Head in the clouds

One of my best friend tells me that I always have my head in the clouds. I tell her it’s because heaven lies above it. When things get rough or I find myself struggling with some hurdle life has thrown me, I have to remind myself that life on earth is temporary; that on the other side, there lies a life that is beyond my wildest dreams and most vivid imaginations. That on the other side, there lies a life where no one has to struggle and we are consumed with eternal bliss

But meanwhile on earth, struggles happen. We finally pick ourselves up and another hurdle is thrown. And we are left with two options: we can stare at it as it continues to grow bigger and consumes us or we can have our head in the clouds.

I choose to have my head in the clouds.

Last words.

That last day replays itself in my head from time to time. Sometimes, the memories are so vivid that I almost forget that it’s already been 3 years. And as more time passes and I continue to heal, I recall things or share things that were too painful to do so before.

Like that last conversation we had when he finally became lucid for just a few minutes.

We’ll be fine, I told him. I can take care of everyone. Your daughter will be fine. And I’ll make sure your parents are doing okay too. No worries. Just go. We’ll join you later.

And he just looked at me and without saying a word, said it all. He smiled at me, as he had done so many times before. And simply nodded. And then, for the last time, drifted into a semi-state of consciousness.

And then, when I felt his heart slowly stop beating, I leaned over and whispered: Go be with God. 

It used to be…

that it pained me to see whole families, a mother and a father and a handful of children, an image of what I couldn’t be. But then, I changed my perspective on what it meant to be whole. And now, that pain has diminished.

It used to be that it pained me to attend weddings. To see a smiling bride and a smitten groom, an image of what I once was. But then, I learned to wipe my tears and pray for them, wishing a happiness that surpassed what mine once was.

It used to be that I blamed myself for leaving my daughter home, day after day, to make ends meet. But then, I realized that this was my therapy and giving her the best of what I could was better than giving the worst of what I couldn’t.

It used to be that when parenthood got difficult, I thought to myself that if only he were here, things would be easier. But I was reminded that God knows better of my needs than I do of my wants. Life will always have its challenges and the only thing I can do is control how I react to them.

It used to be that I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it. But somehow, He gave me the strength to bear. It used to be that I wanted what I didn’t have. But then, I realized that I really did have it all—all of what I needed. It used to be a lot of things. But slowly, things changed. What I had then, I don’t have now. And what I have now, I won’t have then.

It’s no longer about what it used to be. It’s more about what it can be. A sweet daughter. An ever-supportive family. Amazing friends. An education. I may have wanted what seemed a dream but to others, I may have the dream.

Dear God, thank you.

Remembrance

Two days before he died, I was by his bedside, silently making duaa for his ease. I could tell that he was in immeasurable pain. The toxins from his repeatedly failing kidneys were filling his body, overtaking his brain.

And he turned to me, with a confused look on his face.

“Where’s your husband?”, he asked me, confused as to why I was holding his hand.

Everyone suddenly looked at me, wondering what I’d say. But I knew this was coming.

I smiled at him. “You’re my husband.”

I am?”, he asked. “Oh, sorry. I’m so silly.”

“It’s okay”, I comforted him. “It’s okay.

That moment was agonizing. I can replay it in my mind, as if it was yesterday. But it was also a moment of truth. Even the most beloved person in your life can forget you.

But Allah(SWT)…He never forgets those who remember him. There’s been countless times since then that I have felt lost and disconnected from Him. But somehow, He’s always shown me that He hasn’t forgotten me. As if He’s thrown me a rope, guiding me back to Him. Alhamdulillah.

“Remember me and I will remember you” (2:152)

Not always greener

Recently, I met an older auntie from the Houston Muslim community. I’ve known about her for awhile and have been looking forward to meeting her. Decades ago, she lost her first husband and child due to a tragic accident. “It was instant”, she told me. “It happened, it was over and I was fine. But I really don’t know how that was even possible.”

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to receive a call and being told that your spouse and child had just passed away.

But still, I smiled at her, knowing all too well the confusion that came along with the feeling of being “fine”.

And so I shared my story with her, briefly. And at the end of it, she winced   and asked me : So you had to watch him slowly die and now you’re a single mom.” As if she couldn’t imagine having to go through that ordeal.

At the end of that conversation, I think we were both overcome with emotions. I just hugged her and told her that jannah awaits.

We always think that the grass is greener on the other side, but sometimes, the rocks are rougher too. We all have our struggles and our triumphs. But if they don’t humble us and make us grateful, then what will?

Ding!

“Are you my mommy or my daddy?”

She asks this often, my ever-inquisitive daughter.

“I’m both”, I tell her jokingly. “Call me maddy.”

“No, you’re mommy. Mommies are girls. You’re a girl.”

Well, then. 

“Okay, you’re right. I’m your mommy.”

I pause for a second, wondering if I should ask the next question. 

“So if I’m your mommy, where’s daddy?”

“With Allah, remember?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

And then comes the plethora of questions.

“Is he coming back?”

“No honey, he’s not. But I have pictures of him.”

A light went off in her head. Oh, I should’ve seen it coming.

“Can I see pictures of him?”

“Sure”.

And I pulled out my phone to show her. It was the one of him in the hospital bed, looking at her with pure love.

“Oh, so my baba’s at the doctor’s office. Is he sick?”

How do I answer this?

“Not anymore.”

“Well, is he all better?”

“I believe so.”

And then, the biggest question of them all.

“So now can I see a picture of my new haircut?”

Ding!

Too wise, I tell you. Too wise.

Brightness

A few days ago, I decided to show a friend of mine pictures of my wedding. She’s someone I met very recently and doesn’t know much about my life pre-widowhood. As we sat looking through these old pictures, I pointed out our family members. And I came across this picture of an uncle I had seen my entire childhood. “He passed away a few years ago”, I told her.

And then I came across a picture of my friend’s father, who battled cancer and passed away around the time Rube was diagnosed. “And he passed away since then also.”

“Oh but wait”, I told her. “…..Rube’s gone, too”.

Here were 3 men, from all different paths of life, of different ages and health conditions. One left behind 3 teenagers. One left behind a handful of grandchildren. And one left behind his baby girl. And perhaps the only thing they really had in common is something we all have in common….that we too, will one day leave people behind.

Death is something that frequents my mind, especially with the deaths of Deah, Yusor and Razan. They were so much younger than me but had accomplished so much in the little time that they had on Earth. It makes me wonder…what were the last thoughts on their mind before it all went down? Surely, there’s a reason that they died together. Did they know that they would leave behind such amazing legacies? I’ve heard that a person’s true colors becomes apparent after their passing. And mashAllah, what bright colors these young people have.

It crosses my mind that it could’ve been my sister and I who died alongside Rube. It could’ve been that my friend Asmaa died next to her husband Amr, who was shot by a sniper. It could’ve been that my friend died alongside her sweet, 4-year-old son, after a battle with cancer. Truthfully, it could’ve been any of us. And it wasn’t. But one day, these could’ves will be would’ves.

And what colors will show up when we pass? Will they shine bright, like the glistening of the sun against a crystal window? Or will they shine dull, like a black t-shirt, washed one too many times?

And the true question: what legacies will we leave behind? Or will we leave behind any at all?