Inevitability of Farewell Redefined

Inevitability of Farewell Redefined


I always dreamt of building a
world filled with people I crossed paths with. People who impacted me so deeply
that they would leave a crack in my heart that can never be filled by anyone
else. However, goodbyes are inevitable in this world. Every time the moment comes
to bid goodbye to a community, family or a group of friends that I grew close
to, my heart bleeds.

“Don’t be so old school
la. Now kan got technology. Got Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype etc etc. We can
always keep in touch.” These are often the remarks I get when I try to tell
others that things are never going to be the same once we are separated by
distance. Don’t you agree with me that your priorities change and you ‘keep in
touch’ by texting or calling but the emptiness is always felt?
So,
what’s the point of making new connections in the first place, if farewells are
inevitable at one point or another in life? I was dwelling upon this thought
when I first landed in Bario. I was ready to meet the community but not so
ready to open myself up to anyone. As we (Project WHEE! participants) first
arrived in the Bario Asal Longhouse, we were greeted by faces unknown to us
with genuine smiles and handshakes. I felt welcomed as if I was returning home after spending years away.
 

Excited faces after landing in Bario 🙂
        
On the back of 4WD on our way to Bario Asal Longhouse

  

My
question about the farewell was only answered during my second working day with
Sina Mayda (the lady I was assigned to in Arur Dalan). We went to the paddy
field earlier than usual to avoid working under the hot sun. The 15-minute walk
to her paddy field felt short due to our singing and her explaining about the
wide range of flora along the way.
The way to Sina Mayda’s paddy field
The view of the paddy field after harvesting season.

While we were collecting grass that had already been cut by a Penan
worker in her paddy field,

‘Uding Aran (my Kelabit name, first part was given by Tepuq Sina Rang
while the second part was by Sina Mayda), apa orang India buat masa orang
meninggal dunia (what do Indians do when someone passes away)?’,

Sina (mother in Kelabit) asked. She had been curious about our way of
life since the first day I met her. This was one of the many questions she
posed. As I explained about the Indian funeral rites, I also learnt about the
Kelabits’ methods of conducting funerals. She also related death to farewell
which led me not to look at farewells the same way ever again.

Her way of reasoning (which was in Malay) is as
follows:

‘Death is certain. We all know that, right? The same applies to
farewells. I am aware that farewell is inevitable even in our
relationship. So, if I cry when you leave, that doesn’t mean that I want you to
stay with me forever. It is just a momentary sadness. I would still be happy
because you’re leaving for good to continue your life in a direction that is
just different than mine. That thought of separation from each other’s life is
not going to stop me from embracing you and this relationship and be grateful
that our paths crossed.’ 

Those words struck a chord in me. So, there she was, standing in a paddy
field, her feet in mud, shedding light on another way to look at
farewells; and there I was, learning in the least expected place, that what
matters the most is the moments spent and the presence which should be
embraced.

After 22 days in
Bario, when the day of farewell finally came, it was a different farewell from
all the others I experienced. My heart didn’t bleed much; rather it
swelled with gratitude for the memories created, lessons learnt and connections
made in the Bario highlands.

“Farewell is said by the living, in life, every day. It is said with
love and friendship, with the affirmation that the memories are lasting if the
flesh is not.” – R.A Salvatore

-Srinithya aka Uding Aran-

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