Saturday, November 30, 2013

Eulogy for a Kind Soul

Asalamu Alaykom,

Wishing you peace and blessings from Allah for you and your family.

I also wish that my words reach you today so that you feel the goodness I have felt.

I had a childhood which left me vulnerable and needy.  Through the Grace of God, kind souls entered my life when I needed them the most.  One of those caregivers has passed away this week.  She was my mother's dear friend and more like an aunt to me than the other two who held the title but never held me.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ)

From God we come and to God we return.

May Allah forgive her any of her faults and grant her The Highest Level of Paradise.

She was a welcoming person who never closed the door on me.  Her home was always a safe place for me to stay while my mother was away---and she was away from me a lot as I grew.  That's difficult.  It's difficult to have been a child of divorce, a child of the "Me Decade," and a lonely, only child.  I was given a chance to be part of their family time and again.  I was never made to feel as an odd outsider.  I was included and that means a lot to a lost little girl.

She was simple.  She wasn't someone I could look up to because of the way she styled her hair or her clothes.  Her home wasn't a showplace.  The food from her kitchen wasn't gourmet.  The time I spent there wasn't quality time.  It was simply time being included in a place that felt good with people who cared.

She was beautiful.  If I posted her picture, many would disagree.  She wouldn't look beautiful to you because you have to know her spirit.  Our lives aren't about our shells.  Her body is gone.  It's not even buried; she's been cremated.  Yet, her spirit survives.  I know it does because I can remember how she touched my life.

She was dying when I called her two months ago.  My mother and I had arranged for my call to come during one of their visits together.  My mother had announced who was on the phone using my former name instead of my current name of Yosra.  She had to be told the name I had when I was a little girl.  I wasn't sure if she would completely be aware of who I was.  At first, I don't think it was all clicking.

Then, she asked me, "Are you coming for Christmas?"

Though we talked about other things, that was the moment I will remember the most.  It meant that she knew me.  It meant that she cared and that she wanted to see me.  She had thought she was going to have one last Christmas in her house.  She didn't.

At the time, I really wondered if I should fly back to the States.  She is one of the few people in this world who could have had that pull on my life.  If she had ever wanted anything, I would have done it for her.  What I did is thank her for all the Christmas times together.

Her family would invite my mother and me over for Christmas Eve.  Her father and mother would be there too.  If I ever need proof in this world that a couple can remain in love and stay married then those grandparents are it.  They were very special people and more like my grandparents than my own.

When her father died decades ago, I had sat up in the front pew at his funeral with the family.  I was given his tam o' shanter which he had always worn at a jaunty angle.  I held it to me when I walked out with the family and I know the church congregation wondered who I was.  I knew who I was.  I knew I was a member of their clan.

We somehow started a tradition of making food from another country for each Christmas Eve.  It might have started with Scottish and I think it ended with Greek.  However, it didn't really end.  I continued the tradition with my own family for years.  I kept the feeling alive.

I don't remember one gift they ever gave me.  None!  I remember the large bags of hand-me-downs since I was younger than her son and two daughters.

I still have the note I received with their flowers one opening night.  That's what happens when you do a lot of theatre; you get a lot of notes with flowers.  I didn't save all of them but I saved theirs.  They were so proud of me.  That's what the note said and I knew they were.

It's great to have a cheering section in your life; to have someone in your corner who is rooting for you.  I have been on this earth for 45 years and there are very few people who have been as big a positive influence as this lady.  That's a gift.  She was a gift from God in my life.

I can't say that she was mine alone.  She had her own kids and later grandkids.  She had her kids at the school where she worked.  She also helped with every new wave of refugees who came into our state looking to resettle:  the Hmong, the Bosnians, and the Ethiopians.  She volunteered at the charity thrift store.  She was that church lady who lives to be a humble servant of God.

She accepted me when I came back from Egypt in 2011.  I have this great photo of us.  The light is either radiating on her or from her----it's hard to tell.  She was absolutely indifferent about my hijab.  It didn't phase her.  She invited us over for tea.

She showed me her photo albums she had been putting together.  I admired all the life that she had experienced.She had been to Egypt on a Nile cruise.  She admired me for making a new life.  We shared that moment in time on her couch and it was the last time I will see her in my lifetime.

