"Helloooo.... a penny for your thoughts..." asked Aunty Teh as I was looking out into the driveway of her younger sister Aunty Yah's house.
"Errr, just pondering on the limited time that we have, Aunty".
Both she and I and many of our relatives had gathered there that morning after the news of Aunty Yah's passing the night before.
Her demise was totally unexpected as she had always been known for her spiritedness and cheerfulness, an outstanding lady who had contributed so much towards the development of education for the hearing-challenged of this country.
Many of her ex-students were there too, and I shan't deny that I was quite fascinated by the animated signing that was going on among them.
Aunty Yah had returned to Allah while resting at home after an outing. Aside from her husband Uncle Wan and their four children, as an educationist for over 30 years she left behind a legacy of specialised knowledge, and legions of the hearing-impaired who had benefited from her teaching.
She was 70 years old.
May Allah bless her soul and place her among the righteous.
Actually quite a few of our elders did not see the year's end, four others in fact, who were in their 70's and 80's when they passed away.
Which was what made me realise as I looked outside into that driveway, that between me and the ones who had preceded us had been only one or two decades in years, and that in the overall scheme of things the difference is really very minimal.
And it reminded me of the lesson we had with our regular ustaz just the night before as well.
It was about the concept of fear in a believer (in Arabic "khauf").
At the lowest level, a believer only fears Allah's retribution in the Hereafter for his bad deeds.
The middle level is the fear that his worship and good deeds are not accepted by Allah.
At the highest level a believer fears that Allah retracts His guidance and forgoes His blessings on him.
It had me thinking at which level I am... which is very frightening. And the little time left to make amends.
The concept of "khauf" is different from the usual kind of "fear" where one usually tries hard to escape from that which is causing it.
As Ibn Qayyim (rahimahullah) clearly explains:
"Escaping means to run away from something to something. There are two kinds of escape: one of the fortunate and the other of the unfortunate. The unfortunate run away from Allah, not to Him. The fortunate run to Him. As running away from Him to Him, that is escape of His friends. (Ibid 1/504)"
So if we have "khauf" of Allah in our hearts, shall we all now make our ESCAPE to Him, before we are made to RETURN to Him?
And to the families in bereavement, may Allah grant us patience in our time of grief.
Details of Aunty Yah's dedication to the world of education of the deaf here