Written by Muhammad Afzal
Talking about death is almost always a taboo topic. The more common uses of death in Singapore slang are:
Exclamation of irritation or annoyance – “Go and die lah”
Proclamation of physical and/or mental fatigue – “WAH SO TIRED I DIEDED”
Laughter – “OMG DED”
But is death really all that though? Is it really as simple or as trivial as it sounds in our usual conversations?
I used to think death was really scary. To know that you are void on Earth. The rush to do something to leave behind your legacy. The fear of not fulfilling what you felt you were capable of. In some ways, that fear has helped me become better. Pushed me to do things I would have otherwise not have done. But not too long ago, I had an amazing conversation with an old lady who was a hospital patient, and it was so fulfilling, rich, and gave me a whole new perspective towards Death itself.
My grandmother was hospitalised for a few days sometime in July this year due to an accident in the kitchen. As more and more family members started to crowd around the bed, I decided to take a walk. I realised that in that ward of 6, there was an elderly woman who was all alone in her bed. All the other 5 beds had at least one other person by the bedside. Except for this frail looking auntie. Sympathy and curiosity got the better of me and I went up to her and grabbed a seat.
“Hello, auntie” I started. And the conversation began.
There was one particular segment of our banter that I can still clearly remember til today.
“Kalau itu atas mau ambik, dia ambik. Kalau dia au bagi lagi satu hari, dia bagi. Bua tapa mau susah-susah?( If the one up there wants to take us, he will take us. If the one upstairs wants to give you an*other day, he will give you another day. Why worry?)”, She said, with a grin plastered across her face. That’s how you kick cancer in the butt. Her confidence and her outlook on life was admirable. Unfortunately, I didn’t get her name. But Auntie, wherever you are now, thank you.
Having lost two of my grandparents in the hospital left me with a reflex feeling of a sinking heart every time death comes into the conversation. But this auntie gave me a new perspective on life itself.
Many do not fear Death itself but fear not having lived a life. Death is a blatantly taboo topic in Singapore. “Choys” and “Touchwood touchwood!” is common say when Death becomes a topic. Perhaps, now it is time to give Death a new light. A new perspective, one it deserves.
Possibly, with better, more meaningful and positive conversations on Death, society would be more accepting of it as a point for discussion. Sharing views on Death could potentially better prepare ourselves for it!
We do not know when Death will come to take us away. So live now, live today. The conversations you have on Death can determine your outlook while you’re alive. Death can be your crippler or your enabler. Choose.