“I tried to say goodbye and I choked,
tried to walk away and I stumble..”
-Macy Gray – “I Try”
As I tried to close my eyes and rest, I found that I couldn’t rest before I share a story. So here it goes, a story about a wonderful heart, a courageous spirit that forever will linger on my mind.
Today, I said goodbye to my childhood nanny. A simple, humble woman from Krian, a rural area just a little bit outside Surabaya, my hometown. What I will share is how mischievously deceptive her looks were. For inside that humble appearance, there lied a hero. And I kid you not. My babysitter was a hero in the truest sense of the word.
More than half of my years in Surabaya were marked by hardships. My father was hit by severe financial difficulties, and he fought high and low just to bring food to the table. Of course, over time my parents were not able to pay a babysitter to help us when, -in a somewhat cruel, irony twist of fate-, they had to work harder and leave us alone without anyone watching us at home.
This woman, however, is not your usual nanny. She steadfastly refused to leave us. She worked without any payment, and sometimes even bought us some meals from her own money. That is just the beginning, make no mistake. When we got so broke to the point that we had no roof to stay under, she offered her humble home for us to stay; while constantly treating us like a royalties during our stay. Can you imagine that? We stayed at her home, ate from her table, yet still she never allowed us to wash our dishes because in her words, “I remain your servant”.
At another point, when we stayed at a very simple home without any forms of entertainment like TV, she actually asked her husband to stay with us to play Chinese Checkers, -which brings a lot of amusement to our disheartened spirits. And as if that’s not enough, she made it a point that her husband will take us for a ride in his motorcycle, just to get us to laugh more.
And boy, it didn’t end there. When some die-hard debt collector started to play hardball with our family, she stood bravely between him and us, -practically daring him to do anything and saying “over my dead body” with her defiant stance. That lady was not just dedicated, she simply was ready to die for us. And remember, she did all those things (and millions others) without any pay.
When we had to move to Jakarta, she cried hard like she’s losing her own children. Faithful spirit as she was, she accompanied us during the journey, and stayed for a couple-of-weeks in Jakarta before finally returning to her hometown.
Without failure, anytime there’s one of our family had some business in Surabaya, she cooked our favorite meals and send it to us here. And I tell you, never had I thought that a mere dish of “sambal goreng tempe” could taste so divine!! This dedication, -no strike that, this love continued until her last day on earth. Even when we weren’t there, she defended us anytime there’s anyone in our hometown said something bad about us. And did I tell you that her laughter was so full of hilarity, -ever contagious?
So to a true Kartini, I shed a tear. To someone who taught me what it means to be courageous, I raised my glass. Mrs. Asih, allow me to give your soul one final embrace. You won me over long before anyone else did.
If I don’t know anything about afterlife, I would chance a warning here. A warning to St. Peter himself, no less. “You better unlock the gate, Sir. For heaven is gonna be a lot more exciting!!”