsia Indonesia QZ 8501, which was later confirmed to have crashed in the Java sea, off the Indonesian part of Borneo. One of the passengers was Malaysian. Among others, the flight from Surabaya to Singapore also had 155 passengers (including 16 children and 1 infant) and a crew of 6 (including 2 pilots) on board.
Be it a global tragedy or a small incident, a loss is still a loss and people grieve over losses. Although I’ve never faced a dramatic incident like losing someone in a plane crash, but I’ve grieved over loss too. In fact, I believe I’m still grieving over the death of my brother, Mohd. Hafiz Mohd. Supian who was just 17 at that time.
In fact, my brother died on Friday, 19th December 2008, just as I joined the broadcasting station. To make things worse, he died just 10 days after my Mum’s birthday and he was on a holiday with his friends (one of them was Amir, his BFF since we first moved to Setapak in 1991) right after his SPM exams (that’s Malaysian equivalent to O’Level). When SPM is supposed to be the turning point of every teenager in Malaysia to step into adulthood, well, SPM was Hafiz’s last stop; and a turning point for our family. Only not in a good way, as we drifted apart ever since.
|Hafiz is the third one from left, top row (Source: Hafiz’s Facebook)|
Hafiz was always the link between every member of the family. He was the only boy, and youngest too. Born 27th April 1991 (so you can imagine Hafiz and Amir grew up together, Amir is just a year or two older), he completed the April Triplet. You see, I was born on April 7th and my sister, April 28th. Being the youngest and having two much older sisters, he was always the spoiled one.
I remember the first time, my Mum brought him home from Hospital Besar Kuala Lumpur (now Hospital Kuala Lumpur), it was drizzling and our maid at that time, Kak Yaya brought an umbrella to meet my Mum at the car. My sister and I were very happy, there was a baby at home. Only to find out much later, it was a boy. Well, growing up as girls, Sasha and I had always wanted another girl in the house. We even asked our Mum to return to the hospital and exchange the baby with a baby girl. Mum being the smart one, she said, the hospital ran out of baby girls, so the baby boy was all that was left.
|My aunt Whatsapped me this photo just a few weeks ago|
After some time of being upset, finally Sasha and I opened up to the little baby that we had at home. Well, there wasn’t going to be another baby at the hospital for purchase, so we thought, why not settle for this one for the time being?
Of course, growing up, we were constantly jealous of the baby. Well, when you’re a girl and you have a sister, you’ll have to share your dolls and toys. So, with a new baby boy, everything was new!
We had a lot of fond memories growing up together, perhaps, I will share that in my other confession. Hafiz had always been closest to me, perhaps being the eldest, it was always easy to give in to the younger siblings. It just so happened that we both looked more alike compared to Sasha. The April Triplet might even be the face of 1Malaysia, with me looking obviously Malay (sometimes confused with Mexican or Filipino, haha), Sasha was the Ah-Moi (with her Chinese looks) and Hafiz was the Indian boy (he was often outside, so his skin was very tanned).
|Always the funny boy|
When I started working with the broadcasting station, I knew that I was not going to do well unless I worked really hard to learn all the tricks of broadcasting; broadcasting was not quite my favourite subject at the university. I was trying to fit in too. Working for an English radio station at that time, clueless about the tech-bits, and going out with one of the DJs there, I usually came home late. So, I didn’t really have time for Hafiz.
So, on that 19th December 2008, I was working during one of our Christmas outdoor events in Klang. I wore a Santarina outfit. Then, I saw my sister’s texts, saying that something happened and she couldn’t go to the grocery to buy the ingredients I needed to make pasta. Hafiz had always loved my spaghetti bolognaise. She didn’t specify why. It was much later that my aunt, whom I fondly call Ibu, called me with the worst news, Hafiz was gone.
What started out as a fun, Christmas celebration to cheer up some orphans in Klang, ended up in a tragedy for me. I cried and told the senior producer about it, asking to go home. With a flat face, she just said, “Sure, go ahead“. I asked the driver to send me back to Setapak, he refused. He said, it was too far from Klang. I explained that my brother died and unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. Finally, after some time begging for mercy, the driver agreed to send me to KTM Klang.
|Hafiz followed our parents to perform Hajj when he was 16 (Source: Hafiz’s Facebook)|
On my way, the DJ I went out with (by then, we’ve broken up over certain issues unsurprisingly sparked by rumours) called and told me to get off the car, offering to send me straight to Setapak. At first, I didn’t want to because I knew, nobody at work liked us hanging out. Some even told me he was married, when he told me he was already divorced. Long story short, I’ll be forever grateful to his good deed when I was in need.
I managed to call a few people, including an ex-boyfriend from Singapore and my lecturer/mentor, Puan Hajah Kamaliah Abu. Other than my aunts calling back, asking to confirm the news; Puan Hajah Kamaliah whom I usually called ‘Bonda‘ called back and reminded me to ‘istighfar‘ repeatedly for comfort. She told me she was already at her hometown in Kedah and couldn’t visit me, but she called a few times to ask how I was doing.
Reaching home, the DJ parked a little further and gave me one of his biiiig spare shirts to cover my Santarina outfit. It wouldn’t look good coming home as Santa’s Little Helper when your brother just died. Also, another of his good deed that I always remember until today. Perhaps, he felt guilty because Hafiz had wanted to meet the DJ. Once Hafiz waited outside a club at Avenue K where the DJ was spinning to just meet him for a while, but the DJ didn’t come out even after I went inside to call him. But, let’s not dwell into that anymore.
|Like me, he loved taking photos of places he visited (Source: Hafiz’s Facebook)|
I was informed Hafiz died on his way to the hospital after taking a fall at Telaga Tujuh, Langkawi, head first; breaking his skull, knee-cap and leg and his shoulders. Apparently, one of the bones from his shoulder (forgive my lack of knowledge of the human anatomy) could’ve poked through his skin.
