Laila, oh Leila, Layla

Laila1Dear Mom,

Besides latching onto hearing your name called out in a cemetery as a sign that you’re okay, I also have been following your name around in terms of other types of signs.

The first one I remember is when I was apartment hunting. After you passed away, just after actually, I needed to look for a new place to live because my previous roommate was selling the place I was living in.

I didn’t know whether I was going to stay in North Vancouver or move to some other area. All I knew is that I was feeling lost. You had just passed away. I was devastated (and some would say I still am after four years). But I was in shock of a different kind back then, and I had to move, and I didn’t know how I was going to afford paying for just a room in a shared place (which I was getting an amazing deal for) compared to living in my own place somewhere else.

I was pretty certain I could not live with roommates anymore, mostly because I needed to do my own grieving, healing and just be allowed to be sad without worrying that someone around me would be brought down by it. I needed to be on my own and figure out… well,  my life. I didn’t know how to live it without you and frankly, I still don’t. But I just take each day as it comes.

Anyway, I was looking in the paper or on craigslist- I can’t even remember- for apartments.

And then I was also just driving around to see what was available.

I ended up being really drawn to this apartment for rent in the Joyce Station area. It’s not even a spot that I would have thought of before. But firstly, the rent was way more reasonable than any of the other places I was looking at, the place seemed pretty decent from what I heard and saw in the pictures and from the person renting it out. But mostly, what made me think that this is the place I needed to move into was that the girl who was currently in it- who was advertising it- her name was Laila. I can’t remember if she spelled it the same way your name was spelled or if it was with an e. I think it was Laila. Same as yours.

Laila ShirtAnd so of course, a big part of me was hoping that this was somehow ordained by you. So not only was I being led to the apartment that I needed to find, but I also was maybe getting a sign that you are always with me, and that you are so okay and well and happy, that you were already helping me find the right place for me to move into.

Well, that apartment didn’t work out for me. I actually really liked it. It was really cute, and I ended up meeting that Laila. She was a sweet, beautiful young girl. Her and her boyfriend were moving out together into a bigger place. I told her the story of how and why I was drawn to her apartment, and her name. She seemed to empathize with me and hoped that I would get the apartment.

The choice wasn’t up to her. I guess it was the manager’s decision and it turned out that there were a few other people on the list of potential tenants before me. Someone else got chosen for that place.

Though it would have been less costly to stay there, I ended up choosing the place I am in now instead. It is in an area that I love, and is probably safer and allows me more interaction with people and freedom to sing in my apartment (which has somehow become a huge part of my life these days).

The place near Joyce Station would have been way more affordable, but maybe not in the long run since it is further out from the center of town. Mostly, I liked the association with your name at that time and I somehow thought I was losing not only the opportunity to stay there, but also the hope that you had something to do with it. I wanted to believe that your name and you led me there.

But my current place is owned by Ismailis, and is so close to the first elementary school I went to, and to the area where we grew up in the first few years of my life. In that sense, it brings me back to you, and connects me to childhood memories or surroundings that I think I may have otherwise had forgotten.

Though there isn’t a particular Laila in this building that I know of, I would still like to think that you somehow led me here. This place brings me peace. I have helpful and kind neighbors.  I feel a lot of freedom and security here. The tree lined streets, quaint coffee shops, convenient grocery and drugstores, and a reminder of where i came from surrounds me. A reminder of the “simple” life, living with you growing up here, and having had a mom who raised me without having much herself.

I don’t know how you did it, Mom.

But I am grateful for it and you every day. And Laila is still the name that rings in my heart always. I pick up on it in all its forms and spellings, but especially the “ai” version. Sometimes, I see it in books- as a name of an author or character. Other times, it’s on advertisements for performances- especially middle eastern dance or music. And sometimes, I just keep my ears open for the name in case the wind whispers it in my ear to tell me you are near. Laila. It is such a beautiful name.

LailaShirt3

I miss you, Mom. I miss you so much.

 

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Together Again

Dear Mom,

I know my letters here aren’t the most uplifting, or just seem full of sadness. But I wanted you to know that I am trying to keep my spirits up and stay hopeful, to believe in what I might not be able to feel yet, but that I wish to feel. Actually, it’s more about what I wish you feel- safe, free, happy, worry free, at peace and without pain or regret.

So I found a new song -well, it’s actually an old song, but it’s new on my list of songs to sing to you, for you- to keep me moving towards my wishes. My wishes for you.

It’s the song “Together Again” by Janet Jackson. She is Michael Jackson’s sister. Maybe you already knew that. Or if you didn’t while you were here, maybe you do now because I am imagining that you can see and know much more now that you are with other angels.

It’s funny how I grew up listening to a lot of Janet Jackson songs, and I know this one, or I thought I did. But it wasn’t until now that I actually listened to the lyrics more deeply. And it’s amazing how fitting they are for my wishes- that we will be together again, that I could feel you shining down on me, that I could feel your love around me.

I guess when I was younger, the words wouldn’t have had the same meaning to me anyway, or I wouldn’t have known what it would feel like to want these things yet.  Maybe I could have wished them for Mama and my’s relationship.  But I don’t think I was old enough to fully understand how much these words could mean to me, and speak to me.

I love the chorus:

Everywhere I go, every smile I see

I know you are there, smiling back at me

Dancing in moonlight, I know you are free

‘Cause I can see your star shinin’ down on me.

To imagine you dancing in moonlight… wow! That would be amazing, and make me feel so happy, to see your freedom and happiness. Your lightness. Your shine.  (I just realized that I must have been singing some very wrong lyrics to this song when I was younger.  I had no idea she was saying “Dancing in moonlight.” What had I been singing all this time? That’s the great thing about the internet now, we can look up the lyrics to see what they really are, and then make fun of the silly things we used to make up because we just didn’t know any better).

The line There are times when I feel you smile upon me, baby gives me goosebumps, especially when I really sing it out loud in that higher key change in the music. A good cry to the heavens.  I can feel how much I want it. How much I want to feel you again, your smile, our connection, your love not just as a memory but as a presence that still exists. I want to believe that it does and it will always continue.

I just need to change the word “baby” throughout the song to “mommy” and it would all fit, including the part about drawing strength from your words, your love and what you’ve taught me.

And then to be able to see you again one day. “Always been a true angel to me, now above, I can’t wait for you to wrap your wings around me, baby.” My angel mother.  Together again, someday.

“I’ll never forget you.”

I wonder who Janet Jackson was thinking about when she said those words.
I will never forget you, mommy. You are with me and thought of every moment of every day.  This song is going to be one of my new prayers to sing for you, Mom.