I hate telephone calls in general but no call is worse than the one you receive informing you of a death in the family. It is absolutely, hands down, the worst call you will ever receive or have to make. In most cases you will experience both at the same time. Someone will call you and you, in turn, must call someone else. It is a call that must be heard and call that must be made. It’s a burden that is carried around and though it’s much more subtle than the formal face-to-face message carrying of the days of yore, it is nevertheless equally worse. There are no reactions but digitialized voices. There are no face expressions to work with, no chance to re-phrase what you will say over and over, mental draft after draft till it feels remotely comforting. There is no time to stall, no opportunity to delay, no avoiding the awkward silence where you have no idea what’s happening on the other end of the line. It is a call that must be heard and a call that must be made.
Today, I received such a call from my cousin telling me my grandmother had passed away before she broke down in tears followed by the sound of the phone crumbling to the ground. I had to make several phone calls to other relatives to make sure what I heard was right. In awhile I will make such a call to my mother in Jordan.
My grandmother was quite old and quite stubborn as most Moroccan women tend to be. She suffered from diabetes, arthritis and just so many sicknesses that I cannot count because once you are in your 80’s there’s no shock, no surprise to death. It is expected. There’s no need to remember what illness struck or what illness did not. Death is inevitably synonymous with age. Everyone tried to convince her to stay in Canada but she wouldn’t hear it and had to go back to Morocco where she died less than a month later. There’s a superstition there that dying in a foreign land means that God might not know where to look for you come judgment day. But there’s also the matter of watan; the homeland, it is entwined in the blood of every Arab for some reason. I guess that’s the nice thing about being stubborn, even death eventually gives up and lets you have your way.
Anyways, this post is for you ‘imouy’, it may be all I’ll ever have to offer you other than my prayers.
“To God we belong and to Him is our return”