Wednesday, September 10, 2008

There's been a death in the opposite house

There's been a death in the opposite house
As lately as to-day.
I know it by the numb look
Such houses have always.

The neighbors rustle in and out,
The doctor drives away.
A window opens like a pod,
Abrupt, mechanically;

Somebody flings a mattress out,
The children hurry by;
They wonder if It died on that,
I used to when a boy.
The minister goes stiffly in
As if the house were his,
And he owned all the mourners now,
And little boys besides;

And then the milliner, and the man
Of the appalling trade,
To take the measure of the house.
There'll be that dark parade
Of tassels and of coaches soon;
It's easy as a sign,
The intuition of the news
In just a country town.


Remember this poem we used to learn back in Form 4/5? Back then, it didn't mean much except it's a poem about a death. In the opposite house. Full stop.

Today, I am able to relate to this poem. Not the most beautiful and pleasant poetry, and definitely not one you want to read everyday, but it speaks what we feel when someone you know passes away. It has been a long time since I feel this way, the last time I was faced with such heartbreaking news was last year after finding out that a classmate during my Pre-U days fell to his death. I cried uncontrollably for a friend I barely know for 4 months, knowing that life is so fragile and knows no age or colour.

Ziling broke the news to me on MSN. When she asked, "Do you know what happened to Uncle Peter?" I knew it is going to be a tragic news. Uncle Peter Hastie, a favourite neighbour of ours. If I were to give a speech about him, it would be filled with all things positive. Kind. Caring. Loving husband. More loving father. Helpful. Humorous. Capable.

He passed away due to a stroke in the midst of a badminton game. A badminton game that Uncle Peter insisted on going. A badminton game that results Aunty Frances losing a beloved husband and little Scottie and Ian losing their beloved papa. A badminton game that changed their course of life. Forever.

He was only 41.

I suppose things like this happens when you least expect it to. I wouldn't know how to face with losing a beloved one if it happens to me. But whatever it is, I really am deeply sorry for Aunty Frances, little Scottie and Ian. The two little boys may not understand the whole commotion but for Aunty Frances to go on life without someone she thought she'll spent the rest of her life with... it's hard.

Uncle Peter, I'll miss having you as a neighbour. I'll miss peeking at you playing with your little boys. I'll miss you waving and greeting us with a cheerful smile in the mornings. I'll miss seeing you walking the dog with Aunty Frances and the boys. I'll miss seeing you in different cars everyday (he works for Volvo). I'll miss you as a wonderful neighbour and someone we could all count on and look up to.

You may be gone but you'll be deeply missed.

I just came back from the wake. There were many many people, it just goes on to prove that Uncle Peter was very well liked for his joyous and cheerfulness. I followed mom to pay our last respects, I looked at him. I know there is one less good man on earth now. Aunty Frances was crying inconsolably, something she can only do now. Rubbing her fingers against the glass screen of the casket, as though she's touching Uncle Peter's hands. Whispering words to him that he will never be able to hear, or perhaps he is listening from right above. And perhaps he is doing the same too. I can't stop crying, this is too much to take from a happy family... just. too. much.

Life on this street will never be the same again.

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