B was buried on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
We came in planes, trains and automobiles, in a mad rush to arrive at his kampung the night before the funeral to sit with his family for the night-long vigil. It didn’t help that bad weather had blocked certain roads and flight tickets were all snapped up. Through bribery, sheer perseverance and blind luck, most of us managed to arrive at his ancestral family home by 2330 Saturday.
We filed in silently, his friends since childhood, hugged his wife, parents and sisters before finally standing beside his coffin to look down upon our friend. I expected that that would start the tears that hadn’t come but all I felt was a deep wrenching sadness that my friend B, always so full of life and joyous pranks was lying there in his best suit, looking so unlike how we remembered him. I stood there for 15 minutes or so, praying for his soul and remembering him in happier times. Then I walked out of the house for a much needed ciggie break. I found AS outside crying his eyes out. Gradually the rest came out and we gathered out there in the dark, drinking beer while sharing personal memories of B. Soon we were laughing, not just teary giggles, but deep belly laughs, the kind that comes whenever you think back at some stupid childhood misdemeanour with a fellow culprit.
It was a long night. We finally went back to our hotel room at 0200 to take showers and rest a bit. Sleep wouldn’t come though. My brain wouldn’t stop whirring and the rural silence seemed overwhelmingly loud. When the roosters started crowing at 0400, I was glad for an excuse to get up. I sat on the balcony in the pre-dawn darkness and thought of B. Our moms were best buddies: there was a picture in the family album of both of them preggers with me and him. We shared the same birthday one month apart. I taught him how to steal keropok from the kindie canteen. When I ran away from home, I stopped by his house for a meal where his uncle duly detained me until my nanny came to beat the hell out of me.
The tears came when the priest said that God loved B and had taken him to stop him from committing more mortal sins. It just upset me so to think that. I prefered to think God took him to save him from the unbearable pain he was in. Oh dear God, he was in so much pain. His mom told us he didn’t even recognise her or his wife in his last hours.
I said goodbye to my friend for the last time at 1300. The coffin was shut soon after and we all went to his family plot for the burial. It started drizzling when we stepped up one by one to throw in dirt inside the grave. When we walked back to his house, there was a large white butterfly ahead of us. It fluttered here and there but never strayed out of sight. We thought it was you, B, still hanging around us like old times and we smiled.
Rest in peace, B. We will always always love you.