I step out of the car and the fragrance of roses and jasmine assails my senses. Rose the symbol of Turkey and jasmine from my home country as I see it in my minds eye, spilling over the boundary wall of our bungalow, beckoning strangers to its sweet seductive fragrance. It would bend over to welcome me home every evening after a grueling day at the Dissection Hall at the Medical College as a first year medical student. It would erase the clinging smell of formaldehyde from the cadavers with whom I spent the mornings.
I am in Turkey. In the fresh breeze of the early afternoon laden with the fragrance of roses primarily I feel his presence; comforting and ebullient at the same time, with a timelessness that I cannot lay my finger on.
His body lies in Georgia and I feel him beside me touring the Sakirin mosque in Istanbul with me.
The white headstones of the graves sparkle in the midafternoon sun, the dappled pathway beckons me. The peace of the afternoon embraces me and I think……….”It would be lovely to be buried here”
Few days earlier I am taking a tour of the spiritual maqams around Istanbul and we stand at one the maqams and pray Fatiha.
I lift my eyes and right in front of me are three graves with white marble headstones. The flowers bloom around them and the dense forest greenery bends to affectionately scoop them in their arms.
I turn to my guide and say” I think I am going to be buried in Turkiye” He looks at me with concern in his eyes mixed with reassurance. “Sister I think you are tired lets go” and he begins his exit out of this green haven of shade and peace.
A friend from across the Atlantic relates her dream to me, I am honored to be in her dream . “I see you being made in charge of a garden in Istanbul” she says. I think of the amazing gardens like the ones at Emirgan with a million tulips that I have visited and then also those which are the final resting places of so many good souls and or the Awliya and pious men and women of Turkey, and I pause to wonder what she means?.
I think of Tariq’s body mixed with the red earth of Georgia, dust to dust, while his spirit roams the globe.
“How long has it been…………” asks one of my Turkish friends on learning about my deceased son. It is going to be 13 years this July 13thI say. Her response is unique, she is silent. Only her eyes speak volumes of compassion as she lays her hand on mine. I am grateful to be in Uskudar.
I am back in the US and am thankfully with a dear friend today sharing the thirteenth anniversary of Tariq’s goodbye to us as we knew him. Here the adhaan calls from the clock instead of from the minarets of a mosque as in Istanbul. I miss the spiritual envelope of Turkey even though I am a “misafer” (guest) over there.
The spiritual wavelength in Turkey is the same as mine as I seem to have reverted back to my “Mumleykat”of Pakistan.
While my Muslim friends in the US struggle with anxieties of the Muslim ban and the constant stress of going against the grain to practice their faith, sometimes just get so fatigued with the effort that they lay it down for a while which ends up flattening their spiritual strength. I see the silent anguish and frustration and wonder how the climate has changed or we perceive it as a change?
I am happy that Tariq did not have to face the systematic emasculation which the Muslim male faces in the west. He rests with Allah Subhanawataala till it is time for the resurrection.
I pray daily for the three boys who left us, much to early in life. They left us bereft and stricken with grief and yet I remain thankful that they do not have to face the rising tide of emotional abuse associated with Islamophobia and pray for strength for those who are left behind.
The breeze at the cemetery next to the Sakirin mosque lifts the leaves of the trees as if to remind me of the eternity that awaits our souls. I wait for Dr. Z to pick us up and make a mental note to tell her that if I die in Turkey to please bury me in this beautiful, peaceful cemetery that sits next to a mosque that was designed and built by a Turkish woman architect.
Cheerfully Dr. Z informs me that when someone dies in Turkey the Government takes care of all the burial and funeral expenses. The generosity of Turkey goes on and on in life and in death……….