I arrived on Thursday morning at KLIA but I was too late. My father had been buried the day before. It is the Muslim tradition to bury a person before sunset.

My brother arrived from London an hour later. We were both too late to wash our father’s body and to see him laid into his grave. That morning we drove to Seri Menanti, the Negri Sembilan royal town. There we spread flower petals and sprinkled water on the fresh mound of earth. It was hard to imagine that my father’s corpse lay six feet beneath. It was hard to imagine he was dead.

Later, I wandered through the graveyard and beheld the graves of my cousins, my uncles, my grand parents. It is not a spooky place but instead is rather peaceful. I thought about my own death and where I will be buried.

That evening, and the evening after, prayers were held at my father’s house. By going through the many rituals, in speaking with friends and relations, perhaps there was less time to contemplate. Less time for the emotions to pour through. But in those quiet moments alone …

On Sunday, was the “naik tanah” ceremony. This is the ceremony to mark the grave having been literally raised up with earth and walls formed in preparation for it to be encased in marble months later. I expected it to be a big event but it turned out to be a small family occasion. After prayers, everyone in turn spread flower petals and sprinkled water on the grave.

My father’s grave after the ceremony

Although my father was 83, I did not expect him to die at that age. He was too young at heart. He was so full of life. He still worked every day and enjoyed life to its utmost.

A few weeks ago, he encountered breathing difficulties in London. The doctors detected a heart problem an recommended a heart by-pass operation. My father decided to have it done in Malaysia instead. I suppose he wanted the family around and perhaps also a second medical opinion. He rested in London and was deemed fit to travel. On the plane to KL he had breathing difficulties and on landing was taken to the airport clinic. He was given oxygen and did feel better. Then he had a heart attack and, with tears in his eyes, was snatched from this world.

Although my father was 83, he did not appear really old and nor really frail, so none of us were prepared for his death. Even with his heart problems, none of us were prepared for the worse.

Such is life.

I would like to thank all of you for your kind wishes and messages of sympathy. They do help at this time.

I would like to thank my father for all the love and all he has done for me.