One of my reoccurring thoughts is that I had never known a world without her but now I do.  It's not as if I had kept in constant touch with her.  I hadn't.  She was my mother's friend and they connected.  I was out of the picture for years.  Yet, I knew where she was and I knew the door was always open.

Knowing that her end has come does affect me.  I had to keep going this past week.  I had essays to grade and tests to proctor.  I couldn't take a break and really mourn.  I couldn't really even explain my grief to co-workers and have them understand because...she wasn't family.  There isn't a way to make anyone understand how crucial this woman was to normalizing my very odd childhood.

The day after she died, I ended up on a school bus listening to a group of Egyptians standing around outside and arguing how they didn't want my son and me on their bus.  Our bus wasn't running, theirs was and it was all about them.  They thought that one more stop on the bus would mean a later arrival time for them.  They didn't know how little sleep I'd gotten, how sad I was inside or how upsetting it was to have co-workers disrespect me after I'd been giving my all for the school.  They wasted 20 minutes doing this.  I didn't cry.

We were allowed to ride the bus.  I listened to Quran and a few tears rolled down.  Later, I realized that I didn't know where we were on the bus; I was lost in Giza and didn't have anyone to really understand my fears.  I cried.  Yes, I cry too much; it's because I feel too much.  It was a horrible afternoon and we didn't get home until 5:30.  We had traveled home for two hours whereas it usually takes 40 minutes.

Since that day, I have not cried but this is the fourth day I've had a twitch in my right eye.  I looked up the cause.  It's fatigue (getting those five hours of sleep each night), stress (her death, finishing those three stacks of papers and then the bus incident) and caffeine (I had been using an extra cup of coffee).  I have not been able to rid myself of that twitch.

I am writing today because I need to release.  I need to release the sadness I have that  a good person is gone.  I need to release my control needs regarding my own mother who refuses to be taken care of.  I need to release my fears of her dying, of me dying and of me living in ways which aren't really meaningful.  Am I living the right life?

I've been turning over thoughts and ideas.  It's a process.  I don't have solid conclusions.  There's so much I could write to you about but I don't think you'd truly understand so I'll keep most of it to myself.

Suffice it to say that I have needed this three-day weekend.  Alhumdulillah for that.  Inshahallah, my twitch will be gone.

Nothing lasts forever.



My World of love and light said...

I hear you are struggling a lot dear Yosra and it's tough when someone you love, someone who means so much to you, leaves this world. Surely this woman has a beautiful soul and she is now resting near God.
Some days we wish we had the time to say Goodbye.

Nothing last forever. Now it's time for you to grieve. Just remain patient, you need to go through this phase, you need to cry, you need to let go of everything that is too heavy to carry right now.
May God ease your pain, and if you need to share thoughts or words, know I am here for you.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Marie,

I like your new name "World of Love and Light." Inshahallah you will find more peace in it :)

I appreciate your response. It's always hard to write those tender moments and not know how I've been received.

Maybe for someone else this post doesn't make sense. It's OK. You understood me and that's a good feeling.

Love and Light to you and your boo.

Nur lindah said...

Alhamdulillah that in this life Allah has given us a someone that was special which makes our life days cheerful and being appreciated. We are still so luckily that we still have Iman , hope and prayers to Allah and everything we do is for Allah and his blessing. So don't be sad my dear sister since you are already a Muslimah and surely you are living in the right path of life (Islam). I think every problem that we faced actually is a test from Allah for us to know whether we are a strong Mukmin or not. And surely every deeds will be counted for whether its good or the opposite.

Thankful Slave said...


Very sorry to hear about your loss, certainly nothing lasts forever and only Allah is THE Eternal.
As for all the rest, just take it easy. May be you should really consider getting your own car to move around. Alternatively do they have like monthly contract for a cab to take you back and forth from work?
I would also have a smart phone with GPS/Maps to make sure I'm not dropped in the wrong place. I have posted few "navigation" posts in my blog, some of them could be handy to assist you finding the basic directions.
As for "living the right life", we only have "one" life to live, it won't be always 100% OK, just sinusoidal with regular ups and downs, and this is certainly valid for the majority of people around you.
The fear of death is with all of us, even Aishah (RA) was scared of it, even Prophets such as Moses & Adam (AS. In a famous hadith, Adam (AS)gave 40 of his years to one of his sons, Prophet Dawood (AS). But when Angel of death came to take his soul, he (Adam) said that it was not yet time, he still had 40 years to go. The Angel of death reminded him that he had given these years to one of his sons, but Adam forgot, and all his children forgot too. This is where our forgetfulness comes from.

