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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Chp 848. The Final Day of Nu Mahlimi

Today is 14th February, also known as Valentine's Day across the world.

But to the Kawlni household at Bungkawn Vengthar, it is a solemn day because today is one month since Nu Mahlimi passed away. 14th January, 11:26 PM. A date and time that Lalani and her brothers will never forget for the rest of their lives.

You can read about the last few days of Nu Mahlimi on my previous post. I had written that post with a lot of details leading up to the fateful 14th night, so as to keep her memories alive forever on my blog.

As I had mentioned in that post, everything was fine on the 14th of January. Fine in the sense, there were no new causes of alarm. Nu Mahlimi had a successful operation in the afternoon and the doctors were able to obtain new samples for her biopsy. She was wheeled back to the ICU from the OT and her vital stats were all stable. Those of us waiting outside Aizawl Hospital had our usual dinner at "Bamboo Cave Eatery".

It was only after we reached home that we received the dreaded message that Nu Mahlimi's BP had suddenly dropped, and so we all rushed back to the hospital. What followed next was a surreal chain of events happening in slow motion. Lalani and her brothers were summoned inside the ICU at 11:10 PM and at 11:26 PM, Nu Mahlimi left this world.

It was such a terrible news to digest for all of us. But we needed to keep moving. Plans were set in motion immediately. We all stood outside the hospital consoling each other, waiting for the ambulance to arrive. There were many tears and hugs everywhere. Lalani and her brothers were trying their best to put up a brave face in front of the gathering crowd.

Finally the ambulance arrived. Nu Mahlimi's body, wrapped in a lifeless white sheet, was wheeled out from the hospital and carried inside the ambulance. Her children along with relatives got inside the vehicle as well. As soon as the ambulance started moving, all of us ran to our vehicles. I didn't have a vehicle but one of Lalani's friends told me to hop on her scooty. Much as hard as I think about it now, I cannot recollect who that person was now, because my mind was completely distracted that time. But I am extremely grateful to her for that lift.

The streets came to a rumbling life in the middle of the night as we followed the ambulance in a long but silent procession. It seemed forever to reach their house, when in fact it was just a 3 minutes drive.

By the time we reached their house, there was a large crowd inside and outside already. Friends, family members, well wishers and Bungkawn Vengthar YMA members. The entire house was "prepared" and all the usual furniture were replaced by rows of YMA benches. Nu Mahlimi's body was carried upstairs into her bedroom and laid on her bed one last time.

It was even more poignant because I remember Lalani telling me that her mom had refused to repair or change the bed and mattress since the day their dad had passed away, and this was the last time she would be sleeping on it alone, before she finally reunites with her husband.

It was perhaps around 2 in the morning that the YMA members came into the bedroom and placed Nu Mahlimi inside her coffin. From what I assumed, it was easier for the family to see Nu Mahlimi approach her eternal resting place one step at a time rather than to see her being abruptly kept in a coffin and taken away in one shot. The mourning continued.

Because of the CoVid-19 rules, everybody still had to maintain distance, and nobody was allowed to sing, which was a Mizo tradition on such an occasion. And so YMA members played songs of lament and elegy on the computer instead. At around 4 in the morning, vigil YMA members came and served all of us Sawhchiar.

I welcomed the dawn for the first time from their balcony. The entire surroundings from buildings and trees as well as the small brook below were silent, as if to join in the mourning.

As morning arrived, more and more people started arriving, crying and screaming in pain. One of the most heartbreaking scenes I saw was watching Nu Mahlimi's aging dad and mom cry with uncontrollable emotions.

I went downstairs soon after because it was getting crowded and I wanted to give my seat to the new arrivals.

Back in the living room, Effie and I along with a few relatives put up a poster of Nu Mahlimi on the wall. She was so beautiful.

At around 10 AM, we carried the coffin of Nu Mahlimi from the house to an awaiting pick-up truck outside. Lalani and her brothers along with her relatives followed the truck in different vehicles, while the rest of us walked towards the Church.

The funeral program was held at the community hall. As the number of people attending a funeral was restricted due to the ongoing CoVid-19 rules, I volunteered to stand outside the hall along with Lalani's cousins and friends so as to give way to people extremely close to Nu Mahlimi who wanted to attend the funeral service inside.

Nu Mahlimi's funeral programme sheet. Do have a read at her wonderful life.

Lalani delivered a very beautiful and befitting eulogy in front of all the well-wishers.

Scenes outside the funeral service.

After the funeral service was over, it was time for the photo session. I immediately knew Lalani and her brothers hated this part because when I lost my dad 7 years ago, this was the part that irritated me the most too because all I wanted to do right then was to wallow in my pain and not pose for some photo-ops. BUT it was important and years later, it brought back many memories when I looked back at those photos. Lalani and her brothers will feel the same too later.

With Nu Mahlimi's dad and mom.

With the female members of Nu Mahlim's siblings and relatives.

With the male members of Nu Mahlim's siblings and relatives.

With Lalani's friends.

After the photo session, Nu Mahlimi's coffin was transported back to the truck and we all followed it to the cemetery. The location of their cemetery was pretty far, situated beyond Maubawk, and it took around 30 minutes to reach the place. Mapuia took me on his scooty and I am eternally grateful to him for that.

At the cemetery, we had one last small service, conducted by a Church elder.

It was soon time to lay Nu Mahlimi to her physical eternal resting place. :'(

"For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one." Khalil Gibran.

Nu Mahlimi's coffin was lowered slowly, as we all bid her our final goodbye.

Once Nu Mahlimi's coffin was in place, we all walked away slowly from the cemetery. Mapuia and his friends took Lalani and her brothers away from the cemetery because according to our Mizo customs, family and friends of the dearly departed should never hear the sound of the rocks and soils falling on top of the coffin. The voluntary YMA members in charge of the cemetery too waited for all of us to clear the area first before they started their work of covering the grave.

Mapuia took me back to Lalani's house, where many people had congregated. My cousin BTi, who was also Lalani's friend, waited for me to come back from the cemetery.

Some of the puan Lalani's family received from the well-wishers.

The next few days went by slowly. Lalani's cousins slept at their house so that they wouldn't feel lonely, and there were always family dinners every night. We went back to the cemetery 2 days later, and by then, YMA volunteers had already completed the cement plastering of Nu Mahlimi's grave.

Today is exactly 1 month since the funeral, and there is a program for close family members at their house today, for which I am honoured to be invited as well. It may not be the Valentine's Day that others are celebrating, but considering the amount of love shown by family members, today would be the most beloved Valentine's Day for us.

I'll update my blog again soon, so until then, have a blessed and beloved day, everyone.