this morning right before waking up, i had a really beautiful dream of ah ma. usually my ah ma dreams feel a little eerie and i watch her as i wonder on the inside – why something doesn’t feel right. then the feeling begins to become overwhelming and dark and eventually ends with me waking up to this shattering realisation that she is dead.
i dream a lot. i always have. and my dreams are incredibly intense. but until recently i could always just wake up startled, comfort myself knowing that it’s just a nightmare and try not to think about it as i fall back asleep. by the next day it would be nothing but a very foggy memory of something that i really would never be able to recall in detail.
dreaming of ah ma is a completely different experience. it usually starts out incredibly normal. nothing out of the ordinary. then i start to notice little details that don’t quite make sense. a part of the house that looks different. an object that we never owned. a conversation that doesn’t make sense. a person that should not be there with us. and as i wonder… and look around… and experience the dream i am having – not yet realising it’s a dream – ah ma starts to fade or mutate. sometimes i look at her and realise i don’t recognise who i’m looking at anymore. other times i look in her direction and all i can see is energy that i know symbolises her in the scene but she no longer has any form.
then it starts to sink in. always takes a while but i’ve never had a dream of ah ma that did not end with the same realisation. it feels like a cloud descending, a wave travelling through my body. and then i get it. something doesn’t feel right. this can’t be reality. that is not ah ma…because ah ma is dead.
i wake up. startled. sad. confused. numb.
i can’t shrug it off and comfort myself this time. what woke me up was reality hitting home. i wake up and ah ma is indeed no longer here with us. she is dead. and i don’t think i’ve been able to process what it means for her to be dead.
ah ma has been a part of my life since the day i was born. i spent more time living with her than i did with my parents. when i first left home at 18, she used to call me multiple times throughout the day to ask if i’ve had food. if i was alright. if i needed money. to be safe and careful. to make sure i was getting enough sleep and had a place to stay. to let me know that i could just go home at any point if i needed to. that she would always be there. that i was not alone. she was my safety net.
she very much is still alive in my mind and heart. ah ma is right here. i’ve spent so much time talking to her throughout life that her presence will forever be a part of my life.
there are moments where it hits me hard though- that ah ma has passed. and if i let it be, it is overwhelming because i feel so bad for not going back to visit her in the last month when she was put into a home and we knew she didn’t have long more. we were scheduled to move up north by the end of the month and then i’d go get her from the home and move her to a home closer to us. she didn’t make it to the end of the month. i didn’t go say goodbye.
ah ma has always been the absolute best person when it came to understanding that i had my own life to live and couldn’t always visit her. she never made me feel bad when it’d been a while since i visited. not once. i wonder if she understood i was going to go get her so she could finally be close enough for me to see her all the time. i wonder if she was sad that i didn’t go see her. i’m not a person of much regret. but this, i do regret. and i wish over and over and over again i could turn back time and hug her one last time.
so this is the honest reality of ah ma’s passing for me. i didn’t run to go see her when i had the chance to. i waited and it was too late. i didn’t say goodbye. i didn’t tell her one last time that i loved her. i will never be able to change that. ah ma lives on in my memory forever but there is no closure because i will never stop feeling bad for not seeing her one last time. i do not desire to stop feeling bad about it.
last night i spoke to yoong before sleeping, because the night before i had a really dark dream of ah ma. i told him that nothing could change. i do not know how else to process her passing more than i have. i know she is no longer physically here. i know she lives on forever in my heart. i am happy for her that she no longer has to suffer the pain of being ill. i am alright that she is no longer here. it’s the eventuality of all of our lives here. hers came to an end the way it was supposed to. not abrupt. not tragic. just an expected peaceful passing. i knew ah ma wouldn’t be here forever.
the emotions are so strong that it feels incredibly numbing. i accept that i feel numb. i accept that death is such a weird thing to process because it changes reality but technically doesn’t remove a person’s presence. nor does it take away the past. or the love.
processing death is a strange experience. i totally understand the eerie dreams i have of ah ma. i accept that as my forever. which is why this morning when i woke up foggily to a beautiful dream of her, i wanted to jump out of bed and write everything out to see what’s changed since last night.
in this dream, i was in our old home with ah ma, ah kong and epoh (grandma, grandpa and grandaunt). ah kong was filling water into a really cool water gun and i was showing ah ma and epoh how it worked and why it was better than a slingshot (which ah ma used to use all the time to shoot at crows). there was a cool bike in front of our house that ah kong rode in on. we were having good laughs and ah ma brought food out and told me to go eat. then the neighbour came back and asked ah kong why we had a broken bike out front. i looked over and saw an old broken down bike with no wheels under a tarp.
usually this is the point where my dream would start to get eerie.
but this time it felt incredibly natural. all of a sudden, we were all in the house. my brother was at the table with me and i was explaining to the neighbour that we were playing pretend. “you see, my grandma is no longer here with us so when she is, we try to make the best of it and enjoy the time we have with her. that’s why it doesn’t matter if it’s a broken bike outside. it can be anything we want it to be.” i absolutely knew ah ma was dead. i knew it was a dream.
i look at ah ma, trying to take in all of her. her short wavy white hair. the shade of her skin. her aging once chubby frame. those large spectacles. her checkered short sleeve shirt and sarong. her smile. her gummy, toothless, denture-less smile. her voice as she nags at me to eat. the love i feel as she fusses about everything. i stare for as long as i can, because i know she is gone. and my dreams (which i have very little control of) is the only place i will ever see her again. i look at her so long she becomes a still frame. and then just an image. i smile as i think of her. and then i wake up.
present. aware. at peace.
i miss you every day ah ma. i miss you with all my heart and soul. perhaps it will always be a mix of good dreams and bad ones when it comes to you because i love you that damned much. i will always wish you could be right here with me, so these dreams – good or bad – i look forward to them. because i look forward to seeing you.
you used to tell me about your dreams of your mother and grandmother. i never understood. now i do.