Anyway, one last word on death is another hadeeth on one of the Prophets, when Angel of death came to him, this Prophet said that he wasn't ready. To that statement, the Angel of death started questioning him: where is so and so? the Prophet replied that he was dead. Again, the Angel of death asked him about another person: and where is so and so? same reply, he was dead, and so on for several people that had died. So the Angel of death said: with all these people dead and you are not ready?..

Sadly, this is the case for many of us: we see people dying around us every day, yet, we do not take heed and get ready for our own departure...
May Allah Keep us focused on what matter most always, and may Allah Take away any sorrow from your heart and from the hearts of All Muslims,


Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss. There is little to say except to tell you that I feel your loss in infinite ways. I am in my forties and since life is the way it probably should be... with the old making way for the new... people that shaped me and molded me for good and bad are moving onto another dimension. I feel the loss of these people as a blow to my own complete identity. Still we shake ourselves off, realise that we are self reliant because of those people and go on from strength to strength.

Thankful Slave makes a good point about engaging a regular cab/tuktuk (the black and yellow scooter cab in the photo on the side... what do you call them in Egypt) driver to take you on an assigned route as particular times. That might be a good way to ensure timeliness and safety. Have you given any thought to buying a small secondhand car so you can drive yourself around? That will give you much needed freedom. I dont know what your budget goals are, but money is a tool and should be used to ensure the best possible outcome... in this case your safety, comfort and the ability to perform your duties the best you can.

I hope your mood lifts and you can celebrate the end of the year and welcome in the New Calendar year in good cheer. Something like going to bed with your debts paid and your house clean, so you WANT to wake up with a smile the next day.

With a comforting hug,
Deanna Troi

Party of 5 said...

Dear Yosra,

I am sorry for your loss. I felt so many things reading your post. You are always so wise even when things happen, but I understand you are human. May Allah heal your heart.

Anonymous said...

HI Yosra,

I hope all is well with you. A period of silence like this is uncharacteristic. It made me wonder how you were coping with your loss.

Does the snow in Cairo remind you of winter at home? A touch of nostalgia for days gone by is a good thing sometimes. Remember the quiet peaceful times you had in sparkling clear, cold weather.

I spent a lovely day today watching my children play in the snow. A good day for reflection and restoration.

Keep well.

Deanna Troi

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Nur,

Thanks for your condolences. Alhumdulillah for everyone who crosses our path. No one is going to stay forever. Sometimes we get fooled into thinking that the eventuality is farther away than it actually is.

Love and Light :)

Asalamu Alaykom Bro TS,

Thanks for writing to me. As always, you do offer good Islamic perspectives.

As for the issue of being carless (not careless), I'm not feeling the need to buy one. I'm happy not having a car. That really isn't the issue for me. What I felt in that moment was being at a loss of compassion from others. That was what was wrong. Astragferallah. We do have a taxi driver we utilize but I don't need his services twice a day to school. Really, the issue is only prevalent during exams so now I have my director's blessing to only proctor up to 2:00. This will enable us to catch a bus home inshahallah.

Best wishes for you and your family and may we meet in Jannah.

Asalamu Alaykom Deanna---twice,

That was thoughtful of you to write and then check back with me. I wasn't feeling outward for about a month. I had to process beyond this post.

You asked if the snow here reminded me of back in the States. No, it didn't exactly. My snowfall used to be robust rather than this faint dusting we got. What reminds me of winter in the states is layering up to stay warm. It's warm enough outside to only wear two shirts but inside the house I need a sweater as well.

I'm glad that you have a chance to spend time with your kids. My goofy guy always takes me from my mind---sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Children are transformative for sure.

Love and Light :)

Asalamu Alaykom Salma,

I've been really human. This ending in my life really smacked me upside the head. I can feel better about the deal now but it has left me quiet.

Part of the deal is that there was a chance I could fly back to see her one last time. She asked me to. Having two weeks off meant that I had a choice AND I didn't take it. In the end, she didn't even make it to Thanksgiving. The truth is that I didn't have a choice. Alhumdulillah.

Love and Light to you and yours :)