Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ashes to ashes...

A few years ago, if you ask me to help wash a corpse and shroud it, I would be running away screaming like a banshee. Why? It's the fear of the dead. I blame it all on the horror movies that I've watched when I was small. I still remember the nightmares I had after watching Salem's Lot. I imagined the ghost floating outside my window. For years, I slept with the curtains closed. 

Ever since then I did not like funerals. If I went to pay my respect, I made sure I stay clear of the deceased. I did not even want to look at the body. Going to the graveyard is definitely a big No-No. I used to imagine zombies clawing their way out of their grave. Brrr......just the thought of it gave me shivers down my spine.

Then, in one of our chit-chats, the Wise Owl said to me, "sister, to bathe and shroud our deceased fellow muslim brothers and sisters is an obligatory duty upon all Muslims, fard kifayah. You must learn how to do it. All Muslims should learn". I looked at him blinkingly, and asked" Err..will the soul of the decease follow me back home and disturb me later if I help wash and shroud it? " to which the Wise Owl replied " No sister, don't worry, you will be fine". Unconvinced, I asked him again " you are sure I won't see any floating ghost outside my window? " The Wise Owl smiled and shook his head. I have to say that the Old Wise Man and the Wise Owl, both have been very patient with me. I have a tendency to ask silly questions and I know at times, the Wise Old man would just love to put his hands around my neck and squeeze the life out of me. hahahahah

Anyway, I decided to join a course on bathing and shrouding a Muslim woman, conducted by this sweet old lady.We were taught how to wash the body. We must do it gently and move it as minimum as possible. It is advisable for the family members to help wash the deceased. A husband is allowed to bathe his wife and a wife is allowed to bathe  her husband. As children, we should all help wash our parents as they had countless times bathe us when we were small. We should wash them with the same gentleness and care like they did with us.

We were also taught how to prepare the shroud cloth and how to tie the corpse.

Today, we were supposed to continue with our lessons but our instructor, (sister A), called to say she could not make it as there has been a death and she was required to wash and shroud the deceased. Sister A asked me to join her and help her out.

Oh dear! Moment of truth...I hesitated....can I conquer my fear? Can I do it or will I faint in the washing room? I mean, practising on a dummy is nothing compared to the real thing. In the end, I gathered my wits, grabbed my car keys and headed out to the mosque where the body was brought to. I was determined to do this. I have been asked to help so now, the obligation is already upon me to perform the task.

When I arrived, sister A was already in the hall and was cutting the cloth in pieces to prepare for the shrouding. I went straight to the washing room to help the others prepare for the washing. After that I went into the hall and helped sister A cutting and arranging the cloth in its places. Once we were done, we went into the washing room to start washing the body. I must say, its actually mind over matters. When something needs to be done, surprisingly, our body will automatically follow our brain and carry out the task without delay. It was really an experience to wash a real corpse. We washed the deceased as gently as we could. One thing that we must never forget is that even though the body is lifeless, we must always take care to ensure the aurat of the deceased is never exposed. We must respect the deceased and handle her body with outmost care.

After the washing was completed, the body was moved into the hall for the shrouding. We carefully wrapped the body and allowed the family members to kiss the deceased one last time.

The whole process took us about an hour. I must say that I was not afraid throughout the whole thing. I felt that it was process that each of us must go through one day. I was actually delighted to be able to do it in real life. It was also a humbling experience as it reminded me that death can come at any time and when it comes, we will leave everything behind, and we will only take 3 pieces of white cloth with us to the grave.

One thing I  must stress here is; Do Not Wait. If any of your family members pass away, please arrange the burial process as soon as possible. Bury as soon as you possible can.

I went home happy today. I have conquered my fear. Will I have nightmares tonight? Hopefully not, but I have already closed the curtains just in case.....

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