My good friend and former classmate from secondary school, Roswati Abdul Wahab, went to Makkah to perform the hajj last month... but she is not coming back. She passed away three days ago.
Roswati and I studied at MRSM Kuantan. Apart from being classmates, both of us were active in the publication bureau of the school's student body. After completing our MCE exams in 1979, we lost touch with each other. She continued her studies at a local university while I went overseas.
In July of 2010 we re-discovered each other, thanks to Facebook of course. We exchanged news and met up again in reunions and gatherings. During the past two years, I learned more about what happened in her life during the `lost' 31 years. She got married while still at university, bore 3 children (a girl and twin boys), started work as a computer programmer in the private sector but ended up being a mathematics teacher in government schools. Some years ago, she was diagnosed with liver cancer. And as if that is not enough of a misfortune, her husband left her for another woman. Sudah jatuh ditimpa tangga...
Despite those challenges plus many more, she soldiered on with her life, always putting on a brave front to mask her suffering inside. She ventured out on a quest to search and re-discover old friends (especially the girls) from our MRSM days. I have a database of all the students in our batch which I used to help her recall names of long-lost friends. There were 121 students in the MCE/SPM 1979 batch, consisting of 87 guys and 34 girls. With the aid of Facebook plus a lot of actual legwork, she managed to track down all of the girls but one. But she did not just stop at being re-connected in cyberspace. She made the effort of actually visiting these friends to meet them in person, even though they are spread all over Malaysia. Her travels took her to Kedah, Trengganu, Pahang and Johor. At each meeting of a newly re-discovered friend, she would present a gift of her own handmade brooch (for the girls) and framed photo reprints (for the guys). Photographs taken at these reunions were then uploaded in a series of albums in her Facebook which were titled `Jejak Kawan'. In May of last year, she compiled the photos of all the girls into a collage and had it printed as a poster. Every girl that she re-discovered, got a copy.
All this she did while not being in the best of health... she seldom talk of her sickness with any of the friends. Most of us knew but not many dare broach the subject. I am one of the very few with whom she shares the state of her health.
She was slated for a chemotherapy treatment early next year and so decided that she has to perform the hajj this year. Otherwise, the chemo treatments would prevent her from travelling. At first she approached Tabung Haji to try secure a place but was not successful. She then went to a private travel agency to register under a scheme called Pakej Haji Tanpa Giliran. This package costs almost double of the basic Tabung Haji scheme and even so, is not a sure thing because it depends on the visa approval from the Saudi government. She was then told to wait for confirmation. She waited... and waited... and waited. By the grace of Allah swt, the travel agency managed to secure the visa for travel on the very last day of entry to Makkah for this year's hajj season.
She texted me a few times while she was there, giving brief updates of what she was doing. In her last sms to me on 28 October, she mentioned of having a sore throat and losing stamina. Her text message ended with the words, `Please pray for me...'
I prayed to the Almighty to give her the strength to complete her hajj rituals and to return home safely. But the Almighty loves her more and has chosen for her the final resting place in the holy land of Makkah.
I will miss you dearly, my friend. You had such a kind heart and were an inspiration to most of us. May the Almighty bless your soul and place you in paradise amongst the righteous.
|This scanned pic from 1979 showing Roswati (in tudung) sitting next to me|
|This pic from July this year, my two classmates, Roswati (right) and Suzyanna (left)|
|The K79 poster girls|