Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Drs In My House......

"Let's see who gets to become Dr. first......I want to get my Doctorate before turning 30....." I still remember this conversation between Afzal and Jep, in 2009, when Jep got accepted to pursue his PhD in Melbourne, Australia.  Today, eventhough I qualify to claim there are two Drs in my family, only one now grace my life.

26th January marks the 33rd birthday of Dr. Mas Jaffri, who is now a lecturer at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University Putra Malaysia. He may not be a medical doctor like Afzal, but I suppose the field he is lecturing in can be considered a close relative of medicine. As a matter of fact, his thesis titled "Chitosan nanoparticles as a delivery vehicle for [14C]-doxorubicin and the formaldehyde releasing prodrug AN-250" sounded very "medicine" to me.

Life can be a mystery at times because it sometimes unfold in a manner quite illogical to our mere human mind. For instance, my husband did Economics in the university and I did Creative and Descriptive Writing ( a relative of Mass Communications! ).....however, all of my five children pursued their tertiary education in Science subjects - Food Science, Biotechnology, Mathematics and Animal Science! Alas, Allah is so fair and all-knowing...nevertheless, I'm glad all of them retain their creative gene - they all love music......

To all parents whose children are medical doctors, I share your pride in them. I also pray Allah gives them the strength and perseverence to endure the many challenges that come with being a medical doctor. I remember on his graduation day in July, 2009, when I asked him right after the ceremony, if being a doctor has now sinked into his mind, Afzal said "...not yet, wait till the first day of work..."

Well Jep, you may be a father first and a PhD holder aka Dr. second, plus, your daughter sometimes says "papa why are you so crazy?". but to me you will always be just my lovely son. May you continue life under Allah's guidance and always strive for His acceptance and rewards.....Happy Birthday!!

.....Mama Afzal.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Thank you Allah for choosing me to be his mother.....

Today is your birthday...you would have been 31 years old.
Not one day has passed without you in my thoughts. Your smile, your words, your actions, your love. I miss them all. People say, " time heals ", "you will learn to forget ", "it will get better with time ", but that is not so when it comes to your child.

I seek solace with al-mighty Allah every time missing you becomes too painful to bear. But I also claim the priviledge of being your mother, to miss you forever.... I keep seeing your beautiful life stories in my mind, reminding me that your place in my heart cannot be replaced.

When the still night arrives and everyone else is fast asleep, that's when you come back to my dreams, smiling, loving and always my sweet Afzal.....May Allah look after you , embracing you with His love and acceptance as one of those chosen to enjoy his garden....................Mama Afzal


Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Wind Beneath My Wings

These are the winds beneath my wings.

 Children who continue to live with parents, after they are married, be it their own or their in-laws, is a normal phenomenon amongst Asian families in general and Malaysian families in particular. I am one such person whose children are still the Wind Beneath My Wings.............

 To me, it does not matter if my children decide to not fly the coop, even after they are married. I welcome them with open arms. Everyday comings and goings can bring about a lot of challenges with so many levels of generation living together. A simple matter of deciding what to have for meals can turn into a battle of words and end up with flare-up of tempers. Waking up to a kitchen full of unwashed dishes, when you distinctly remember leaving the kitchen spotless the night before, is another challenging scenario. But these are the least of my concern.

 My real worry is how to make them feel at home without taking away their opportunity to be independent. Often, children (of all ages) tend to hide their real feelings and pretend all is well for the sake of maintaining harmony in the household. After all, they are living in a house that's not theirs and to top it all, mom and dad are paying for all subsistance bills ( though this does not bother me or my husband at all ).

 However, I do believe that everyone on this earth should honor their roles and responsibilities. As a parent, it is their duty to protect, educate and guide their children. Carrying out that duty does not stop when their children grow up, are working or get married. Parents, however, should be wise enough to balance between encouraging their children to flourish as an adult by letting them make decisions and allowing them to be themselves, giving them their space and their time-outs. I do not worry too much about whether my children are going to grow up and "pay" me back for what I have done for them. Personally, I think that is a very selfish hope. If I have done my part in providing the neccessary basis for churning out sound human beings then that is payment enough.   

