Gifts from the Dead: Subtle Presence & A New Life

Two days after the demise of my mum-in-law, we took a nice and relaxing morning walk to the cemetery. Our entourage consisted of my husband’s three elderly aunts who were all bubbly throughout, an uncle, my husband and I, his sister and cousin, and his sister’s friend. Stopping in front of people’s houses, we picked up fallen fresh flowers of a variety of sizes and colours along the way, hoping to add on to the vibrant blossom spread on my mum-in-law’s grave.  About 6 handfuls of white, yellow and orange blooms we managed to collect, mostly frangipani.

It was said that fresh plants or plant parts remember God in every single particle in their body. It is believed that the remembrance of these fresh plants or flowers will cool off the grave and ease the pain suffered by the spirit. Therefore, many people plant grass, flowers, and trees on the graves of their loved ones.

Unlike normal days, somehow that morning was quiet. There was no one cycling on the streets, no peddlers, and no buggies just as yet. It’s good though. We could freely pick up flower drops without feeling embarrassed of the action. I felt like a child picking up fallen cherries on the ground. It was fun!

The asphalt was a bit damp of morning dews and fat, long earthworms appeared wriggling here and there on the hard ground. One of the aunts hopped forward carefully, watchful of every inch she put her feet on, in fear of stepping on what had, to her, seemed to be disgusting animals or, even worse, having any of the elastic creatures crawling up on her legs. We — the younger ladies — giggled, finding the event rather hilarious.

Arriving, the cemetery’s gates were already opened. There was no one at the guard house. We went in. Some of us performed ablution at a nearby water tap. Then, we climbed up hill towards the higher ground cemetery. The lower ground was still vacant; no grave was situated there yet.

Once we were at my mum-in-law’s grave, we took comfortable position surrounding the grave mound. Sitting on my wet slippers, I initiated a lotus position, like when I do meditation. Some though were reluctant to make their pants or skirts dirty of the damp soil, hence they squatted instead. “I bet they wouldn’t last long in that position,” I thought.

Surrounding the grave to read prayers

My husband led khatm khwajagan. Everyone began to close their eyes and concentrate on the recitations. We all hoped that the spirit would be pleased with our prayer offerings and join us in Remembrance of God.

In the middle of the zikr, my husband’s uncle shouted overwhelmingly, “Allahu Akbar, it smells so fragrant!” Everybody started to sniff the smell he meant. The sweet aroma of frangipani permeated in our surrounding air. According to some traditions, when such aroma diffuses in the air, the spirit of the deceased is present. Rational people would try to make sense of the sudden aroma, thinking that the wind must have carried the smell from the neighbouring frangipani trees. “But, there’s no wind!” I figured.

After khatm khawajagan, my husband read additional supplications after which we — his followers — said, “Amiin.” The flower pickers arranged the blossoms they collected from the streets earlier on and around the mound. We all conveyed our salaam to the people of the graves and walked away from the site.

That was how we left the grave then.

Along the way home, my husband’s sister — who is known to be able to detect, and sometime see, the presence of spiritual beings — was asked about the peculiar encounter of sweet-smelling frangipani aroma back then at the gravesite. She confirmed that my mum-in-law’s spirit raised from the grave the first time we sensed the strong smell. Her spirit’s awakening appeared beautiful, with fresh flower decorations of many colours. My sister-in-law then said that her mum’s spirit immediately positioned herself next to my husband, stroking her loving hand on his back. Hearing the story, we all felt in awe. Beauty all there is from the last moments of her life up to her noble demise.

Indeed the spirit is not dead, only the body is.

In fact, as a gift for taking care of my mum-in-law with love and determination, my husband and I received a wonderful sign of my pregnancy that day at the grave. I had morning sickness a couple of times. Though I suspected pregnancy, my sister-in-law said something evil was trying to get into my body but my body rejected because it has a strong protection from such disturbance. Honestly, I refused to believe that it wasn’t because I was pregnant.

Later that evening, when guests gathered at my house to read tahlil — prayer for the deceased, I again felt nausea. So, I decided to purchase a pregnancy test kit on the next day.

At 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday, I woke up and did the test. Alhamdulillah, it was positive. I am pregnant! My husband and I have been trying to have a second child ever since my son turned 3 years old this year. We have wanted our children to be 4 years old apart. It has been almost 4 months after my son’s 3rd birthday and here we are, expecting.

Alhamdulillah! After the magnificent encounter of honourable demise and funeral of our beloved mother, within 3 days, we were rewarded with this wonderful news. Within this short period, death and life do not feel like two opposite ends for us. It only seemed like death is the beginning of a new life.

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