Erwin Zubiyan (c) with Leilani Hermiasih (l) and Irfan Darajat (r) at a meeting in Yogyakarta, October 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
We were celebrating our friend Difla’s birthday. Right at midnight, 3 November, we said happy birthday, then we played guitar and sang songs. There were I, Erwin, Nilam, Charlie, Theo, Mada, and Pak Yud. At around 3.00, Erwin and Nilam went for supper, and after that Erwin took Nilam home. Then he went home.
I didn’t go home—I just slept on a bench where we sang. At 8.24 a phone call from Peye woke me up, telling me that he heard that Erwin had an accident. Only then I saw that some other friends, Ilal and Arsita, have also sent me text messages informing about the accident. I washed my face and went to the hospital right away with Theo.
At the hospital, we met Erwin’s youngest brother Ragil. Ragil had been there since around 6.00. He told us that Erwin fell from his motorbike at about 4.30. A policeman helped him and brought him to the hospital. He was unconscious. Earphones were still on his ears. By the time we got there, around 9.00, the physicians were still taking care of him at the emergency room. We were told that he got stitches on his left-hand little finger, broken right shoulder blade, and internal injury on the head.
Erwin Zubiyan (r) and Arsita Iswardhani (l), when we met by chance at a café in Yogyakarta, 4 August 2014. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
A moment later, they took Erwin out from the E.R. and we followed them to the intensive care unit. We were told to wait outside the door. He was still unconscious. Back in the E.R. they had to cut his shirt, and his ring, too. The ring got deformed and strangulated the blood vessel on his left ring finger. Difla came, then we updated her the most recent situation. Shortly afterwards, Erwin regained consciousness. I rushed in with Ragil. He was gibbering. Something to do with that particular morning and something else relating to his mother. We couldn’t understand it.
A doctor visited Erwin and checked his vitals. He told us that the shoulder blade was not so bad and he worried more about the head internal injury. He said a neurologist would visit later. I and Ragil took turns with Difla and Theo, as the I.C.U. only allows two visitors per entry. I didn’t stay long at the hospital as I had other things to do with Theo. Ragil told us that their parents were on their way to Yogyakarta from Pekalongan. Erwin’s girlfriend Hilda was also on her way to Yogyakarta from Jakarta. I kept contact with Ragil about Erwin’s condition throughout the day, and the next day.
Ragil informed me about Erwin’s condition. He told me that Erwin was getting better. His consciousness level was already 11 (normal is 15). He now had better response to his surrounding, no more gibbering. The presence of his mother was particularly helpful to keep him calm—though he lost the calm in every few minutes after his mother left to the waiting room. Erwin’s consciousness level was getting even better, 14, when Difla went to visit him the next day. Erwin was already taken out from the I.C.U. that evening.
Erwin Zubiyan (r) performing with Luise Najib (l) at Tamansari, Yogyakarta, 4 September 2014. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
The news came like a thunderbolt on broad daylight, that Erwin passed away, 5 November, at about 14.30. I hugged Difla and we cried, still not believing the news. Theo and Mada rushed to the hospital to check things out. I was getting phone calls from other friends asking for confirmation, as the news broke. I told them I also just heard it, so I couldn’t say, but I would inform them later once I got confirmation myself, from Theo and Mada.
Difla then told me an extra fragment of the story. That morning around 10.00, Hilda and Ragil have separately told her that Erwin’s condition had suddenly dropped. About 14.00 Ragil sent another text message to her, I imagined it was in terrible desperation, that the doctor had not come. We knew now that it was Erwin’s critical point. But she had left her cell phones switched off since the night before, so she didn’t know. The batteries were drained and she only recharged them that day, still switched off. We looked at each other in confusion, how this could be, as Erwin was getting better.
I cried again when Mada called a few minutes later, confirming that Erwin was no longer with us. Pak Yud tried to stop me from going to the hospital, for my own sake, but I didn’t care. I followed him and Difla to the hospital anyway. And from that point on, I think most of you have already known the story. Nilam was already in Erwin’s room with a blank stare and tears were rolling down her cheeks. Dany and Herman helped to carry Erwin’s body to be bathed and dressed. Pak Yud bathed him with Erwin’s father. Hilda was outside, on the floor, while Difla helped to comfort her with Mada.
Erwin Zubiyan (c) with Difla Rahmatika when we met at a café in Yogyakarta, 5 May 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
I still couldn’t believe what I saw. No, this could not be happening. How could you go; you were getting better.
But Erwin’s body was cold. His face was pale. His lips were dark purplish.
I walked down the hall and cried alone. I felt someone tapped my shoulder to calm me down from behind, but I didn’t know who. My mind went back to that early hours of 3 November. We were the last ones to have seen him before the accident. We were the last ones to have sung and laughed with him. And it hit me so hard, as there is now a hole so huge and deep in my life. I have lost a friend; a very good one. A man with such great talent.
When I got back to Erwin’s room, Nilam was in a terrible shock and in a wheelchair. Theo and Mada were helping two nurses to calm her down. I then helped take her to the emergency room. A physician examined her and put her to rest. I stayed with her with Theo and Mada. Then Ian came, and Mada went to join other friends downstairs, waiting for the casket and the hearse, to take Erwin’s body back to his homeland, Pekalongan. When Theo told us the casket and the hearse have arrived, we rushed to the morgue. I took Nilam with a wheelchair with Theo and Ian.
There I saw Erwin’s body put inside the casket. We watched the casket being carried out from the morgue. Just before the casket was put into the hearse, they stopped and we prayed together. For many of us, it was our last time seeing him, before the hearse then took his body to Pekalongan. Some of us planned to catch up with him there.
Budi N.D. Dharmawan, Yan Parhas, Erwin Zubiyan, and Charlie Meliala (l–r). We went for dinner, then Erwin asked for a picture together. Yogyakarta, 12 September 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
Tomorrow, we will catch up with Erwin to Pekalongan. I still don’t know what to think.
Erwin was a good friend of mine. We often shared ideas one another over a cup of coffee. In many cases, in many discussions and conversations, he thought of music the similar way I thought of photography. And Erwin often said to me, that was why he could always connect with me. That passion towards what we love. He once bragged to me, “You could never find a guitarist just like me.” Then he also told me, “And the one who could be a photographer like you is also only you.”
And now you have left us. You are now in the arms of the angels. You are in peace now, brother! Your passion has inspired us all. Your energy has charged us all. We will pass them on—the passion and energy that you have shown us all your life. Thank you for this beautiful friendship. Too bad you are gone too soon. It’s damn too soon, bro.
Erwin Zubiyan at Difla Rahmatika’s birthday in Yogyakarta, 3 November 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
Update from Pekalongan:
On our way to Pekalongan from Yogyakarta, 6 November 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
So long, Erwin! Pekalongan, Central Java, 6 November 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
Rest now, beautiful soul. Pekalongan, Central Java, 6 November 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
Pekalongan, Central Java, 6 November 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
In the arms of the angels. Pekalongan, Central Java, 6 November 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.
Pekalongan, Central Java, 6 November 2015. Photo: Budi N.D. Dharmawan.