It may be possible to gild pure gold, but who can make his mother more beautiful?

– Mahatma Gandhi, Indian anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist       

Thousands of articles were dedicated to mothers on Mother’s Day recently. RTM’s radio Iban section WaiFM had listeners giving messages of undying love for their moms, the women who have brought them into this world.

That’s why the whole wide world is given a day in May to observe Mother’s Day as a tribute to mothers.

I was in my mid-thirties when my mom Jabai Narang passed on in 1988, an untimely demise, in the early hours of Sept 1 — the call to me from Sarikei Divisional Hospital was redirected from my principal quarters’ fixed line (prior to the days of handphones) in SMK Julau to the Julau Government Rest House on the evening of August 31 as I was among guests for the National Day dinner there.

The hospital said mom’s condition was getting worse.

Subsequently, three or four cars with at least three teachers to a car, accompanied me and my spouse to Sarikei hospital.

I can never forget one very dedicated and caring temporary teacher who was among those accompanying me. He was Edwin Galan Teruki from Sri Aman (he later resigned as a teacher and joined Bomba and rose to become its deputy director-general in Kuala Lumpur).

Mom breathed her last at 4.15am. Her dying request half an hour earlier was a stick of cigarette, sugar and ikan pusu (anchovies). She was 72.

By 6am, her remains were put in the hospital morgue. My act of carrying her lifeless body just covered in the white bed sheet was symbolically repaying her favour in delivering me to the world 34 years before that solemn and sad moment.

Four days earlier, upon entering the hospital ward, poor sickly mom weighed just a mere 26kg. Despite that, she was still in high spirit, it seemed. 

Mom was 20 when she gave birth to my eldest sibling and only sister Dinggu in 1936. She gave birth to five boys, two of whom died in their infancies.

Yours truly was birth number four of the boys. Our youngest sibling, the fifth boy survived for 40 days only, thereby making me as the youngest of the three surviving boys.

Whatever mum did or gave, there was nothing that could rival her sacrifice in giving birth to me and my siblings. The burnt marks on her back as a result of bekindu (meaning sitting with her back against the slow fire on the traditional “stove”) during the post delivery period of up to two months were testaments of this.

It was these burnt marks on the entire small of her back that became an everlasting reminder of her post-natal pain and suffering. Zillions of the words LOVE were written underneath the scars.

These scars always became the deterrence for any intention on my part to say “no” to my mother regarding her simple and logical requests, even financially, which were very rare indeed. She was not a demanding individual.     

In terms of parenthood, she and dad shared an equal responsibility in giving us their love and attention. Dad did most of the disciplining but with not so much with an authoritarian approach.

One long look at anyone of us children, especially me, was enough to convey a message. His eyes looked blue when he was angry.

Mom, however, was soft in her reprimand which was very rare. My worst scolding from her was when I added a lot of water to the rubber latex that I collected in order to better the amount collected by my elder brother Jon.

Then I was about 10 years old and Jon 16. Such an act merited her scolding for it almost caused the latex its coagulation failure — I found out months later Jon did the same thing but mom spared him some scolding because the latex coagulated quite well.

Though she departed more than 30 ago, every sickly-looking elder woman reminds me of mom, the one woman I really owe my life. To me, every day is Mother’s Day.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.