"Riz, can you pass me the apple, please?"
"Of course." I picked a green apple from the fruit basket, one of many given to Mak since she was admitted about two weeks earlier. But after two or three bites, Mak had breathing difficulties. She was gasping for air. Right before my eyes, with Ayah and family friend Mr Ng at her bedside. I panicked. The nurses were quickly summoned!
The three of us were immediately told to leave the room. Ayah was bracing for the worst. I did not know whether or not he was prepared for this moment. As for me, I did not know what to think, what to do. My mind went blank.
Later Mak was transferred to the ICU. Relatives and friends were informed. They came in droves but only a few were allowed to see her. Mak was in a state of comatose, being kept alive by the life-support machine. Makcik Pah, Mak's cousin and a staff at HKL, facilitated things. Some whispered to me "the signs are not good", telling me to prepare myself for the shattering news.
Ayah, Kak Lin, Aishah and I were in a state of shock. Atok almost collapsed upon reaching the hospital. Then Mak was transferred to the CCU. Man was the only member of the immediate family not present as Ayah waited for him to finish his classes at IIUM. Man arrived around Maghrib and quickly recited the first few verses of Surah Yaasin, with tears flowing down his cheeks. Moments later Mak was pronounced dead. It was as if Mak was waiting for her youngest son to bid farewell. Our beloved Mak was gone. She was only 51.
Ayah must have known something about Mak's illness but he kept it away from us. Mak was hospitalised for 13 days but the doctors, both Dr Christopher Lee and Dr Zainuddin Abdul Wahab, were evasive each time they saw me. I failed to realise the true extent of Mak's sickness. It dawned on me later that she could have been suffering from lung cancer.
Atok was devastated. Three of his loved ones - her husband, her eldest daughter and now her only surviving child were all gone. Atok Antan passed away at the age of 67 in 1983 due to stroke, while Mak Long Ramlah died at the age of 28 in 1969, a year before I was born. Mak had two younger brothers who died shortly after they were born.
My colleagues at Berita Harian, including my superiors Hishamuddin Aun (current GEIC of New Straits Times), Badrulhisham Othman and Abdul Ghafar Ismail (Editor of Harian Metro), paid their last respects later that night.
Mak was laid to rest the following day, after Zohor prayers. A few of Ayah and Mak's friends, including two present Cabinet members and their wives, paid their last respects as well. One Parliamentary secretary who is now a Minister even faithfully accompanied Mak's remains to the burial ground.
Mak and Man at seven months
Volkswagen was Ayah's first car, while Mak listens attentively to Razak Abdul Hamid, who survived the Hiroshima bombing. Read here
Mak (standing, left) represented Malacca in badminton
Mak was a member of class of 1956, the pioneering batch at Sekolah Menengah Perempuan Melayu, Melaka, the forerunner of Sekolah Tun Fatimah. Among her fellow pioneers include Aminah Ahmad Badawi, Zubaidah Abdul Rahman, better known through her Sri Siantan column in Berita Harian and Badariah Mimbar, whose son here is my fellow Johannian and a spitting image of his father. As fate had it, Badariah, a real garang teacher, taught Man and me at St John's. Read Najmuddin Najib's Mum for a brief history of STF