7th of December 2012: I was getting dolled up for my big day, all my close friends and family gathered at my home for the solemnization ceremony that was about to happen. I could still remember everything, how everyone looked and dressed, how nervous and excited my family were, how beautifully decorated my home was. It was indeed the most precious day of my life and how blessed I felt, to be able to share it with my loved ones.
Everything went surprisingly well, considering I had only less than three months to plan for the wedding. My husband proposed on our trip to Cambodia back in September 2012. However, my husband being my husband, he never really thought of the wedding bit. So we went along with our holiday (me trying my best not to show him how really excited I was) without speaking a word about whats to come next (like, when are we getting married? what would the wedding theme be? and etc). When we got back we were told by his mother that she wanted us to tie the knot on the 15th of December!
I told my parents about it, and I remembered my dad asking me bluntly, “Are you sure you want to get married?” to which I replied defensively, “What do you mean am I sure? Of course!”. Secretly I knew my parents were thrilled and they then quickly started planning for the wedding.
The next day, my dad browsed through the Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) website and printed all the necessary forms. He even called me into the meeting room holding a shoebox and never would I have thought! He actually kept all the wedding invitations he has received for me to choose from! (That was very funny yet very sweet of him). So we quickly signed up for the wedding course, did our medical check up and prepared all the necessary paper work for the big day.
The wedding hall however became a big issue. Due to the time constraint, it was nearly impossible for us to find an available venue. So when I announced to one of my Whatsapp group that I was getting married, I also asked for their help finding me a wedding hall. I remembered this quote by Napoleon Hill ‘Opportunity often comes disguised in form of misfortune or temporary defeat’. Well, a friend of mine cancelled her wedding and decided to give me her booking which was set a week earlier than what my future mother-in-law proposed. Everyone agreed to the new date, which meant I just lost another week of preparation!
I was lucky when my bestfriend Jun recommended her wedding decorator extraordinaire neighbour who agreed to do both my solemnization and reception on my very limited budget while another childhood friend of mine in Perth gave me a file to ease my wedding preparations because she was not around physically to help me. She gave all her contacts from jewelers to cake suppliers! Apart from the wedding itself, my sisters and my other close friends were also busy planning my ‘over the top’ bachelorette party.
However for me, one of the most exciting aspect of the wedding, was my wedding dress. Aaa yes! My husband was friends with Alia Bastamam and her team, so we managed to get her to design and make all my dresses at a reasonable price. Wedding dress, checked!
Malay weddings are somewhat, elaborate, consisting of one to three, or even four ceremonies for just one couple! My favorite ceremony has got to be the solemnization ceremony. That emotional moment when the father of the bride has to give her daughter away. During my friends or cousins wedding, I would always take a peek of their fathers and tears will stream down my cheek (did I mention I am a softie too?) . It was no exception for me.
Funny how as a parent all you want is for your children to find and marry a decent independent partner they can share their life with and yet when it’s time to finally let them go, it is just heartbreaking. Like most brides, I cried happy tears watching how excited my family & friends were to welcome my husband and his family, but most of all, I was overwhelmed. In someways I felt like I was losing my parents (not literally) to my husband. Alhamdulillah, the ceremony was close to perfect and all the guests were well fed. I remembered, because there was no food left for us (bride & groom).
My own father-daughter moment
The next day was my wedding reception, it was held in the afternoon but the wedding decorator transformed the hall to an evening wedding with blacked out curtains and candle lights everywhere. It was truly magical! The smile on my dad’s face, the proud father sharing this celebration with over 1000 guest who came to congratulate him. Like any other weddings, it was filled with joy, laughter, and A LOT of photo taking that at the end of it, I had cheek cramps, I swear!
From the left, my dad, my husband, myself and my mom.
I work with my dad, he owns a hot air balloon business and we organise the Annual Putrajaya Hot Air Balloon Fiesta since 2009. November to March is a crucial time for us to prepare every single detail of the event, it was unbelievable how we manage d to pull off my December wedding. I was still working days before my wedding and knowing my tight schedule in the months to come, I decided to go for our honeymoon in Bali a few days after the reception. Get it over and done with.
Before we left, we were suppose to bring both our parents out for their anniversary dinner because coincidentally their anniversary dates were close to our wedding date, but we had lots of things to settle and we were exhausted, so my husband promised to take them when we get back from Bali. I told my mother, and apparently my dad was really looking forward to the dinner. I guess he was excited to meet my new in laws.
We left for Bali on Wednesday, 11th Dec. It was off season there, heavy rain most of the time, but we did manage to find a few artisan cafes and enjoy the private villa that is so commonly available there. Throughout our time there, I only spoke to my mother via Whatsapp, sending her photos and updates of our trip. On Saturday, 15th Dec, in the early afternoon while we were enjoying lunch by the paddy field, I received a phone call from my sister. I picked up and she said my dad had a heart attack, and she is with him at the hospital. I was surprised but at that moment, it did not occur to me how serious it was. She just told me he played tennis and when he came back he was not feeling well. I prayed for his safety. I was pretty sure he will be okay, heart attack is a common thing among Malaysians.
