I have a guest from Pakistan, a friend of a friend a gentle soul, who when departing after a brief visit says to me in tears “your house is so quiet, there are lots of duas in it………lots of duas have been said in it” I am perplexed initially about the meaning and then it dawns on me what she means and a unique perspective of what I have become dawns on me.
Life has gone on outside for the other people in the world and in my house and perhaps in me time has stopped with the hands of the clock on 4:22 pm and the date on the calendar July 13, 2005.
I am shocked and surprised. I thought I was moving ahead with the world, that my grief and sadness was well contained, I had been told that I was “brave and patient” both of which I do not want to be but have to.
For not to be “brave and patient” is to be held at the edge of the abyss and look down at the raging river of grief continuously and perhaps dive into it. It is the patience and the rope of Allah that some in my family dub as “the holier than thou” attitude that allows me to hang on it for dear life and sanity.
After her visit I look around my house the same house that I have lived in for 27 year where my children grew up, where I hid them when our family was threatened by the cigarette companies due to the publication of my husbands controversial article, where I have many beautiful memories and many laced with angst, anger and anxiety.
Where my mother came and lived as a healthy beautiful woman driving my children to events, a companion for me when my husband was the eternal traveler. Where my mother left to be with my brothers and came back sick and unable to walk and deteriorated steadily. Her heart, which was always generous and giving in nature, became physically open and generous, unable to hold the lifeblood in it long enough to pump it efficiently.
In this house she came almost blind with glaucoma and thankful to see once I persuaded her, against the will of some of my sibs to get her eyes operated.
Here in the walls are embedded the sadness’s of her gradual decline and the isolation from my spouse when he gave me an ultimatum because he could not take the stress of a warring family over the medical treatment of my mother. At that time I chose my mother over my spouse and then I lost her too as all of us come from Allah and return to Him.
I looked around at my house with my friends fresh eyes and for the first time I saw what she saw: She heard the quiet: no TV, no radio, no music, no children or friends running in and out of our house no shopping no rush to do things and or entertain people.
Whereas I saw and heard peace with the Moroccan fountain silently falling into its mosaic bowl and reminding me of the spirituality I found hidden in the unique city of Fez.
She saw a picture of my son faded by the sunlight over eight years with last years garland of dried flowers sent by his friend around him. She saw his trophies in his room along with his quaint bottles with water, sand and shells from the beaches all over the world. I saw the baby room furnished with his bed that she slept in. She saw my writing studio, a bare room that was once my daughter’s room, quiet, bare of memorabilia, except for the tasbeehs I have collected from my travels all over the Muslim world.
I realized that to the external persons eye my time has stopped. While life has gone on outside my circle of grief and I have isolated myself by choice in my practice of faith to hang on to the rope of Allah.
In these eight years the outside world was topsy-turvy: An earthquake had devasted northern Pakistan the year Tariq died and I had given most of his nicer clothes to them. Hurricane Katrina had come leaving devastation in its wake and I had given the rest of his clothes and most of the stuff from the house to them. The mosque had a garage sale and I had given away half of my kitchen as I was no longer interested in cooking.
Meanwhile a series of revolutions had erupted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Muslim part of what was Russia, making people refugees in their own countries. A child born in a homeless camp would now be eight years old, drinking unclean water and living in the dirty and hopeless environment of a tent city with 2 million to 3 million refugees. Meanwhile the two factions the haves and the have not’s batter each other and in the process batter their families leaving angry grieved parents where nowhere to put their grief.
More recently a fruit seller in Tunisia has set fire to himself after getting sick and tired of the corruption of his government and that has sparked a revolution, his family has lost a son, young handsome, educated and full of promise for the future. Political prisoners, human being held in underground prisons were discovered who had not seen the light of day for years.
The “Arab spring” has sprung in Egypt and young men and women had dubbed Tahrir square as their place to voice their frustration with the 40 year old regime that grew fat on 1.34 billion dollars given annually via my hard earned taxes in the US to seal its mouth and tie its hands as a country against Israel.
All this was happening and thousands of women were losing their sons like I lost mine………
The clock was moving forward for the Muslims in Muslims countries and writing indelibly on the pages of history what one human being can do to another which even animals do not do randomly and without the purpose of obtaining food:
Women in Tahrir Square of Egypt had been taken in by the Egyptian army and had been raped under the guise of “virginity testing” in a secular state, which seemed like an oxymoron. If any of them had a child, he would be one year old.
Young boys like Tariq died in Tahrir Square………their mothers were in my shoes, their grief invisible and unaddressed.
Outside a lot was happening, eight years were passing one by one at the edge of a sword grazing at the jugular vein of the youth of Muslim countries.
In my house looking through the eyes of my friend time had stopped I had not replaced Tariq’s presence with another, some people in my family had left me dubbing me as “self righteous” others felt that my current life style and immersion into faith and spirituality left no room for them, and sadly enough I did not miss them much, maybe because invisible to all I was hanging on to the rope of Allah for dear life and sanity, taking one day at a time.
Many times I have gotten tired of hanging on and wanted to let go of the rope of Allah and fall into the raging river of grief………….. But even a temporary departure from it makes my life unsteady and fearful of the pain and anguish.
Thus now it pains me further as a child “Hamza” and others from the local school were taken from a small village school in Syria and tortured by grown men for writing a graffiti on the school wall “Bashar you are next”. The Syrian army of Alawites comes back to the school for his classmates and soon the entire school is tortured and killed and thrown back into the schoolyard for their mothers to retrieve and put together the pieces of their children and bury their dead child. How does that mother survive? Have you ever thought of that?
How does one remain sane and levelheaded with such actions? Can one blame the family members, friends and countrymen of these children taking arms against the brutal man and his army to avenge and punish him and his supporters for the ignominious death of their children?
Having visited that part of Syria and met the innocence not only in the children but also in the people, I shudder at the pain of the mothers of those boys…………..
When I was in middle school we had to read a book called “Great Expectations” for English literature. In that book was an old woman, Miss Havisham, who had been jilted on the eve of her wedding and when this young boy enters her home he sees cobwebs and the clock stopped at the time of her nuptials. She sits in her ancient wedding dress, which is now in tatters and looks kindly and vaguely at this boy as if nothing has gone wrong and time has stopped for her.
There are no obvious cobwebs in my house but I wonder if in the eyes of others, with my disinterest in the “fun and entertaining” things of life and my deep struggle for peace by remaining in quiet meditation and prayer I am turning into Miss Havisham ?
I am thankful to my friend for giving me a perspective of my eight years…they have gone by in the blink of an eye and yet it is as if it just happened.