We soared above the garden of clouds
With a prayer and on wings of faith
To be near where the angels crowd.
Wuan took that photograph on our way to Penang from KLIA. We were flying somewhere over Perak. As the plane emerged from under the clouds, a carpet of feathery white greeted us. We could almost feel the fluff under our feet, white and cottony as far as our eyes could see. The cerulean ceiling stretched into infinity, infusing in us a sense of interminable tranquillity.
“We are in heaven,” Wuan remarked.
Indeed, for a moment it felt as if we were, and I wondered if I could see Mum up there. That was only the week after I had interred Mum’s ashes. The grief was still very intense then. As I looked out the window, I really wished I could see Mum somewhere out there amongst the clouds for just one more time.
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I am in a pensive mood. The events of the day were just too overwhelming. Early this morning, my cousin Peter fetched Cheng Ee (Mum’s youngest sister) and me to the Mount Erskine Columbarium to light candles before Mum’s niche. Today is All Souls’ Day.
After all the candles were lighted, auntie and Peter recited prayers for Mum. I did not know any; so I performed the usual tribute with my harmonica. As I blew the tunes of the emotive Amazing Grace, tears flowed down my cheeks. I still miss Mum very much. We lingered a while there, watching the flames sway lazily in the wind, each reminiscing silently about the times Mum had graced us with her kindness and magnanimity.
Later, we attended Mass at the Risen Christ Church at Ayer Itam. Poh Ee, my other aunt (Mum’s second sister) had requested for Mum’s name to be included in the prayer for the dearly departed today. The Mass was in Mandarin, which I have a very poor command of. Even then, simply being there was enough to give me a sense of belonging. This is the first time that I have entered a church in twenty years, except that time for Mum’s Funeral Mass. It brought back memories of the time I used to tag along when Mum attended Mass in Balik Pulau.
Today I am embarking on a journey that I never once thought I would take. The journey may be long, the destination yet unclear but one thing I know for sure – if I look to Mum for strength and direction, I am sure the path will eventually be clear and welcoming.
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I am not fond of spicy curries. It burned the insides of my mouth and upset my stomach. However, I love the aroma of coconut curries. Mum had just the right recipe for this finicky preference of mine – Lemongrass Fish Curry. It is rich, sans the spiciness; and the lemongrass imparts a distinct piquancy.
What’s more? Apart from being delicious, the lemongrass possess medicinal properties. It is traditionally used to expel wind in the body. There are lemongrass scented candles and lemongrass balms to repel pesky mosquitoes and other insects. Aromatherapists use its essential oil for a number of treatments including sagging skin and stretch marks. I do not know if it works. I do not have stretch marks to apply it on.
Mum would cook this curry as a remedy whenever I complained that my wrists were aching. Sometimes the pain got so bad that I could not flex them. This curry cured the ailment, until the next bout, that is. Now, I swear by it. I do not know the exact ingredients Mum used but this tasted just like how she used to cook it. Here is the recipe:
300g fish fillet, cut into 5cm strips
20 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced
10 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5cm portion turmeric, chopped
3 red/green chillies, seeded and sliced
3 tbs. Cooking oil
salt, to taste
1 and 1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
Heat oil in wok; fry shallots, garlic and turmeric, stir until they become fragrant. Add lemon grass and chillies; stir until fragrant. Add fish, salt and water; simmer until fish is cooked. Add coconut milk; simmer until gravy is slightly thick. Serve with rice.