I have been dead for three years now. I died at the ripe old age of 66, peacefully, calmly, of a heart attack in my sleep. My heart just suddenly froze, went into a few spasms, and then stopped like a battery gone flat. The whole affair was so smooth, even I didn’t notice it. I only realized what had happened when my wife came into our room, saw my lifeless body, and screamed for our grown up son who then came running, got all flustered and made a phone call on his mobile, striding up and down the room with a hand on his hip.
They had my wake in the living room of our house. I’m glad they chose our house and not some soulless (pardon the pun, my sense of humor is now colored somewhat) funeral parlor. So many people came to see me. People I had not seen in years showed up. Some were genuinely sad, others were shocked, and others, I’m sorry to say, were just nosey buggers who came to gawk at my stiff body. My funeral was such a to do, with a procession, and flowers, speeches, prayers, and much howling and weeping. I was very touched that so many people bothered, especially as so few had bothered when I was alive.
When the moment of my burial arrived, the wailing increased and one or people verged on hysteria. But thankfully the uproar did not last for long, and within minutes calm was restored. My ashes were collected and brought home, and now I sit in a little marble urn behind a large black and white portrait of myself in my younger days.
I still get visitors but with every passing year they are fewer in number. They usually only come if they want something from me. It’s like they think that now I’ve crossed to the other side I can make all wishes come true: Secure a job promotion, bring about a miracle cure for a cancer, make some one fall in love, or pick a winning lottery number. And, people now confide their deepest, darkest secrets in me. The very same people who hardly exchanged a sentence with me in real life, now reveal their innermost thoughts of forbidden love, jealousy, insecurities, greed and other shortcomings that would make your jaw drop.
Like today, my wife, son, daughter-in-law, grandson and my sister have come to “pay their respects” to me. They take turns to come up to the altar, while the rest sit in the living room and watch Singapore Idol. My wife is first up. She holds a fan of burning joss sticks in her hand, and waves them up and down. I wish that some one would do away with joss sticks altogether, the fumes really irritate me and I can’t stand the smell. Of course to my wife, and to most people who revere the dead, they are a means to gain favor, and so she pumps her arms up and down vigorously, sending a cloud of fumes my way.
“Teck ah Teck,” she begins silently. “May your soul rest in peace. I hope you are happy wherever you are, I hope you have found all the good things that you did not get in life, I hope that you are now forever relaxed, don’t need to worry anymore about things, not like us still here …”
Alright, alright Amanda, get on with it. She starts like this every time. Heaping good wishes on to me but in the end it’s all about her. How hard it is for her still, what she wants me to do for her, how sorry she feels for herself, how she wants my pity. I try to be sympathetic, but, you know, she was like this when I was alive and I was hoping that death would put a lid on it and at least make her take charge of her own life and not always search for someone, even a dead husband, to rescue her. Now, sitting statically in my urn, I have no choice to listen. Well, it was the same when I was alive.
“Please Teck, you know how Yan Peng always talks about me. Yesterday she told Madam Goh that she saw Malcom going out late again by himself. I know what she thinks he has a girlfriend, that he is cheating on Alison, but she doesn’t want to say. I also don’t know what to do anymore. Malcom don’t want to listen, Alison gets angry at me if I try to say anything. Every night I cook dinner for them, make soup, they still like that. Going marketing also so hard Teck. Everything is so expensive these days. One fish already fifteen dollars. Then I have to walk to the market, come back still have to cook. Aiyah I’m very tired. Old already.”
I roll my eyes and sigh, but she doesn’t see.
Life After Death
Written on 12 July 2005; unfinished