Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The ties that bind - missing my dad so much

Recently I met a relative of my late father's. He and my dad had been really close in their youth, but had lost touch over the years. He therefore had so many stories and insights into my dad's early life - valuable little titbits which I devoured greedily, while trying to hide my desperate need for more information. I wanted anything - no matter how small. Every morsel he shared, though it might have seemed insignificant to anyone listening, served to make me feel closer to my dad in some small way. It also made me miss him even more.

As anyone who's lost a loved one might know, the pain never truly goes away. It merely becomes a dull ache which lingers below the surface, ready to rip through the protective barrier of one's consciousness, triggered by even the most remote stimulus.

The smell of Clearasil, the whiff of a stranger's deodorant in the shopping mall, sitting by the ocean, penny polonies, a history textbook, leg of lamb, table tennis, a chess board - all capable of transporting me into his presence for just a fleeting moment before reality comes and wrenches him away from me again, leaving me gasping with disbelief at the intensity of grief I experience at losing him all over again.

So coincidentally, while searching for something on the internet, I came across a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in which he answers an inquiry about how one can show kindness to one's deceased parents.  “ Praying and asking forgiveness of Allah on their behalf, fulfilling their promises, respecting their friends, and fostering their ties of kinship…”

I realised that in the case of my father, this was indeed true. My dad would have loved me to stay in touch with the people whom he held dear. Then on Thursday my cousin let me know that her mum, my dad's sister, had undergone an operation. She said that I should pop in just to see how her mum was doing.

No one makes me feel closer to my dad than his sister does. They'd been close in age and held similar values, beliefs and early childhood experiences. Like me, she continued to grieve his loss years after he had passed. Every Eid we'd talk about him and I'd have to fight back tears while I listened to this woman whose pain and longing were as intense as my own.

Aunty S is however also one of the most inspiring and positive people I know. Despite the pain I know she experiences from her arthritis, I have never heard her complain. On Saturday, she entertained us with her own brand of self-deprecating humour which I have known since I was little - humour borne from her own humility, which - since it focuses on her self-confessed 'negative' traits - does not provide one with an accurate reflection of the awe-inspiring woman sitting before one; that is, until she starts to talk seriously. This is when the intelligence and wisdom of this amazing woman becomes apparent; how, through her spirituality and faith, she is able to remain positive and contented despite adversity. 

My dad and my aunt

So, on Saturday I left my aunt the way I usually do when I see her - feeling inspired, positive and contented; able, once again, to focus on and appreciate the wonders I have in my life (instead of just focusing on the challenges as I recently have been doing). I also felt inspired to focus on the positive traits of others instead of harping on their faults. All these little 'lessons' she delivered to me - inadvertently - not through judgement and condemnation (because that is just not who she is), but through a few hours spent joking, chatting and laughing.

I undertook to visit again, all the while aware that this might not be soon - and although I really hope to keep this promise, I am comforted by the fact that, should I not be able to do so - because she holds no grudges - I will be welcomed with open arms whenever it is that we do see each other again.

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