syndromes and half a century
We had planned to watch these films at the 20th Film Fest but caught only Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century Friday night. That morning we had gone to the Bright Hill Temple where Ma J was cremated to collect her ashes, place the bones (laid out on a metal trolley covered with a plastic sheet) into a bright yellow and rectangular urn, and to carry that urn to stacks and tight rows of the same - a library of completed lives.
For J and I, we are, as J puts it, sad but relieved for Ma J. You could say Ma J dying did not take anyone by surprise. When she was hospitalised last Saturday for a heart attack, the doc had warned that should her heart would fail, he would not be able to resuscitate it. So for the next 24 hours, relatives all had a chance to visit with an unusually lucid Ma J.
Death has no syndrome. If not, these would be its most likely signs - or so others who recounted similar stories of their ailing and aged (grand)parents dying had said. Just a few days before her heart attack, Ma J had appeared angry, refusing to eat, sweeping plates off the table, yet strangely agreed to a haircut and perm at the hairdresser's. She had also supposedly told her brother she was not going too live long. But she told no one else. With hindsight, these appear to be "signs" - the seeming foreknowledge, what can only be fear and what then appears to be a stoic acceptance.
But for Pa J, nothing could have prepared him for Ma J's passing. Not even if she forewarned him herself. Not even all 15months of her lonely suffering since the stroke.
Pa J has been recounting, and no doubt would continue to do so for a long time yet, his last conversation with Ma J at the hospital. Have you loved me the last 50 years? They had asked each other early Sunday morning. It seemed right that for half a century of life and love, there was no more than a one word answer, reciprocated. And it was important still to affirm, even if only just to leave the other with a bit of story still to re-tell, remember, or just to have.