I said to a few people, perhaps 2016 should be my year of re-writing. Not rewriting, but re-writing: getting back into the groove of writing. And by that I meant getting back to blogging, really. I haven’t actually stopped writing, far from it: if anything for me it is an occupational hazard. I’ve just stopped blogging. And I can’t quite place why. If blogging was a mere novelty then I don’t think I would have kept it up for more than a decade, which I did. Perhaps the best reason is that, as with most things, it ran its course.
And there isn’t anything out there that says things that have run its course, can’t lace up its shoes and begin again.
I know it wasn’t really out of the loneliness of a soul a few thousands miles away from home that took me to the keyboards (in a non-warrior way, I’d like to think). As a postgraduate student in Lancaster I was part of a rather lively social community, both among Malaysians and non-Malaysians alike. But blogging did allow me to reach out and make friends with people whom I think I wouldn’t have otherwise. Not because we’re not alike but because of geographical distance which only the interwebs made meaningless.
And so circa 2004/05, a motley group of post-twentysomethings connected quite well over comment boxes and Yahoo Messenger; culminating in a friendship that has, thus far, survived a good decade and the odd year or two. Back then, Kudo was in Sheffield, Anuar in Madrid, Ijun and Zahar in London, Ninie I think was in Newcastle and Zana in Southampton. Online interactions became real life conversations and after a while we relied less and less on blogs to communicate. Real life meetups were so much more fun and could last whole weekends.
These days, only Kudo blogs actively, and a few of us are parents to a kid or two, others have joined our band of weirdos and a Telegram chat room takes place of teh tarik sessions at the local mamak. Mainly because geography is still not in our favour: Kudo is still in Sheffield, Ninie and Anuar are now in KL while the others were in London. That was until two weeks ago, when life dropped by and pierced the cloak of our invincibility of youth: Ijun passed away after a very short illness.
There is something insurmountably surreal about the space that you create for yourself in the nothingness that is the cloud; which now seems ever the emptier with the absence of a much loved friend. We still talk as we do, of course: but there is a gaping hole that everyone notices and no one pretends isn’t there.
Between us we have lost a friend, a cheerleader, the most positive of the positive, a soul that lit the room – chat or living – and the source of a smile that is now nothing more than a memory; a smile etched on his face up to the moment his shroud was tied for his final journey. We grieve the loss, and I cam’t even begin to imagine the loss felt by Ijun’s wife and his surviving family members: his mother and sister, the latter I have come to know only under these saddest of circumstances.
At the hospital not long after he was moved to a private room so family and friends could say goodbye, I hugged his sister and apologised if our presence, as his friends, imposed on their most difficult time. She told me that in the UK, we, his friends, were his family and so we had every right to be there for him until the very end. Funny she said that, because it was a knack of Ijun’s to call most of us by names our family knew us as: for instance, Anuar was always Ayes, and me, Along – which recently transformed into Alom as my nephew’s inability to pronounce Mak Long bastardised my long-standing nickname.
The past few weeks has taught me a lot about hope, patience, sacrifice and acceptance; about love in its most purest form. This January has been one I want to both remember and forget. Which is why I am writing and posting this on its last day: with the sincere hope that February, which says hello in an hour or two, will be kinder to us all.
Al-Fatihah, Ijun. Much missed, every day, by us but even more by those who loved you most.