A Malaysian mother dying from a rare disease decided to write her memoirs so that her sons will have something to remember her by.
“This book is the legacy I will leave behind in the hope that I will be remembered by the people I touched, especially my sons,” wrote Azlena Abdul Hamid in The Shadow of Me.
Azlena died in her sleep aged 59 in the early morning of Sept 1 last year, a week after she finished writing the book.
Released posthumously last week, The Shadow of Me tells the story of Azlena, her family, and her battle with the disease, ataxia, a disorder that results in the loss of motor functions.
Ataxia is a neurological disease caused by damage to the nervous system, such as the cerebellum, resulting in the lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements, and in most cases, the disease is incurable.
Writing as a woman, a mother and a daughter, Azlena’s words mirrored her journey, sometimes frustrating, sometimes filled with regret, but mostly, filled with happiness and love.
On her disease, with which she was one of the only two people in Malaysia who have been diagnosed, Azlena reflected how it showed her the different side of her two sons, Azzedin and Aris Rusland.
“Getting ataxia has opened my eyes to many things. For one, I got to see the love and care that my sons have for me.
“It took me some time to realise this because I have always been giving the love and care, being the mother and breadwinner and all,” she wrote.
Azzedin, 32, felt that it was his mother’s last gift to those she loved.
“She told us that she was writing a book, and we felt relieved because she would have something to do with her time.
“When she wrote her book, we felt that it made us understand her more,” he told The Star, adding that he and Aris helped with the proofreading.
Both Azzedin and Aris, 28, were glad that they were able to spend valuable time with Azlena before her death.
“She made a conscious effort to be involved with us.She tried. She liked to go for drives in the middle of the night. Randomly, we would take her around Kuala Lumpur,” said Azzedin.
“I don’t think her illness robbed her (time) as our mother. I think it made us closer to her,” added Aris.
The brothers said it was difficult at times to see Azlena struggling with her disease.
“Going from someone who jogged on the treadmill regularly and driving and having to use a walker and ending up in a wheelchair, it was hard for all of us. But we tried to not let it show,” said Azzedin.
The only word Azzedin could use to describe his mother was “beautiful”.
“To me, she was just absolutely beautiful,” he said.
“Irreplaceable,” said the younger brother.
“I know everyone says that about their mother, but for my late mother, being a career woman, then going through a divorce in her late 40s, becoming a single parent, supporting us through our degrees overseas, it takes a lot out of a person.
“So, she was irreplaceable to us,” added Aris.
The Shadow of Me was launched on May 4 by Perak princess Raja Datuk Seri Eleena Sultan Azlan Shah, who said that she felt connected to the late Azlena after reading the book.
“I could relate to her as a working mother, her dedication to family and friends, her desire to excel in a man’s world, striving to balance between family and career, her frustrations and triumphs, her strengths and weaknesses,” said the princess in her speech, adding that the memoir was a “tremendous” gift to everyone.
For Azzedin and Aris, one of Azlena’s last wishes was recorded in the memoir.
“My greatest wish is for them to be happy and that they always know how much love I have for them,” she wrote.