We went to Seniman Coffee, the last cafe we visited during our trip, where I called my mom because I didn’t hear anything from them since I last spoke to my sister an hour ago. When she answered, she was crying. My mom cries only once a year, (literally, during raya when we ask for forgiveness). Her exact words was “Etty, Mama tak tau nak buat apa dah. Doctor said, call all your children here. I don’t know what to do” she cried frantically. My heart literally sank and with my husband next to me, I just broke down and cried. I was so sure my dad was going to be okay. He is a healthy man, he plays tennis weekly, takes all sorts of vitamins and I have never seen him being admitted to a hospital. He was only 56 years old, full of life with big big dreams for the company and the family.
I immediately got my husband to book us the next flight back to KL. All I wanted was to be with my dad. On our way back from Ubud to Seminyak (which was at least an hour drive) while desperately getting updates from my sister, it came to an end when she texted “Etty, he’s gone”. I think I read it at least twice to properly digest what I just received. To me it was a bloody sick joke, a freaking horrible nightmare. I HATED myself for rushing my honeymoon, I hated that we cancelled their anniversary dinner, I hated that I was not there with my family, I hated that I never got to tell him what a wonderful father he has been to all of us, I hated everything at that moment.
I felt my world was falling apart. Only exactly a week ago, I was on top of the world, marrying the love of my life, making my parents the happiest people and a now, I lost my father. To me, it did not make sense. I couldn’t imagine how my mother, my sisters and brother were handling this loss. I pleaded my mother to wait till I arrived in KL before she send him for the burial ceremony. I wanted to kiss him and hug him one last time.. I wanted to say my goodbyes.
I cried till there were no tears left. I cried the whole way back from Ubud. I was physically and mentally drained, I received phone calls after phone calls from my dad’s friends wanting to confirm his death. How in the world are you suppose to answer that call? How do you, as his daughter tell another person that yes, your father just passed away moments ago and you were not there by his side. I felt helpless. It was the longest trip back to KL. I reached home at 2.00 am, dreading to go in.
You know that feeling when something really bad just happened and all you wish for was for it to be a really bad dream. Well, that was exactly how I felt, only thing is it wasn’t a dream.
The first person I saw was a high school friend who waited for me to come back. All he managed to give me was a sad stare. I entered the living room, where I saw a few men sitting at the corner reciting the Yassin. At the centre, I saw my sister seated next to now, my late father. He was covered in white cloth. I saw my aunties (my dad’s sisters and sister in laws) sitting against the wall and I went straight to them, their faces pale and eyes swollen like they had been crying all night. I think I was just too shocked, and was lost of what to do until one of my aunt said to me, ‘Etty, tak nak tengok ayah ke? Pergi la tengok, Ayah nampak tenang sangat, bersih muka dia’ . (Etty, don’t you want to see Ayah? Go on, he looks so calm and peaceful.)
I was trying hard to hold back my tears and at that moment I just broke down and said “Aunty Ton, Etty tak ready, I can’t accept that he is really gone”. She hugged me and when I looked back at my sister, her eyes filled with tears, she pulled down the cloth covering his face and I saw him for the first time. It felt like it was only yesterday he was all smiles, now he was pale but my aunt was right, he looked so peaceful. I bent down and kiss his cold forehead and hugged him.
Yes, I lost my father exactly a week after my wedding.
From that moment on, I was just numb, filled with great sadness, and every time a thought of him pass by, I cried. Everything I saw and heard for the next few days went by like a time-lapse. My father at 56, left his dedicated wife and his four loving children. I never ever want to see my mom as sad as she was losing him anymore. Looking back, I saw how strong my little brother really was, holding back his tears and sadness while comforting each one of us through that trying time.
Later when we talked about what he said to each one of us weeks and days before he left, it was as if he knew he was going to leave. Apparently he kept telling my 13 year old brother, “Make sure you take care of your Mama, especially when all your sisters get married. She may look okay, but she will be lonely”. He never actually told us, we only heard that from my mom. During one of our ride back from a meeting, just my dad and I in the car (one of the last meeting we attended together), he said “Etty, I think you are ready to take over the company. Ayah dah penat (I’m tired), I want to retire”. I casually answered ‘Oh no Ayah, you are not retiring, you’re still young!’ . He just kept quiet and smiled.
Fast forward, it has been over two years since he left. Our family has gotten closer, going through hell and back together. Getting over such a significant loss in our life has made me a stronger person today. My dad and I may not be on the same page most of the time, but now that I’m in his shoes, I finally understand why he did what he did. Everything he ever wanted was the best for everyone. He was a great man with a bigger heart. He left a dent in my heart, and I shall forever be grateful for having him as a father. I have a big shoe to fill, but like him, no dream is too big for me. We (my family & I) shall continue his life long work and legacy and make sure all his dreams will come true. Insyaallah.
2013 – Still hosting the annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta without him. I hope we made him proud. Dearly missed, my ayah – Capt Khairudin Abd Rani.