It’s been 267 days. Mama is still dead.
The world is still a greyer version of its once glorious splendour.
Oh, nothing has actually majorly changed with the world, per se. The strong still tramples over the weak as if it’s their goddamn right. Capitalism is still spraying its poison around like confetti at a wedding. And everywhere I look, there is still moral anarchy.
From the Muji chair in my living room, I have a breathtaking view of aircraft taking-off from Subang Airport, and it’s still charming. A mug of hot chocolate on a rainy day still brings a smile to my face. Lying in bed with headphones as I listen to a podcast on process theology is still strangely soothing.
But something is just different about the bedrock of the universe. The tectonic plates have shifted.
Earth did not freeze the moment mama stopped breathing. It’s still spinning tirelessly. Except, there’s a perpetual pall . The colours are not as bright.
The ATRs taking-off, the cocoa on my tongue, my curiosity of the metaphysical world—all that sweetness are purchased with a tinge of bitterness.
Meanwhile, the suffering on this planet became a hundred shades more glaring than it once was.
It’s true what people say. Losing a parent changes your innate being. The loss becomes the tint that will forever colour your lens of the world.
The classic Disney princesses do not have mothers. This is because Walt Disney himself lost his own mother.
Suddenly, Walty makes sense. As if by magic, I’m more forgiving of How I Met Your Mother’s cock up of the final 10 minutes of the series (google this if you do not get the reference). I want to kill off every mother in my fictional stories. And every book I read with a live mother character, I am tempted to fling into the rubbish bin like a used sanitary pad.
Death, although still mysterious and scary, is no longer terrifying in the way that it once was. Because wherever mama goes, she brings with her a certain brand of fragrance, including death.
It’s as if a spell had been cast. The grave now holds a different meaning. No longer a den of shadows, it’s now a promise. A careful step across the threshold, a ginger peer into that inevitable future, feels like a promise of seeing mama again.
Mama was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer the month I turned 26. I was living my high then. I was about to marry the man of my dreams. I had passed my command interview a few months prior. I was even at the peak of my fitness—I could do 7 strict pull-ups without rest.
Overnight, every peeny world view I had held at that point was challenged in a vital way.
There’s something ridiculously disconcerting about the reality of our parents’ mortality. Having the head knowledge that all organic beings eventually die is not the same as accepting that one day, we will put our forehead to their lifeless forehead, watch as the undertaker seal their coffin, and then go the rest of our lives without someone to ask “What is the difference between a savings account and a current account?”
By every metric of the traditional Christian faith, mama has a secure spot in heaven.
Of which, I’ve been told, should be a source of comfort.
Maybe it was, for awhile. Until I actually put my brain to work.
When mama fell sick, I wondered: If God will let mama into heaven simply because she believes the right thing, while not thinking twice before sending those whose believes do not match her’s to hell, that means that mama will be at the mercy of an all-powerful being who could send her to hell if it was his fancy.
While this assurance of heaven is the comfort of countless Christians, it is my poison. Because this doctrine comes paired with hell.
How did another person’s meat become my poison?
I was at war with myself, my doctrines, my own mind—and until I sorted that out, I couldn’t let mama go.
I couldn’t release her into the hands of a God who had it in him to send his ‘children’ to hell.
Grief can be complicated. All the more when you come from a tradition where the afterlife hinge on the glorifying of violence (Jesus dying on the cross for our sins) and punishment of the faithless (eternal damnation in hell).
I could live with the doctrine of heaven, but not hell.
It took a lot of painful shedding of these doctrines before I was ready to hurt—ready to accept mama’s mortality.
But I did. Then she died. 267 days ago.
This is my first Christmas without mama. I yearn for her, for her warmth, for her smile, and for her comfort.
She’s not in my childhood home. She’s not by the Christmas tree, laying out the presents. She’s not in the kitchen, baking a turkey.
People tell me that she’s in heaven. So this Christmas, I’m mounting a telescope to heaven. Hopefully, I’ll see mama.
Feature photo credit: Matthew Ansley @ Unsplash