 What is more disturbing is whether, by keeping "the Wind Beneath my Wings", I am denying my children the opportunity to learn to live their lives as their own family entity. They are deprived of the real challenge of making their own decisions without me clouding their judgement or influencing their choices. How can they learn if they do not make mistakes? But then I am a firm believer in Allah's beautiful plannings. There must be a reason for me to be granted the pleasure of having all my children around me even as I am planning my retirement ( well, in 4 years! ). When I compare other parents who long for visits from their children who live away from home, I consider myself blessed, for I get to be with them 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

 It is my greatest pleasure to have all my children stay with me till forever, but I would also like to remind my children that papa and me will not be around forever and as such all of you need to be prepared to make all decisions on your own, one day...................Mama Afzal

P/S:  I would have loved to experience being taken care of by Afzal, had Allah not decided He loved him  
        more. He would be the one giving me advices, in his signature gentle but firm voice. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

12th October 1984 - Memories

29 years ago, on 12th October, 1984 Afzal came to us as a bouncing 8lbs 12ozs baby, crying his lungs out with a big, husky voice, filling the still and quiet Bentong night, as though making sure his arrival is not missed! By December 1984, Afzal's details and picture was already in my international passport, getting ready to depart for the United States of America, to join papa who was doing his Masters in Eugene, Oregon. He was 11 days shy of 3 months old when we set foot in the land of Uncle Sam and the Star Spangled Banner.

Afzal at 1 and 1/2 months at Subang International Airport, ready to depart for the US.

Afzal is the only child among my five children who enjoyed the priviledge of having me by his side 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 2 years. And as fate would have it, he is also the only one who lived away from home the longest and furthest. He went to Lembah Beringin to do his A-levels at the age of 18, then proceeded to Sheffield, U.K when he was 20 to pursue his first degree and only came back when he was 26. This is by no means my effort to establish some sort of record. It is just my way of going down memory lane, reliving my life with Afzal.

1st month in the US.

Afzal started primary one at SK Tanjung Aru 1, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Both his brothers went to school there too. I remember his first day at school.....the classroom was in a mess. There were broken tables and chairs around and Afzal ended up with a good chair but a broken table. I found him a good table from the class next door. During recess, I was shocked looking at the height of grass in the yard surrounding the canteen and most green areas around the school. It was even higher than the shortest student....I bet if this is anaconda country, one could easily be lurking in those tall grass. Nevertheless the school had some of the best and coolest teachers. I remember one day seeing Afzal sharing his water bottle with a teacher and when I asked him about it, he said "that's normal ma...he drinks from my water bottle many times". I tell my husband that I do not mind if the school building is a bit dilapidated and not as modern as long as my children can learn in it.

Afzal was awarded the Half Colour Award for Best Student at La Salle Secondary School, Kota Kinabalu in 1994 - with brother, Andi and teacher, Juliana.

After UPSR( Primary School Accessment Examination), despite scoring 5As, Afzal was not offered boarding school anywhere and he was placed in SM La Salle to start his form 1.(Actually all of my children only attended day school, but they still fared well in their studies and all finally ended up in university, and I credit all that to Allah's beautiful plannings) Off course Andi and Jep were already seniors there! Ironically, in primary school, Afzal could wear long pants, but in form 1, at La Salle, he had to wear short pants. He was not comfortable at all wearing the short school pants being sold in the market because they were about 2 inches above his knees....He kept telling me that the school's ustaz was fighting for Muslim boys to be allowed to wear long pants! Meanwhile, until that finally happened, I had to resort to buying long pants and cutting them off to the length that Afzal is comfortable.

All siblings' day-out at Crocodile Farm, Tuaran. My beautiful children.

As I look back at those years when my children were growing up, I could not help but thank Allah for the beautiful enriching experience. I would not trade it for a different one. Afzal, like his other siblings, went through humble beginnings, where schooling is concerned, but, managed, to succeed and fulfilled his dream to become a doctor. Today would have been his 29th birthday. On this day, I pray Allah place him amongst those promised Jannah. Till we meet again my dearest son, I have memories of my beautiful life with you.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

No. 42, Filey Street - The Attic Room


   November, 2005 marked the first time I visited the house at number 42, Filey Street, in Sheffield, United Kingdom. Like most homes rented by single boys or men, the house is humbly furnished and probably only cleaned 3 or 4 times a year ( I'm exagerating!). But somehow, this humble house is a home that I will treasure for always.

   This was Afzal's home for 5 years until he came home in February, 2010. For more than 4 years he took up a small room in the attic - the smallest of 5 rooms in the house! One had to climb 3 flight of stairs  with 2 landings before reaching Afzal's room ( I cannot remember exactly how many steps we had to climb, but it is a steep climb). The only window in the room opened out looking into Uncle John's garden ( I do not remember if Afzal actually told me his name, but I like to remember him as Uncle John). There were several occasions when I saw Uncle John tending to his small garden, even during the cold winter mornings, though I had never actually met him in person. In the far distance, one could also see the ArtsTower (I think that's what it is called), Sheffield University from this window. Once, in September, I even saw a neighbour holding a barbeque! I remember in December, 2008, when I was there with Jep, I saw a black cat scaling the perimeter wall that served as a boundary between houses in that Broomhall neighbourhood and I was frantically calling for Jep or Afzal to come to the window to witness this seldom seen phenomenon in the UK (honestly, I did not see any cats in the streets of London or Sheffield as I see them in Malaysia!)...but none could share the moment with me for both were down and out - Afzal from chemo and Jep from food poisoning.