His funeral was held the next day. At first, the Langkawi authority only planned to send Hafiz’s body to Kuala Lumpur much later, it being a Friday. Through my Dad’s connection (with him formerly a navy officer), he managed to push for the body to be returned immediately. It arrived on Saturday, around 11 am.
I woke up on Saturday, thinking I was dreaming. Only to realize there were so many people at our home, downstairs, crying and mourning with us. Hafiz was a well-liked student at his school. He was known as a very kind boy, who often helped his teachers and friends. It was not a surprise, many came to pay their last respect. I looked at my brother’s face one last time, wishing I had spent more time with him. But I guess, everything was too late.
|Hafiz and his friends (Source: Hafiz’s Facebook)|
We Muslims believe, some people can sense their demise within a certain time frame before ‘the last stop‘. These people who are going to leave us, also leave clues or show signs that are so ordinary, that most of us rarely notice, but afterwards, you’ll remember those signs as THE SIGNS.
Before he left for the Langkawi trip, he took a lot of photos with our Mum with the digital camera. Our Mum actually told him, “Save the memory space for your photos, so you can show me when you come back“. To which he replied, “Oh, come on, Mum, you never know, we may not get to take photos together again“. And he was right.
He also told our Mum to give away all his clothes to the needy, especially the branded items. He also said, “Those so-called victims of landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa don’t count“. My aunts told me the same story and we all loved him for his kindness.
With me, I remember it very well. It was on my off-day and I just wanted to stay at home, lazing in front of the TV when my brother approached me.
Hafiz: Hey, it’s your off-day? Do you want to go out?
Me: No, I just wanna stay inside.
Hafiz: Along (a nickname common among eldest children), when was the last time we had that yummy ‘nasi kukus ayam berempah‘?
Me: Yeah, it’s been a while.
Hafiz: Can we go and eat that today?
Me: No, I’m too lazy!
Hafiz: Oh, please! Let’s take the scooter and go.
Me: No! Too lazy!
Hafiz: Please, please, please, I’ll pay my half.
Although I knew very well that RM7 was nothing to me, I often told him, he should start paying for his food, no more treats or ‘belanja‘. So, we went to his favourite stall near our house and bought two packets of steamed rice with marinated chicken. I even remember how he liked it, drumstick and extra spices or what we usually called ‘sampah’.
Upon reaching home, we both enjoyed the food. My brother showed THE SIGN.
Hafiz: It’s so good, thank you for the treat.
Me: Sure, sure, next time, I won’t ‘belanja’ you again (I always said that, and still ended up treating him. He was after all my only brother)
Hafiz: Don’t know when we’ll eat together like this again.
And I didn’t see THE SIGN. I really didn’t see THE SIGN.
A few weeks later, Hafiz’s best friend, Amir (he lives just 2 doors away) met me and told me the actual truth of the day of the incident. He told me, my brother’s death was swift. He didn’t suffer at all, just one fall and that was it. Amir said, he and the others were hesitant to tell the truth to my parents, worrying of their conditions. I didn’t blame the boys, they were only boys, with Amir being the oldest of the group. So, they boys had to say that Hafiz died on the way to the hospital.
In fact, before I was drafting this confession, I posted something on his Facebook timeline, hoping that his friends will notice and remember to pray for him. One girl replied. I’m so grateful, at least his friends still think of him.
|I post a reminder on his timeline every year|
So, a loss, no matter how big, no matter how small, as long as it was of love, it will leave a deep mark in your heart. That mark doesn’t really heal over time. It just closes up like a wound and leave a scar. Once in a while, the old wound acts up and reminds you to look back.
Losing my brother was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced so far. I dream of him once in a while, something from our childhood together; usually funny things that he said to me to get my attention.
I often wonder what it’d be like, if he’s still around. He’d probably grow close to a foot taller than me, I’m 5’6 by the way. He was already 5’9 or 5’10 when he was 17. I know he will be the protector of the house and family, just as he had always been. He’d probably bug me to ‘belanja’ his favourite food whenever he has the chance. I often wonder, which girl he’d marry, he was quite popular among the girls too. Even when I was studying in Germany, little blonde German girls developed a lil’ crush seeing his photos.
|When he first showed me this photo, I couldn’t stop laughing at
his ‘model pose’ (Source: Hafiz’s Facebook)
Of course, Allah has better plans for all of us. No matter how much I hope things are different, but deep inside we all know Allah is great and He decides to give and take some things for a good reason. I guess, when my brother was taken, at least we didn’t have to worry about him anymore, as he is in a good place now.
I’m sure many people have lost along the way. And sometimes, we got lost along the way too. So, when you feel lost, you don’t know where to turn to, turn to the Creator, and He will show your way back. Al-Fatihah to my beloved brother, Allahyarham Haji Mohamad Hafiz bin Haji Mohamad Sapar.
|Recite this and you’ll sleep better (Source: Internet)|
*Note: Last year I met a nice lady working at TalentCorp Malaysia, Farah Delah. We met at an event and started chatting immediately, since we have a mutual acquaintance, Ardi Gunsuh; a friend who was there for me during my 2013 Tragedy (perhaps, another day). After a while, we found out that my brother’s grave and her mother’s were next to one another. How small the world is!
Have a Happy New Year, everybody!
See you in the next confession!
All my love, XOXO,