Around this time last year, I wrote about the Aidil Adha celebrations and the process of qurbani (sacrifice of livestock) at the mosque near my parents' home. In that post, I mentioned that the noblest aspect of sacrifice is expecting nothing in return. Today, that particular phrase is reminding me of the effort of one particular person, at this present time... and I thought it would be good to write about it, just so there is something for me to remember by, some time in the future.
My family and I are spending this year's Hari Raya Korban at my sister-in-law's place in Selangor. This particular sis-in-law is my wife's eldest sibling. Kak Long Salmah, a retired schoolteacher, is now 67-years old and lives with another sister at Seri Kembangan. Since early this year, both of them have taken on the task of taking care of their ailing and bedridden father. For those of you who have the experience of caring for an elderly person, you will know that it is not something easy. In this case, it is doubly difficult because my father-in-law is someone whose level of patience is towards the lower end of the scale. And to comply with the rule of inverse proportionality, if the one being taken care of is short on `kesabaran', then the one doing the caring needs to have tons of it. Otherwise, the situation would become explosive and ultimately untenable.
Kak Long is not in a healthy condition herself. Many years ago when in her late-forties, she suffered breast cancer. Through a lengthy and arduous treatment of chemotherapy and surgery, she survived. After the death of her husband, she raised her only daughter single-handedly. Being the eldest child in a very large family, Kak Long had been looking out for her 12 younger brothers and sisters all her life. According to my wife, Kak Long was the one who helped buy clothes and shoes for the younger ones during hari raya. A schoolteacher's pay is not lavish but when it comes to family, she was never stingy.
This is not the first time Kak Long is looking after a sick parent. In 1997, she and my wife took on the duty of caring for their mother who was suffering from stroke. My mother-in-law was due for an operation to replace her heart pacemaker when the stroke happened. She became paralysed on one-half of her body and was no longer able to speak properly. Because of this condition, she declined to have the pacemaker replaced, accepting whatever fate that the Almighty has written. Looking after her became a full-time job which Kak Long and my wife shared equally. I was only a bit player in the whole show, helping out here and there when required... to put it simply, there are just things that only daughters are able to do to help their mothers.
My mother-in-law departed in September 1998. Kak Long completed her service as a teacher and retired to live in Kuala Lumpur. My father-in-law re-married and stayed with his new wife.
In December last year, my stepmother-in-law passed away. One of the immediate issues that surfaced from this event was : who is going to take care of my bedridden father-in-law? As an interim move, one of my brother-in-laws offered to take in the old man. But this could not go on for long because my brother-in-law's wife is already looking after her own sick mother. Attending to two elderly persons in the same house is too stressful a task for one person to handle. Something had to be done to resolve this problem.
Ultimately it was Kak Long and another sister who offered to be caretakers. Although it is my father-in-law's wish to have his sons look after him, it ends up with the eldest and youngest daughters doing the job. Despite her own failing health situation, Kak Long has taken on a heavy responsibility at the expense of her own personal comfort. She has now done the honourable duty of the selfless daughter who has taken care of both her mother and her father. That indeed, is a clear example of sacrifice.
For Kak Long, this year's Aidil Adha was spent in a hospital ward. She was admitted last week and diagnosed with fluid in her lungs. Pulmonary edema.... that's the medical term.
I have been visiting Kak Long at Putrajaya Hospital for the past few days. My prayers to Allah swt for the recovery of Salmah Bt Hj Md Amin and bless her for all the good deeds she has done for our family.