   When I first visited 42 Filey Street in 2005, it was just because I wanted to see where Afzal lived. I did not even sleep in the house. Instead, I stayed in one of Afzal's girl friends' house further down the same street. The one thing about 42 Filey Street that made it an extra special house was that it was right in front of a grocery store that sells halal products - Yafai! It is so conveniently located that I loved cooking at 42, Filey Street because most of my cooking needs were just a few metres away ! I remember when Afzal first brought me to the store to buy chicken. He first greeted the shopkeeper in Arabic. We then proceeded to a basement-like part of the store where the butcher was and the butcher said "...how many kilos? skin off? small cuts?..." Afzal replied "..yes, the usual..". Afzal said his housemates and he did a lot of cooking to save on expenses, besides it helped satisfy their cravings for Malaysian food.

  When I started coming to Sheffield to care for Afzal, after he got sick, there was no question as to where I should be staying in other than at no. 42, Filey Street. December, 2008, marked the first time I slept in this house, but not in the room in the attic yet! One of Afzal's housemate, M (Ahmad Khairudin) had gone back to Malaysia on holiday and had graciously offered us his spacious room (it's the master bedroom). We stayed there for a week before actually moving to the attic room.

   As there were 3 of us, and it was winter, my boys decided that I get the bed and the two of them slept on the floor. There was enough room for just the 3 of us, besides the basic study table, chair, closet and small cabinet for Afzal's knick knacks. I remember Afzal said, "don't worry ma, I bought a lot of duvets which was on sale, we won't be cold sleeping on the floor!" However, being at the top most part of the house, it takes effort to move up and down, especially when one required something from the kitchen which was on the ground floor. As such, we kept enough food and drinks in the attic room when we retired for the night but were still not tired enough to sleep.

   As I laid on Afzal's bed, occassionally looking at him, sitting at his study table (on his good days in-between chemos), revising and catching up on whatever he missed as he prepared for his exams, I could not help but marveled at how Afzal must have loved his attic room. The walls and ceilings were full of wise words, quotations, quranic verses, birthday cards, family and outing pictures, phone numbers and exam schedules. But what touched my heart most was a piece of paper detailing his targeted savings from the day he started receiving his scholarship to the day he was supposed to graduate and return to Malaysia. He made a list of all his committed expenses - house rent, utility bills, food needs, donations (I found out that he sponsored a child through monthly deductions from his bank account) and calculated an estimated amount that he could save monthly and bring home when he finished his studies. It suddenly dawned on me that this was the reason why he had never asked my husband or me for any additional money to support him while in the UK. The only money that I ever gave him were when he first left Malaysia in 2004 and during his yearly trip home during his breaks. Sometimes I wondered if there were ever anything he liked or wanted but did not buy them because he was on a tight budget. When I queried him about it, Afzal said "I do go shopping Ma, but I wait till there's a sale on and I only buy things that I need not just want!" I remember he used to nag my daughter who loves to shop for shoes..."How many shoes do you need Aiysha?"

   I did say Afzal stayed for 5 years at 42, Filey Street. Well, after he finished his exams, he had to give up the  attic room because the contract had expired. However, his gracious landlord allowed him to stay in the living room. All his housemates agreed to give up their living room so that Afzal did not have to move out while still receiving treatment and undergoing medical training. That is how much blessing Allah bestowed upon my son, living on foreign soil. I only saw Afzal's landlord, Mr. Abdullah, twice during my visits there, though we were not formally introduced. On occasions when I stayed at 42 Filey Street, I never failed to help clean up the place, especially the kitchen, trying to make it look more like a home to all the occupants whom I considered as my children too....and I could not help but noticed Mr. Abdullah's surprised but pleased look when he saw the gleaming kitchen floor (I had scrubbed it back to its original floorboard colour the day before) during one of his visits!...and that made me feel so good.

   Now, not one day passes by without me thinking of Afzal. As much as I have accepted his passing as the will of Allah, I cannot help but miss him terribly. There are so many things I wished I had done with him or for him. Remembering his beautiful smile will always bring tears to this tired eyes. However, it helps to reminisce on how he had lived a fruitful and enriched life at 42 Filey Street, and Allah willing, I would like to revisit this home again some day!...Mama.