She is 87 and the little girl is just two, making them 85 years apart, spanning four generations. In the Merdeka year of 1957, my mother-in-law lost her husband. She was 34 and the father-in-law I never met was 39. And since then, for 53 years, she has lived a single mother, raising her four children, and now enjoying seeing her great grandchildren howling and shrieking around. How I wish I had met the man she loves all her life, the man who left a simple book TIGA BERADIK Di-ENGLAND, publishe in 1954, recording in simple children’s language, the family’s sea voyage to England where he was among the first lecturers at the Malayan Teachers’ Training College, Kirkby.
I have gone through materials left by my father-in-law ( the person I never met) and I cannot help feeling certain that I would have loved this man as I love my own father. We have many things in common. But life is never that simple. Who are we to have all the wishes we fancy. I have often told my other half that had her father lived long enough the chances were that I would have never met her at all, and the life we cherish today would never have been there in the first place.
That is life, perfectly destined, sculptured and shaped by the Greatest Creator.
How often I look towards the sea from our bed room window, watch the old and young coconut palms and philosophise on life. The old trees are truly very old. A number have rotted away beginning from the top, first losing their leaves followed by sections of their stems blown down by the wind. And finally the bottom section would just fall to the ground. They have served mankind in so many ways.
I cannot imagine there is another plant on earth which can equal a coconut palm. Its uses and usefulness are so numerous and varied from its stem to leaves; from making a temporary bridge for crossing to brooms for sweeping the floor and ground; from preparation of foods and drinks to medicine. Indeed it is a plant created for service, for life.
Every so often I ask my pupils to watch a coconut tree and think of the answer to a simple question. How on earth so much water can rise all the way up the solid trunk to as high as 160 ft or more to fill up the nuts? An engineer would have to work out the size of a pump to send water to the top of 16 storey building and can never be sure the pump will never fail. What is the perfect mechanism we take for granted used by this palm? Look at the stems and watch how they bend in the strongest of wind - and I have never seen one break. Look at the roots and see how they grip the sandy beaches to remain anchored.
The picture above shows an old plant, without its top. Coincidentally it is about 87 years old, the age of my beloved mother-in-law. At the end of its life a years ago its height was not less than 170 ft, higher than its younger sister standing nearby.
By comparison look at the small figure of a form 5 girl standing at the base. The tree is about 17 times taller, still healthy, occasionally throwing down a nut or two.
Not far from the dead tree a section of its fallen stem lies not far from a young plant, a new generation ready to grow and take over the duty.
As Pakcik ‘struts and frets his hour upon the stage’ he looks at the coconut trees and wonder how, blown and forced to bend in all directions, they keep serving mankind ‘to the last syllable of recorded time’. Yet we despite being the best of creation ( .. ahsani taqwim... of Surah 95, ayat 5) often fail to observe and learn to be a little selfless.
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan