The entire idea of him was something completely foreign to her. He had an aura of contentment and dominance about him and though a part of her wanted to continue exploring, he intimidated her. He was, in his very essence different in every way possible from anyone she had met so far. Learning about his experiences was an exciting concept. Yet a sense of hesitancy still held her back from embracing him in his entirety. She was afraid. Secrets were only allowed when kept or revealed by her, and that untold past of his kept her under a blanket of mistrust, holding her back from happiness once again..
Lately it seemed like she was on a path to destroy herself. To her, it felt like nothing really mattered, but the moment she was in. She had never been the reckless type. Every decision was thought over, every move calculated; the pros and cons measured. But she had changed. In retrospect, her actions frightened her. She didn’t recognise her responses as her own.
Years ago she has always admired people with guts. People who were forever ready, waiting to take the plunge. It seemed she had morphed into someone who no longer cared about the consequences till days after- when her mind had slowly had time to process that whirl wind of thoughts. That’s when guilt began to settle in. She knew she had to re-gain control, before she caused herself irreparable damage.But this path of self-destruction seemed like such an easy escape.. at least for the moment.
Disbelief, followed by complete denial and then shock; a wave of these feelings overtook me. My eyes burned as I willed myself not to cry “Nadia.. He’s gone”. The words echoed in my head over and over. But why so soon? And how so suddenly? He was supposed to be there to watch me get married and have kids. My mind began to yell questions but my mouth remained tightly shut. My eyes met my sisters and just like that we both knew as a steady stream of tears began to fall uncontrollably. Thirty days in and I still can’t begin to fully fathom the loss of my grandfather. The way my world stood still on that night of new year..
It was January the first and I had just come home from work. I received a call from my cousin as I was getting undressed. Her voice was frantic. Give your mum the phone. Nanajee (granddad) is having a heart attack. My mind went numb. I raced down the stairs screaming for my mother as I tried my best to shun all possible thoughts. Dinner was left untouched as my brother drove my parents over. That hour of waiting was one of the longest hours of my life.. A month later yet that day is etched into my memory like it was just yesterday. I cannot forget the look on his lifeless face as the medic’s stood by, finally giving up on their resuscitation attempts. I remember watching my mother kiss his forehead. The pain, the tears the cries in the room. A blur of activities; the ambulance, the flashing police lights, and the family friends who came in that same night, holding us while we grieved. The shock began to settle in..
A prolonged week of complications and uncertainty as we waited for the cause of death to be determined, followed by the funeral. It was an overcast day and the rain fell hard as we drove over to the mosque for funeral prayers. Sleep had eluded me for the past week as the thought of seeing him one last time dawned on me. I couldn’t let him go.. Not so soon.
As soon as I stepped inside and saw the brown box of his coffin, the feelings flooded back. I remember the mahogany colour of the wooden coffin, the golden latch and how the entire thing was draped in a green cloth, embroidered with golden Arabic verses..Details, I remember thinking, I can’t let myself ever forget. It was actually happening. He was moving on and leaving us behind…
I held back my tears long enough for the coffin lid to be lifted. I watched my father, grim-faced and moist eyed as he held my mother while she cried. Her pain was deep and etched into her eyes. As I saw my youngest sister stand up and go towards my mother, memories of my paternal grandmother flooded my mind. My beautiful daadi with her piercing grey eyes and warm hugs. I remember being the same age as my sister when I lost her, my first ever funeral.
It took me a long time to muster the courage to walk up to my grandfather’s coffin one last time. I held hands with my sisters and cousin. As soon as I laid eyes on his face, I was overcome by a loss so deep it felt as though the air had been sucked right out of me. I turned and buried my head in the closest available embrace, an aunty I had never seen before. She whispered words of comfort as I poured my heart out.
I received hugs and condolences from well wishers I hardly recognised. The mosque rooms were full. Soon it was time to take him to his final resting place. The clouds suddenly parted and I noticed the way the sun fell on his face. He looked so peaceful and distant lying there. The pain had finally left him. My brother, father and uncles closed the lid and pushed the coffin out of the room. Once again, we all broke down as the reality of the situation hit us anew.
We stood in prayer then, and I realised it was the first time I was offering a funeral prayer in congregation . People had travelled from across the city to pay their respects. I marvelled at the position my grandfather had held in the community. After we prayed, his friends and co-workers gave beautiful speeches about the role my grandfather had played, his effort as counsellor, his time as deputy mayor and the lives he had affected. Standing there, collectively mourning with strangers I had never before met, I felt blessed to have been such a close part of his life.
Just twelve months ago we celebrated his 81st birthday.. He had gathered us all and made a speech about how lucky he was to have us by his side, to have met two of his great grand sons. Thirty days since he’s gone and I still can’t make myself re-watch that video.
That’s the thing about loss. It’s so hard to describe. Only someone who has been through the ordeal of losing a loved one can truly understand and fathom the amount of devastation a person goes through. How your world is rocked from the very core. How things fails to excite you and mundane issues seem so ridiculously unnecessary.
Day’s pass and life slowly begins to go back to normal. You begin to smile again, laugh even. But then unexpectedly in the middle of a crowd you become overwhelmed by sorrow.The feeling of loss permeates your being and settles inside you. Always there, lurking just under the surface ready to drown you without a second’s warning.
