17 Feb
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Ngku A’am, Dad, my sister Juli, my cousin Cie E’eng, my sister Suzan with Ngkim behind her, my sister Tjoetjoe, with my extended cousin in front of her, my Mum and my older brother Irwan in front of her, and Ngkim’s Mum.
I was the little bubba, struggling to break free. Most probably in early 1973.

 

Mum’s younger brother passed away twenty minutes after midnight last night. His body just couldn’t cope anymore after multiple organ failures. Understandably Mum is very upset – she was pretty close to her younger brother. I feel helpless here as I monitor the conversations in the family WhatsApp group. I also learn that my eldest sister is being taken to the hospital again. The area where she had the surgery to remove a cancerous node is painful again and makes her nauseous.

In these trying times, I wish I could be with my family in Indonesia and support them by just being there. I can’t. Being there with them is not as easy as taking a cab or taking the next bus as it involves some logistic planning. The fact that I am in my final year of PhD and being a part of several major projects at work is also a factor. I can only contribute through the conversations on my mobile and help my siblings in deciding the course of actions.

I can’t help thinking as well that I am reaping the decision of my youth. I remember the moment when I told Dad in late-2002 that I would be migrating to Australia in 2003. Dad only sighed and said, “Well, it’s that what you want … I can’t say anything much, can I?”. At that moment I was pretty much adamant and sure that I wanted to do it, without considering any consequences of my decision. Don’t get me wrong – I am not regretting settling down here, but in that moment, I failed to take in all the consequences of my action.

When my younger brother passed away in 2008, I could only learn about the news on my phone, crying alone and feeling helplessly frustrated before I could fly back to Indonesia. It was the same when in 2011 when my siblings texted me on my phone and said that Dad was in critical conditions. I could only maintain a calm and steely exterior while feeling helpless that I couldn’t be with him and the whole family. I wasn’t there when he was hospitalised and when he passed away. The moment when I saw him again was when he was already lying in his casket – sleeping serenely. I also missed numerous family gatherings, get-togethers, engagement and wedding parties.

These are the consequences of my decision that I didn’t consider in 2002.  Despite the love and care that I have for my family, I was the sole occupant in my universe.

Thus, it pains me knowing the dogged determination of some of my friends who want to continue to be in Adelaide, despite the wishes of their family back home.  I don’t know whether they realise that they will miss some monumental events in their family, and experience the gutwrenching feeling of helplessness for being half the world away from them when you need to be there.

I can only say goodbye to my Uncle from here in my prayers. I heard from my sister that he accepted Jesus in his deathbed, so I am not in deep mourning as I know that I will see him again someday. The other benefit for being so far away from my family is also having an imprint of my relatives when they are younger – how they looked the last time that I saw them. I didn’t get to experience their moments of sickness and pain. So I remember Ngku A’am (Uncle A’am) as I saw him last – one fine day we will meet again.

Rest in Peace, Ngku.

 

Indrady Kodyat
(1942 – 2015)