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.