Silamat Bitingkah, Leif: His Journey To Final Resting Place

Tabi basa & greetings everyone. In this post, I’d like to share some of the photographers captured during the funeral of a friend & a fellow Bidayuh from Serian, Leif Joel anak Matin. 

“Silamat bitingkah” here means goodbye in Bidayuh Serian. The inspiration came from Kpg Rayang’s arch that stand proudly to welcome and to say goodbye to guests.

I’ve share this first at my WhatsApp channel as I no longer use FB/IG due to personal reason. You may follow my WhatsApp Channel here.

Prologue

30 December 2023 was a shocking day to a lot of us, because that was the day we received the news about his passing. It was early morning, around 2.48am and I had to read it twice lest I read it wrongly. But indeed, it is not a joke, it is true. It is happening, and it is in fact a reality that a lot of us have to accept.

“Leif umbeh tagan kita” (meaning, he passed away already), leaving his wife, Mdm Clarice Taum and his three children: Theodore Russell (11 years old), Gisele Letitia (7 years old) & Ernest Michael (5 years old).

Short Story About Leif

If you ask anyone about Leif, they will say that he is one of the nicest guy that they have met. Good luck trying to make him angry or upset, because he will stay cool as a cucumber. He is always generous with his smile.

Being a Bidayuh Serian man, whenever we meet each other, we would use the term “Babeh” to address one another, which means grandfather in Bidayuh. Oh Beh… Oh Babeh. Much easier to say “Beh” than to say our real name. 

As for Leif, whenever I meet him, we would use “beh” to address ourselves as a sign of closeness & brotherhood. 

“Beh, gapih mu?”
“Beh, umbeh mu maan?”
“Beh, wang manih mu maring binua?”
“Beh, ira mu nulung aku?”
“Beh, dapih mu bi-Gawai / Krismas sawa ti?”
“Beh, aba tuhai-tuhai ra bi-asau” (his word to me, since I am not married yet).

When I organised Ngiling Bidai / Mparing Gawai 2019, an online event hosted at my Facebook page (now I no longer use FB/IG, and only recently created WhatsApp Channel), he also agrees to be one of the sponsors. When I plan to do Gawai video back in 2021, he also took his time to record his speech and send it to me despite working offshore.

Whenever there is donation drive by DBNA at Miri Bidayuh Community for fellow Bidayuhs that is in need of help, he is kind enough to donate as well.

His kids are polite and respectful to the elders. Though during the recent pre-Christmas Dinner by DBNA, we made a joke about his kids: father & mother are both from Serian (amang Bi-Rayang, andû inya Tana Buda), but kids are “riputih” (“Riputih” means white people in Bidayuh Serian because they can only speak English). 

Even at workplace, especially his offshore community, he is a well-respected personnel and formed some sort of brotherhood with his offshore colleagues. Half of his life was spent offshore ever since he joined Shell. Before that, he went to Komag and MLNG. 

So much good things to say about him. That’s how good he was.

Journey Home from Miri

After his passing, his family requested for a post-mortem to find the actual root cause.

His post-mortem took place on New Year’s Day. By 12pm, it was completed. His body was discharged from General Hospital Miri, transferred to Sim Nyuk Onn Funeral services and was then brought back to his house at Taman Tunku, around 1451hrs, 1st Jan 2024.

For those at Miri, that same evening as well, there was a was a Wake Service & Rosary at their residence.

Update: Leif’s Cause of Death

As shared by Mdm Clarice, Leif’s wife, his cause of death was coronary artery disease. Post-mortem’s result shows massive blockage in one of his artery (about 80% blockage) and the other artery has pinpoint blockagege. It is asymptomatic and even the ECG can’t detect it.
She shared that if you are a co-morbid (age more than 40 year’s old, active smoker / vapper, taking alcohol on regular basis and having obesity), please request to do extra examination such as Echo-Cardiogram. To be safe, maybe can request to add echo-cardiogram during yearly check-up. Heart attack is a silent killer and comes without any warning.

The following day (2nd Jan), his body was in progress of being transferred to Kuching via Firefly from Miri in 1625hrs flight and landed approximately 1725hrs. Fellow colleagues and DBNA helped to facilitate his final journey from Miri to Kpg Rayang, Serian.

At the evening of 2nd Jan, he safely arrived at his beloved village, where his family members await for his final arrival, followed by rosary prayer in accordance to Catholic faith. 2nd Jan is counted as the fourth night of prayer, in Catholic’s 7 days cycle for the departed.

Gathering At Their House

On the morning of 3rd Jan, all of us gathered at his house for final respect. That is the first time I enter Kpg Rayang. As such, as I approach the old “balû” (community hall), I realised the road is getting narrower. Therefore, I parked my car near the church and walked to their house. After I crossed the bridge, a kind elderly man asked me where am I going? I told him I am going to Mr Matin’s house. He immediately stopped one of the local motorcycle riders and asked him to send me there. Thank you beh!

Upon my arrival, I noticed Sobrie was also there too. We entered the house and greets Mr Matin @ Babeh Theodore and Mdm Clarice. Mr Matin introduced me to his “damik” (in-law). 

I spoke with him for a long time since it has been a while since I last saw him. He shares about how Leif’s friend commented at Facebook how good he was to his fellow friends & colleagues, basically those who know him. 

