This post was previously published at the author’s blog.
Dear Saad: Some days I wonder if you can hear me… see me… smell me.
For the longest time I felt your presence in my every move. I would wake up and start my morning rituals by imagining that you were sitting at my kitchen table just watching me. I would force myself to pray (despite the fact that for many years I had abandoned the practice) in the hopes that I would continue to feel your energy around.
It has not been easy. For days, I could not sleep. My soul was searching for answers. Did you fall asleep while driving? Did someone push you off the road? Were you conscious? Did you know what had happened? And if so, did you suffer?
I still tear up just writing these words. You passed away a few days before Ramadan, a time reserved for reflection and worship. Instead, my Ramadan last year was full of doubt, uncertainty and anger. I was not sure why you had been taken from me. I heard all kind of ridiculous rationales for your passing… You were a “martyr,” and you were “too good,” according to some. You were “too bad” and it was karma, according to others. You were “not blessed,” someone else told me. Or simply, that was just the “cycle of life.”
I managed to be “functional” because I knew that if I gave in to the pain, I would not be lifted from it. I worked, I studied, I fasted and repeated. I also took to writing because I was afraid I would forget you and our story. I recorded every moment that I remembered you or that you appeared in my dreams. I also took mental notes of how, while walking home late at night, I would feel your presence guarding my steps, as if you were truly here still taking care of me. A year later, I still have few of these moments.
I remember the countless hours that I spent in sujood doing more crying than praying. As if the bowing motion could activate the most irrationally emotional parts of me. At the beginning I begged Allah for answers, but what we do not account for is the fact that the truth may hurt. Later, I asked for patience to endure the pain and to accept that I am not omniscient, but patience does not equal healing.
At the end, I asked for Allah’s will to follow its course and for endurance to accept whatever was ahead of me. Allah replied. I may have lost you in what I call the darkest time of my life, the day I became a sort of widow.
But I can truly attest to the clichéd phrase that says that Allah does not take away without giving something in return. It is not that we deserve it because, as my spiritual teacher says, we are not entitled to anything. Yet, it is part of the learning. It is part of the journey. In losing you I had to reach out. I had to leave my shell and the comfort under which I existed while you were alive. I had to be vulnerable in front of the people I loved and who loved me back. I had to be strong and exercise agency to seek help and support. And above all, I had to tell my story and how I got to where I am today.
I am not entirely sure you would recognize me today if you saw me, for I have changed, grown and evolved in many ways. But what I am sure about is that just as Allah had a plan for you, which remains a mystery to me, Allah has drawn a different path for me as well. And one year later I have survived the loss, the pain and the sense of uncertainty.
I have a scar, but that will always be there. It will be like a permanent tattoo, and it will determine the future of my personal relationships in many ways. But to be honest, it is this very scar that has enabled me to continue because it is as if I had your name painted on my skin… as if you were with me at all times.
I will never say good bye because that is not what you say to someone you love with the deepest and most honest parts of your being. Instead, I will wait for a time when we will be reunited; when we will laugh about all this pain, anger and uncertainty… So as I prepare to fast and engage in another month of ritual, I look forward to times of gratitude because despite everything, I am thankful. I am thankful for the wonderful people who have entered my life since your passing. I am thankful for the time I have gotten, which seems to be a luxury today.
And I am, above everything, thankful for the revelation of what is really important in life. It is not about work, school and paying the bills, although those are certainly important. But it is about the quality of the journey; about how to get from point A to point B while developing strong and passionate relationships with friends and family along the way.
I have decided that this Ramadan will be a good one. One filled with gratitude and hope; one where I get to thank friends and family for their support, their love and their patience. And what is more, it is a Ramadan where I get to remind you that you will always be my love and that you will always be in my heart…