December 16, 2015

"There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House"

There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House,
As lately as Today —
I know it, by the numb look
Such Houses have — alway — 
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 — 
Emily Dickinson 

I'm amused that this poem popped into my head. Never considered myself much of a poems guy, so it came to me as a surprise when this did despite only having once studied it in school many many years ago. I could still remember one of the handful of uninspiring questions that would appear alongside this poem: Who is the man of the appalling trade?

I guess it seems pretty obvious now. I find it weird that they would make us study such a morbid poem at such an age, especially since I believe the majority of students at that age couldn't really comprehend the subtlety of this poem. Then again, probably no poems would be taught if they had that objective in mind.

I guess it wasn't so much the words of the poem that stuck with me, but the tone of it. My eldest uncle was admitted into the hospital today, and the Whatsapp group consisting of his siblings and family periodically notified us of updates. Things were not looking good, and the phrase "there's been in a death in the opposite house" kept circling around in my head.

My dad decided against going to the hospital. There was no need to. He even explained his case, which seemed like he was justifying it to me, or maybe to himself, but it really wasn't necessary. For the past 7 years since my uncle has been in a nursing home due to a stroke, my dad was probably one of the few that visited him on a regular basis. My dad would talk to him, bring him the occasional siew yok or KFC, or even bring him out if my dad was in a good mood. He did all this despite the not being in the best of terms in the past, and you could always tell from the way he retold his stories that he still felt the pain after all these years.

At 9.36pm, my uncle passed away. Earlier tonight, when the updates started coming in, instead of retreating to my room like I usually do, I decided to just sit in the living room with my dad. I felt like I was giving him moral support as every notification could mean the last, although he probably didn't really need it. There's no doubt that my dad feels happy that his eldest brother is finally relieved of his suffering here on Earth, but I cannot imagine what it must be like to have someone that you see at least once a month just ... cease to exist.

Before the last message, he started telling stories of his past once again. He would always say he hates reminiscing about his childhood because he never had a good one, but he would then proceed to contradict himself and repeat the stories of being mistreated by people around him. It probably helps him to be grateful of what he has now.

Rest in peace, uncle. It was nice seeing you three days ago.

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