Him being a family man also is a good role model. For him, nothing is more important than the well-being of his beloved family, and thus he tried to spend as much time as possible with his family.

I also met our fellow colleagues there: Delon, Perry, Wilson, Loo KS, Roystan and Geoffrey. Not to forget Ah Ho. We reminisce how good our friend was and how sudden was his passing. Meanwhile, our other colleagues, Darrell, Jojim & Zamri awaits at the church.

Kita Maan Taye Yah

Close to 11am, Mr Matin announced to those who present that we will be having lunch first before we do a prayer prior to the procession across village to the church. Around 1130am, we proceed with the prayer. 

Transferring of Casket

After the prayer was completed, the casket was transferred to the hearse. There was pickup truck that brought the flowers following it. 

The Funeral Procession

After that, the hearse led the way. For us, we walked behind it. It was a solemn procession, but the poor audio from hearse kind of ruin the mood because it is not playing smoothly. More like the sound of a scratched VCD. That’s why we make a joke, “why you should buy gold disc?” to lighten the mood. 

VCD joke aside, we just proceed with the program. Near the bridge, I ran slightly ahead of the hearse in order to grab a good angle. 

Arrival At The Church

Once we have arrived at the church, Jojim, Zamri & Darrell greets us, his fellow colleagues. To see a friend during tough time is comforting indeed. They helped to transfer Leif all the way inside the church. However, the narrow isle of the church only permits one person in front and at the back of the casket. 

Funeral Service Begins

Once everyone settled down, we begin with the funeral service. Those songs hit different because it is in Bidayuh, and it is a funeral of a friend. For example, “Ngin Ne Mudip” (Because He Lives). It is one of my favourite song, especially in Bidayuh. 

When you speak your own native mother tongue, you don’t have to “translate” it in your head. So its message reaches your heart directly & reaches your subconscious faster.

At the eulogy part, I also heard a lot of good things about Leif. His eldest son, Theodore also gave an eulogy as well. This is the moment where he is no longer just a boy, but a young man. 

Final respect was given well. Therefore, people lined up to see him for one last time, starting with Mdm Clarice and their children, followed by his father and his family. Most of the people are either holding the casket or make a cross above him.

For me, and for many others, this is the saddest part of the whole day because after this, the casket will be closed for good. Tears flood the church. But the musicians did a good job by continuing to play songs at the background including “Sepanjang Jalan”, “Ngin Ne Mudip”, etc. Therefore, while some still sing though tears flowing down their cheeks. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel any sadness in my heart during this time.

At the end, we did a group photo. First was their nucleus family, followed by his offshore colleagues. Lastly, their big family’s photo, one before and after with his offshore colleagues. 

After that, we prepared our way to the cemetery which is located about 2.5km away from St Paul’s Church of Kpg Rayang. 

Heading To Cemetery & Rite of Committal

Just like during procession from their house to church, we also walked to the cemetery as well. It was a hot, sunny day, but we don’t care. In fact, we don’t really feel the heat because we were focused on going to the cemetery.

Throughout the journey, we spoke about our late brother, and how our life will be different without him. I can’t imagine how different it would be to his family as they are the one impacted the most.

Upon arrival, we stayed there and waited for the team to transfer the casket to the grave. It was  place on top of the wood as we proceed with the Rites of Commital. 

One of the profound thing here is that “masu tana, ndug tana” (from soil we came from, to soil we return to). We came from Him, and to Him we return to. 

Over there, just like in church, the cemetery was flooded with tears, by those who really cared and loved Leif.

There was slight hiccup regarding the cross, which was only realised at the cemetery. Hence, they made a quick work. While waiting, I had a chat with Leif’s sister, Leona and talked about few Miri-related stuff. Finally, after a while, the cross was delivered it to the cemetery. The problem is, it was empty without any engraving.

Mdm Clarice was asking around for anyone that has a good handwriting so that they can write on the cross. I volunteered to write it. Mr Francis, Mr Matin’s cousin, and Leif’s uncle helped to cover me from the heat of the sun as I draft and write Leif’s name on the cross. The name written there was “Leif Joel Matin”, not Martin as many would believe it is. No “anak” as well though usually Dayak’s name has “anak”.

We wrote it next to the late Mr Vincent’s cross. Which surprisingly, has the almost the same numbers. His birth date was 31-7 and Leif’s was 13-7. Their date of death also was similar, 30-12, one in 2021 and one in 2023. Anyway, I complete my task as soon as possible.

Once completed, I immediately brought it to our friends for one final picture before we depart.

Journey Back Home

“Silamat bitingkah” means goodbye in Bidayuh Serian. Before I depart, I said bid farewell to Mr Matin, Clarice & Leona. Both Wilson and I was walking when Mr Taum, Clarice’s father offered us a ride at the back of his 4WD. Therefore, we took it and met our friends along the way. Ride was offerred, but they said no since it was quite near already.

Epilogue

The whole funeral itself is a transformational process. First, a lot of us were grieving. But with the help from prayers and the other community, it helps to grant strength comfort and solace.

May God bless the departed soul of our brother, Leif. 

Your Tukang Rantek/ Rockstar Emcee,
Claudius https://linktr.ee/claudiusweson

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