She sat there, at the corner, looking outside the window, wondering – or is it imagining, what life could be if tragedy had not befallen her.
She was twenty-nine.
She was a mother to a five-year-old girl.
Her husband had left two years ago.
Under her ustazah-like scarf and her long ‘jubah’, she was frail. She remembered undressing the night before, looking at her reflection and seeing a skeleton.
Well, it wasn’t a metaphor. She did look like a skeleton.
The after effects of chemotherapy left her head bald. She kinda liked how she looked – a bit like Sinead O’Connor or Sharifah Amani. It all depends on which side of the grass you were looking from.
Her breast was almost non-existent – the skin hugging her tightly, now that the flesh that used to be there was almost completely gone.
Her body – or what was left of it, looked like the extraterrestrial entity from the movie Alien.
She hated herself most days. She hated the pain. She hated the life.
When she was diagnosed with Stage Two bone cancer a year ago, everything went dark to her, shortly before she collapsed in a heap onto the floor.
It didn’t take long before her husband of four years, one whom she had loved dearly, decided to leave her alone with their then four-year-old daughter.
Divorce wasn’t painful. What was painful was knowing that the security, the comfort, the pillar of strength that she had always relied on had decided to abandon her at the first sign of trouble. So much for ” ’til death do us apart. “
She just wanted to fall apart. Just fall apart and dissolve, succumb to the pain.
Pain was the Devil himself.
Succumb to it and you will be free forever.
She almost sold her soul to the Devil.
The tiny hands with its tiny fingers gripped hers, strangely and surprisingly, with such force that it quashed her gloominess.
The sudden burst of rainbow that radiated from her daughter surrounded her.
Her daughter’s trust and innocence swallowed her whole, overwhelming her heart and being with love that’s so pure.
The Devil can go back to Hell with his tail between his legs.
I AM HERE TO STAY! – she roared.
Her maternal instinct kicked in – at a timely moment.
Her angel, her beautiful angel gave her hope, gave her life.
If there was ever light at the end of the tunnel, it was her baby.
Yet, she struggled.
She was a teacher. She loved her job. She was grateful to her school as they allowed her to continue teaching, which was her passion, – perhaps her only passion.
That, however, was not the reason she loved her school.
Not the main reason.
She loved the school simply because of the extraordinary woman who sat beside her in the staffroom.
A woman she simply called Ummi.
Ummi’s been the pillar of support for her, a support that she had sorely missed since her husband left.
Ummi was her saviour.
She remembered the first time Ummi had washed her scars from chemo and bathed her. She was so ashamed of her nakedness, yet, what moved her was the fact that her Ummi did not see her as deformed, the way she see herself. Her Ummi bathed her the way a mother would bathe a newborn baby.
It humbled her.
Gratitude was like a mountain spring – fast, cool, quick, done.
The lump she had in her throat refused to bulge.
She knew then. Even if she was to die the next day, she will always be grateful to God- the Almighty One – for gifting her such a person in her life.
She trusted – heck, she knew, her Ummi will take care of her baby, her angel without a single doubt.
She sat there, at the corner, three years later, looking outside the window, wondering – or is it imagining, what life could be if tragedy had not befallen her.
She turned at the sound of the door knob and saw her Ummi.
” I’ve bought your favourite hot Nescafe and fried Kueh-teow. “
Behind her Ummi, stood her daughter.
” Mama, I got 100 for Mathematics this time too. The teacher was so proud of me. But I told her it is all thanks to you. She gave me a star, Mama. “
A single tear dropped from her eye.
Her daughter approached her while her Ummi prepared the food for her.
” Mama, get well soon. I miss seeing you like before. I miss going to school with you. If you die, what am I to do? Please get well soon, Mama. “
The simple wish of her daughter opened the flood gates.
She is now thirty – two.
A bone-cancer patient.
Her right hand is in a sling.
She has to use a cane to walk.
Her right side of her body is paralysed.
Yet, she continues teaching.
She still sits beside her Ummi.
Her daughter is eight-years-old now.
Whenever the Devil tempts her again, she just look at the picture of her angel and her saviour and think ;
“This is my family, now and forever. Only Allah S.W.T can snatch me away from them or them away from me. But until then, my life, even though it is a temporary loan from my Maker, will be the way I want it to be. This is my family, now and forever.”
* dedicated to my Economics teacher – a mixture of real truths and fiction. Her pain is real. Her fight is real. I salute you and admire you for your strength.. Keep on fighting please. You’re too great to be gone so early. I love you, ‘Cikgu W.A.S’.. *