Footnote: This has been one of the hardest posts I have ever written to date. Despite being such a private person, I chose to share this as a tribute to the amazing person my grandfather was as well as a source through which I can cherish his memory and remember that day. Nanajee,I miss you with all my heart.
I came out of the underground tube station and crossed the road to reach the bus stop. I noticed the bus was not due for another ten minutes and since there were already quite a few people standing around I moved off to the side a little. It was late afternoon, almost sunset and I had headphones on as I waited for my bus to arrive. There was a man, seemingly in his late forties sanding not far from the bus stop, beer bottle in hand, noticeably drunk.
I won’t deny that my initial feelings were one’s of being hugely let down.I felt betrayed. Day’s later, as I have had time to reflect upon it, I have come to feel annoyed at your general aloofness and your unwillingness to explain yourself better. Your lack of complete absence of any form of comfort could in part be owing to my enormous effort at trying to make the whole thing seem so ridiculously minor. But the truth is, I’m only human and no matter how brave a front I put up, at that moment I was hurting just like you once were.But the brokenness I feel is temporary and along the surface, and with time that too will fade. Above all though I respect you,and your decision. I see your good heart and your courage and I know you will go on to grow into much much more. I carefully savour our shared moments for nothing,not even this can tarnish those. You may not realise it but you have always been exceptionally special in my eyes,despite your many short comings, I admire you. And know that no matter where life takes us, you will always find a friend in me..
Exhausted is a word which barely begins to describe my state right now. To say I’m physically, emotionally and mentally spent would be an understatement. Yet here I am, busy hammering away at my keyboard despite having a back load of reading to catch up on, exam revisions to undertake, pages upon pages of learning to do and a million other things on my mind, which if I were to begin to explain, would literally take me the rest of the year maybe more.
As students we are given deadlines to work towards, assignments to complete, projects to undergo, presentations to give and of course the exams, which simply passing is never enough for me; I have to get that top mark or distinction. This need to excel and perform better than the rest is probably a genetic malfunction I would happily blame on my parents any day. But don’t take me wrong, I’m not complaining. In fact this growing sense of ambition which seems to get stronger day by day is one of the biggest blessings I have been given for which I am truly grateful.
Something which is completely beyond me however is my unwillingness and desire to revise. Throughout my education I have come to notice that whenever exam time approaches, each and every single student will do their hardest to make excuses for not sitting down to study. Be it catching up with old friends, replying to emails, sorting out your wardrobe, even doing house chores will seem more enticing than opening those bland text books or lecture notes and making yourself concentrate on them. Focusing at this time seems beyond us all. Facebook seems to be visited more frequently, mobile phones are checked every other minute for no reason other than to while away the hours and don’t forget the food; gouging on fast food, downing lattés like water and generally feasting on every single thing we can lay eyes on becomes something of a compulsion for students of all ages.
It’s strange really. When being forced to do something, in this instance revising for an exam, we begin to resist and look for any outlet which will allow us to spend as little time in doing the very thing which ultimately needs to be done at every cost. However, be it any other day that very same activity will seem to capture our interest and cause time to pass us by without us caring. For example the subject we took a lecture on, will seem exceptionally interesting on any other day other than exam times ,so much so that we might spend an extra hour just reading through extra material for basic general knowledge.
Being unable to grasp the strangeness of these occurrences, I will simply bring it down to the nature of human beings to resist any form of forceful constraints which we are bound by and must uphold. Either that, or a general unwillingness and fear of facing the consequences and results of our actions which are a part of every one of us. This trait is displayed particularly during the result announcement day.
As for me, for now I must tackle that back log once and for all!
The world is such a strange place. The life we live can be so frustrating at times; it has the ability to test you to the limits of your existence all the while mocking your unwavering resolve but somewhat pathetic attempts of persistence.
Growing up, we’re all somehow made aware of the unfairness of life and best equipped to face the many disappointments and setbacks with a brave face. Yet along the way, through repeated trial and error we each learn by our own mistakes and I believe that sometimes it’s necessary for a person to face the shame of failure. It not only highlights the absolute embarrassment and disgrace of being a complete let-down, but enables a person to build within themselves a passion and drive to never want to go through the humiliation of failure again.
However what really gets to me is the unfairness of how certain systems can completely rid a person’s chance of success. How, through sheer laziness and incompetence, one person can single-handedly destroy another’s chance of accomplishment.
What’s worse is when the person being let down deserves much more than they are being given. When they know that they are right and the other person is unwilling to listen, or even let them prove their point. The very unfairness of life comes to light at certain times. The disappointment at such instances is enough to make a person want to drown in self-misery.
A person begins to question their own competence and capabilities. Questions which had such definitive answers seem to lack the credibility they once did.
I suppose at times like these it’s important to remind ourselves that dreaming big and aiming high comes hand in hand with disappointments, setbacks and challenges. That being focused and driven is imperative. Life is a test and was never meant to be easy. But the finish line is in sight and maybe, just maybe, one day the tables will turn and we’ll each get what we deserve.
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”