Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

In Loving Memory

By Namalsiddiqui @namalsiddiqui

Pieces of this have been written in Karachi and Sharjah, it's a combination of different thoughts and mental notes I've made in my mind in the last two weeks. In loving memory of my uncle Irfan Ahmed Siddiqui, Manjley Abbu, for all those who love him. For all those who are gone, who have survived and struggled with cancer. 
A few of us family members walked into the tiled room that had been temporarily fixed with a hospital bed at my uncles’ home. The air-conditioning was switched on and a large slab of ice had been placed next to the bed that kept the room rather cool. On the bed, wrapped in a starchy white cloth, was my uncles’ lifeless body. We had all known he was leaving us day by day, bit by bit. He was battling with cancer for the past one and a half years. I hadn't seen him since the last time I visited Pakistan, which was on my sisters’ wedding in February of 2011. This moment reminded me of the last words he spoke to me then, which I will forever remember. He looked so healthy then. We were leaving for UAE, and I was going down the elevator. All the family was around, aunts, uncles, cousins and we were all busy saying our byes to each other not so worried about the delay it was causing for our flight. I remember Manjley abbu  (a way to call ones uncles, the brothers of my father) pushing me back into the elevator saying, ‘Acha beta, jaane ka waqt agaya he, Allah Hafiz’ (Alright my child time to go now, may God protect you). I had that sudden urge to speak to him more, for the doctors had already spoken of his illness. The last I saw of him was through the rectangular portion of glass embedded in the elevator. The last look. The last look while he was alive, breathing, talking, walking and now this.  Amid sobs and tears, and bitter consternation it was a face of a man, I did not recognize. 
Cancer had taken its toll on my uncle. It had taken out the life out of him. This damned cancer. Like my mother said, as I saw him for the final time in this life time, his face appeared like a little child, gone to peaceful sleep. He was safe and sound, asleep, away from all the troubles and worries of this life. The fact is that his death was of such ambivalent nature,  for the pain his illness caused him was immense as the poison of cancer crept slowly into his life, a pain I can only speak of yet cannot describe completely for it can only be felt by the one bearing it, yet he left us so young. He was just a year younger than my own dad. He would turn 56 years this December. But somehow we have to believe that this is the time that God declared for him. And somehow, we all have to; need to move on, from the reality that is his loss, the absence of his presence. How strong that feeling is now, as I sit among my larger family members. How strange it is to talk about him in a past tense. He was such an active, loving, caring, go-getter type personality. He was an amazing man, always up for a challenge and a food lover, always trying out a new place to eat. He found peace and love on the path of Allah, and constantly reminded everyone to do good things.
There are moments in life that we feel invincible, when we are happy, when we have what we want, when we're 'getting' there. There are moments of arrogance and pride. We all have them. But a loss can break us down, pull us apart and make us feel completely powerless. Death is a stark truth about life itself. It brings everything back to a full circle. We are born helpless and vulnerable, and that is exactly how we leave this world. Death is inevitable. What really disturbingly astounds me is how we can be okay with it. They say that God gives sabr (patience) to the people when a loved one goes away and it is true. First it was sadness, tears and denial, and then day by day you accept it, maybe even by force. How long can one not eat food, or not go to work, or not sleep or just live in a state of refusal and misery. It had been just a day they had buried my uncle. I was finding it hard that we could actually live our lives without him being around. That house, his house, he’d enter through the main entrance, and give an extra pitch to his heavy voice, greeting, ‘Assalam alaikum!’ (Peace be upon you in Arabic) That was his trade mark entrance. The sofas, the living room, the bed he spent his last months on, and the places he preferred sitting at. How could we all be there without his existence?
...I’m sitting in the balcony of my uncles’ home, as I watch the numerous crows and eagles flying right above me in scatters in the pale skies of Karachi. Cars, buses, rickshaws, and the regular street vendors are moving on the road facing the fifth floor of the building I am in. Mothers are waiting on buses or walking their children to school. Life is going by. The weather seems to be playing along, it is beautiful in such a way that the cloudy skies, the abundant and fresh breeze  reckon me to muse over the happenings of last week, and remember my uncle and think of him to be in a better place than he was in the last couple of months of his life. This is one of the moments I bring myself to peace with the reality.
At his funeral, most of the family was present. Some wept, some stayed quiet in his thoughts and some talked about him and remembered his jokes. And I realized something. The loss of a beloved can bring a whole family together. Uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters. We were all one. We were all grieving over one loss. We were all reminiscing one persons memory that connected us all together. We became one.
Now that I am back at home, I have a thought, what if he came out of nowhere? Can it ever be possible? What if he just came back from a business trip and greeted everyone in his trademark style? I know it isn’t possible, and it takes time to be okay with it. But I do know this; he is in a better place. May he always be blessed by Allah. 
'Alright my child, time to go now. May God protect you.' :) 

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