Conviviality before the Storm

Eat, drink and be merry…
…for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell
us about your last dinner — the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation.

-365 Days of Writing Prompts, The Daily Post

A “feast” is not exactly the right word to describe it.

There lay on the dinner table are definitely the overabundance of scrumptious goodness. Mum certainly has outdone herself with an array of Indonesian and Chinese-Indonesian fusion food I’d personally like to call the smell and taste of home–I’m sure Dad and my brothers would agree. My family and I would also be in one voice to say that we have never had anything quite like this dinner because of our sadly tight budget. But we decided, “Hey! If tomorrow’s gonna be the end of all days, screw the credit card bill. Let’s all get home and eat together while we can!” Thus, tomorrow we shall go with a hint of warmth and home.

Yet it is still is not as festive an occasion, as the word “feast” entails. We tried, but unfortunately there is too much sadness overcoming the celebratory atmosphere.

We said grace, then we started eating. Mum’s cooking nearly alleviates all the gloom lurking as we savoured the food, until we remember the flip side that we better relish it as much as we can because we had no freaking idea how life is on the other side. The brother, usually the chatty, funny one, does not even make a sound as he quietly munched on his favorite tofu dish. The youngest sibling, usually the quiet one, is proactively trying to put a smile on everyone, to which we can only respond with a polite one. Dad is trying to hold back his grief that his children could only live such short lives, while Mum sturdily stands as his rock. I simply do not know what to feel.

It is almost as if one decided to stay for a meal following a funeral service at the home of the deceased, only that the deceased are actually one’s own family members. Oneself included.

There. It’s a self-funeral supper.

A knock at the door and I found my aunt, her husband and my four cousins, each standing with her own signature dishes. She said, “I hope we don’t interrupt with anything.”

Despite that they technically do, it is the most welcome visit, especially for Mum. So a dinner for five now extends to a dinner for eleven.

Though I don’t see any point in cleaning up after our last meal, Dad cannot stand the sight of dirty dishes. Since I don’t have the heart to call out who is going to need clean plates and cutlery after tomorrow, I hold my tongue and proceed to help drying the dishes as he cleaned. I’m just about to slouch down at the sofa after we are done with it until I heard another series of knocks at the door.

As I open the door, I am huddled by two familiar figures. They bring stuff that smells like my favorite desserts: cookies, cream puffs and egg tarts.

My friends always gets me.

At that moment, I felt more resolute to uncover myself from indifference. Why trouble and limit oneself with either feeling miserable to fit the apocalyptic mood, or being as pretentious as to dismiss the distress with fake merry-making? A sense of gratitude, which previously was just threatening to burst, swells from inside.

“Thank you for being here,” I told them as we break off the hug. I glanced at my family, who were gathering on the living room across the door, and nodded at them to express the same thing. I’m glad that they smile back at me.

As my friends and I stepped out of the living room to the small garden, I saw my youngest brother ran off to his friend’s house next door, shouting, “I’ll be back soon!” to our parents. That made my other brother laugh, which was followed by the other family members. My Mum then gets up from the sofa and said, “I think it’s best for us to just keep the doors open for a while.”

And she was right. Not a minute later, our house is packed with more friends and family; not to mention the endless overflow of delicacies. “Tomorrow does not wait to take us out of this world because of diabetes anyway! Or old age, to add to that fact!” said Dad. I love that everybody finds that funny and that we all toast to it.

Now that… befits something beyond a feast.

That the end comes with a warning is certainly worth celebrating, indeed.

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