Published in The Sun 5 November 2012

MY SISTER Sariah passed away suddenly on Oct 27 – the day after Hari Raya Korban, when the korban rites and rituals were being carried out throughout the country. She died on a good day, Muslims will say, when the doors of heaven are open to receive the sacrifices of the ummah. May Allah receive Sariah’s sacrifice and place her among the faithful. Al-Fatihah.

In remembering Tik, I recall the happy times and the sad, the joys and the tears of her life. As sisters and as women trying so hard to find meaning in our existence, we shared the inevitable ups and downs of our sojourn. Many a time we were reminded that life, as fate would have it, is unequal and sometimes unfair. In our separate lives as daughters, wives and mothers, Tik and I accepted that we would walk along different roads and undergo different journeys. But we were always there for each other.

Tik was inherently blessed with a joie de vivre and a zest for life which seemed almost insatiable. Her bubbly personality and enduring faith in people saw her bouncing back each time she fell and felt downtrodden. She was deeply spiritual despite the outer exuberance, finding solace among the family and friends who loved her. We rallied around her just as she unstintingly gave her time to be with us. Tik had the most generous heart and caring spirit.

If there was anyone who did things with a passion, it was Sariah. From the precocious young child, to the wilful teenage girl, to the engaging adult, to the youthful middle-aged woman, Sariah was omnipresent and ever-committed to the task at hand.

As a staff nurse and later a sister in the general hospital, Sariah handled her work with the skills and ethics that her Australian training equipped her with. She was in the wards to execute her medical duties, not to suffer fools especially among the less diligent nursing colleagues and doctors. Sister Sariah’s reputation as an efficient, dedicated nurse preceded her. In retirement, she became an enthusiastic hospital florist, turning out the most delightful arrangements at the Institut Jantung Negara, office tables and family weddings. She managed this with a fervour and an enthusiasm that the rest of us stood by to watch with envy. Where did she get that boundless energy, we would ask one another.

Little did we realise at the time that this was the way she chose to balance out her life. This was God’s gift to Sariah as was her talent in art. She was a consummate water-colourist with a keen interest in botanicals and landscape, executing each work with a fine eye for detail and a delicate sense of colour. Her likes and dislikes in art and other interests in life were as clear as the heavens on a good day.

Being my father’s pet when she was growing up, Tik was spoilt in an endearing sort of way. Endowed with great beauty and wit, she charmed family and friends, and had young men eating out of her hands. As the plump younger sister who shared a room with her in our Hose Road house, I was full of envy as she trotted around in her nippy-waisted can-can skirts. I now realise that sibling rivalry is as real as many of the other terms psychologists use to describe human relationships. But till the day she died we shared the wonderful bond that only sisters know, especially when we had grown old and grey together.

I now recall with great nostalgia the seemingly endless happiness we shared – at family events, our pilgrimage to Mecca, holidays in Bali, Turkey, Tuscany and the countless sojourns in beloved England. In the extended family, Tik, Aunty Tik, Nek Tik was always there with her inimitable style and infectious laughter.

I dedicate this beautiful sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in memory of my dearest Tik:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. – Quran, Sura Al-Baqara, Verse 156


3 Responses to “IN MEMORIAM”

  1. 1 Thumb Logic
    November 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Dear Halimah,

    Please accept our sympathies and condolences.

  2. 2 ninitalk
    November 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Thank you TL – I shall miss my sister but know she’s at peace and in a better place

  3. November 24, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Oh to have a sister like you.
    May she rest in peace. And may you find comfort
    in those cherished memories of a life so full you shared and lived with her.

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