Imagine you and your family living in Jordan, and your grandfather, on a brief trip, passes away abroad. Or Imagine studying abroad while your grandmother passes away in Jordan. Recently, two of my readers had close family members who passed away in this way, and I wanted to officially offer my deepest condolences to them and their respective families.
The stories reminded me about death, about mortality, about family, and about distance; subjects I think most of us don’t think about too often. I find death very strange. The way it shifts and moves, and plots and plans; a methodology that is as unknown to us as life itself. But it’s always precise, and always meticulous. And when we see it being played out, it’s like the curtains of life fluttering momentarily, and we get to see fate backstage pulling all the strings. And so there’s always a story to tell and its always a bit more bitter when that person is far from where you are.
While I lived in Toronto amongst my relatives, I lost two uncles to cancer. Both died 10 days of each other. One in Toronto and the other in Morocco, the first having died exactly 4 years ago today. Neither aware of the other’s passing. Their mother, my grandmother, was at the bedside of only one and not the other. At the time, she was visiting in Toronto, but was suffering heavily from arthritis and diabetes, the latter of which made her temporarily blind, ironically, throughout the months when my uncle became thinner and thinner; a shadow of the man he used to be. In fact, the day he passed away, she was beside him but unable to see him in the hospital bed. A few months after both her children passed on, she regained her sight and began the slow process of getting better. And despite getting healthier, she insisted on going back. She kept saying she wanted to die in her homeland. Her son in Morocco was the only real remaining link to her home, and with him gone, she missed home all the more; worried about her possessions, her house. Her children tried to convince her to stay with them in Toronto, but she wouldn’t have it. And after months and months of insisting, she traveled home with my aunt. My aunt returned to Canada, and two days later my grandmother died, in her homeland, in her home, in her bed. Evidently, after two years of bad health, death had decided to honor her wish, and wait until she came back home.
And sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way.
I think death is meant to shock us. It’s meant to have that value. Because it’s the only way for us to suddenly be aware of life. The contrast. Like morning light that floods sleepy eyes, leaving them struggling to adjust for a few moments. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It just comes at you, inevitably. Like daylight, it finds a way in.
I don’t know why some people die in car accidents while others in their sleep. I just know that there is always some shock value, some contrast involved. It’s always temporary, because that’s how it’s meant to be. When we awake, our eyes will eventually adjust to the light, and its in that small time frame that we are aware of the contrast; of day, no longer being night; of being awake, and no longer being asleep. In that moment, we adapt, we grow, we move on. We spend the rest of the day forgetting sleep, and when we’re asleep we forget about being awake. Until the contrast comes again.
The process of waking, is a metaphor for the process of dying. The realization; the actualization of two contrasting entities: asleep and awake, alive and dead.
And maybe that’s why we tell these stories. As a way of remembering the contrast. As a way of recalling just how inevitable, sudden, and complex death can be. Just like life. When family and friends get together at funerals, they tell these stories. They talk about the last time they saw the person. The last conversation, the last words. They’ll try and find curiosities, and anomalies in something they did or said, that might have indicated their approaching fate. They’ll end every story with something like “sob7an Allah”. These are stories about the person, but they’re really not. They’re about an audience trying to make sense of the magic show. Trying to unravel and decipher the mystery that is death. Trying to get a clue to the inevitable unknown. Trying to get their sleepy eyes adjusted to the morning light.
And in discovering death.
We discover a little bit more about life.
Beautify written post but depressing.
First the Abdoun baby then Saudi Arabiaâ€™s image and now this?
Are you on a mission to tik2ibny? For real, I am officially depressed now.
and to be aware of how we live our lives… to be reminded that one minute gone is a minute closer to our end….
and some die from illness…and illness related death, though sad, is not jolting …Death is jolting when it happens in the most sudden way and when it happens to those we least expected it to happen to… and again, it serves as a reminder to us…that our end will eventually come…it’s just a matter of time!
It makes us be mindful of how we live our lives, and prepare for our end…the shock, once absorbed escapes us and we go about our daily lives …but something else will happen that will remind us of our own “expiration” date!
You can add my precious mother-in-law to your reader list of recent loss. She died last night, and your post was a fitting reminder for me this morning as we learned the news.
your post, touched something inside, i wanted to cry too, may be the thought of losing some beloved people.
Nas, this is beautifully written. Very moving post.
7aki: sorry about that..such are the times, i suppose
iman: “and some die from illnessâ€¦and illness related death, though sad, is not jolting â€¦Death is jolting when it happens in the most sudden way and when it happens to those we least expected it to happen toâ€¦”
i think every death has a shock value, because that contrast is still there. here on day, gone the next. the degree to which it is shocking or jolting depends on the manner of passing.
kinzi: i’m sorry to hear that. my deepest condolences to you and your family.
eyad, alia: glad you enjoyed reading. thanks
I wish I could write like you, then my English teacher would stop bothering me.
You know…in the back of our minds, we all know that one day we will experience death â€¦we all know that everyone will eventually go through itâ€¦ but what we donâ€™t know is when, where and how.. so the way Iâ€™ve always looked at it is that death from a chronic illness is expectedâ€¦their chronic illness serves as a constant reminder – to them and their families – that their days are numbered. So they know and are reminded that it could be any day and hence they may be more â€˜preparedâ€™ for it than someone (and the family and friends of that someone) getting on his bike for a ride on a typical summer day, and never returning home â€¦ or walking to catch his train after work and literally falling to his death â€¦ or sitting in lecture or standing in line at the register in a shopping mall and never returning home because some psycho decided to have a deadly episodeâ€¦ or going to bed but never waking upâ€¦.
Sigh:) for an instant you made death seem less forceful than it is:)
Its the “unbearable lightness of being” as Kundera puts it. If I may add my voice to others, beautifully written Nas.
Thanks SO much, Nas. 🙂
I think you articulated the feelings in words. It is hard to realise that death is sudden, and could happen at any time.
Allah Yir7amo…Jido was a good man, inshallah he will get to rest in peace.
Allah yer7amo wa yer7am aljamee3