Songs That Choke Me Up

sad songs

Dear Mom,

I’ve been going to karaoke a lot lately. Though I have lost my voice from overuse or holding emotions in my throat (that’s a topic for a whole other blog post), I still like being around people who sing. And I am hoping to get my voice back to itself or stronger sometime soon.

The trouble is that songs years ago, that I really liked, and could have sung now…well, some of them are too hard to sing. Not because of the complexity of the song in my voice, but the complexity and utter anguish that it causes in my heart.

Did you know that my go to song when I first tried karaoke a few years ago was always Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper. It’s a great song, and fits well in my voice. But I can’t finish the line that says “If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time.”

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You’re Simply the Best

Dear Mom,

I’ve been trying to get over my fear of singing in front of people, so I’ve been going out to Karoake more often. I still get nervous, and can be hard on myself in terms of how my singing voice comes across, but I try to remember why I am doing this. It’s not supposed to be just about pleasing others, or about comparing myself to others. But just about using my voice to reach others, and to reach something deep down in myself. And to bring it out. But mostly, I want to sing for you, and I need to keep reminding myself of that. That keeps it real for me, or unreal, depending on how you look at it.

Unreal because I want you to be able to hear me. I hope you do. I hope you hear me and it brings you peace and happiness. I hope the resonance of music and my voice making it transcends this supposed boundary between heaven and earth, between you and me.  Even the songwriting that I’ve been dabbling in lately is for you.

I was sitting next to this guy at a sushi bar a couple of years ago in Seattle. And we got to talking, and he said it really well when he said something like, “The funny thing is that the more you sing and create music, people will think the songs are all about some guy, some big love and heartbreak in your life. But in fact, all the songs will be about your mom, and people won’t even realize.”

And he’s right, except for the “people won’t even realize” part.  Because I am going to tell them. I will make sure that as much as I can, I will be telling people about you, telling them that the songs are for you and about you.

The one I want to learn now is called Simply the Best by Tina Turner.  Because that’s what you are, and will always be- the best.  One of the hosts at the karaoke places sings the song a lot. She does such a great job of it. And even though it is an older song, she just makes me FEEL it, when she sings it. And so now, it is in my head often.  And you are in my heart always. And I want to blend the two together to sing You’re Simply the Best for you, my mother, the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thank you for being my mom and for giving me so much love and kindness and sweetness in my life.

This song, and all other songs really, are for you.

“You’re simply the best

Better than all the rest

Better than anyone

Anyone I ever met

I’m stuck on your heart

I hang on ever word you say…” 

Morning Prayer- 3 years now

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

~ Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi~

 

daisies

Dear Mom,

I can’t believe it’s been exactly three years now since you passed away.  It doesn’t feel that way at all. I can remember all the details as if it was yesterday. And it still is painful, as much if not as more, because now the reality of it all has settled in.  And that is so much more unsettling than anything I’ve ever had to face.

But I’ve included you in my thoughts- my morning prayers- every morning since then. I don’t think I’ve missed a day.  It’s not the usual kind of prayer. It’s more like me asking you what we should do for the day. How we should treat people, what choices we will make. It’s me asking you to the guide the way. I wonder if you hear me at all when I say the words.

I still put that picture of you and me off the window sill each morning, and say this prayer or list of questions “to you” while walking over to my little wine coloured shelf near the kitchen. I place your picture of us on the shelf once I’m done. And it stays there for the whole day. And in the evening, I take the picture off of the shelf and put it back on the windowsill, and turn on the little while string of lights that rest there, so that the picture and you are illuminated. I love it when the moonlight also adds to this.

I don’t leave the picture on the windowsill during the day because

1). I don’t want it to fade from the sunlight. I don’t need more things to add to this fear of you fading. Not that you ever will from my heart or memory. But time is not always a healer, I don’t think. Sometimes, it can blur my memories. And I don’t need one of my favorite pictures of us being blurred or washed out as well.

2) I don’t want the frame or the picture to get scorched by the heat like it has done to some other little trinkety things I have put there in the past.

I think I’ve posted about this before, but I’ve added more questions to it, so I am reposting it with the updated version.

Here it goes:

Hi Mom, 
Good morning. 

What are we going to do today?

Where are we going to go? 

What are we going to see?

Who are we going to meet?

What are we going to say?

What are we going to change?

What are we going to cry over? 

What are we going to laugh through?

What are we going to stand up for?

What are we going to believe?

What are we going to choose?

What are we going to create?

What are we going to paint?

What are we going to sing? 

What are we going to dance?

What are we going to write about?

Who are we going to date?

Who are we not going to date?

What are we going to achieve?

What are we going to dream?

Who are we going to help?

Who are we going to inspire. 

And then I usually sigh and say, “Oh mom.”

My heart hurts. But I know I need to keep going to make you proud, and make this life you blessed me with worth living.

Thank you, Mom. I hope heaven is treating you well.  I wish that sometimes you could show up in my dreams, the good kind of dreams, and tell me a story, or tell me how you are doing. I still worry about you.

 

Intezaar

Dear Mom,

There’s a song I like, and get this- it’s from a Hindi movie! I know, crazy, right?  I don’t know if I ever told you about this song, or the movie. Or did you introduce me to the movie? I don’t know how else I would have ended up watching it. But I think actually, unless I made this story up in my head, I was looking in a shop- possibly Ace Video- for some movies for you? And I saw this one there, and it was the picture on the front that caught my attention? Is that what happened?

I don’t know. Anyway, the movie is called Paap, which I know means sin. And I must have kind of secretly looked around to see if anyone actually saw me pick it up in the video store, or wherever I got it, because it just looked so racy! I wonder if it wasn’t even at a regular Indian shop that I found it. Maybe it was on Main Street or something? I am not sure. But yeah, cover picture was hot. This absolutely stunning girl- as usual, and then an actually very attractive guy! Like really, really attractive!

I still look at it and think, wow! This is nothing like the Indian movies and images from them that I am used to. Usually, it is a beautiful girl with and old, controlling or just cheesy looking guy.  But not this one.  And the way they were entangled over each other- I just couldn’t stop looking at it. Actually, I am looking at the picture now and I still think it is so passionate and draws me in.  She is draped over his shoulder, and he is leaning into her stomach and thigh and, well,… let me just say that this made me proud to be Indian! Like YES! We are a sexy culture, is what I wanted to say.

I ended up getting the soundtrack to the movie. I wonder if I got the soundtrack first and then watched the movie? Oh God, I have such a bad memory. But it doesn’t matter. I believe that we remember the important things or the things we are meant to remember. And what it was I was meant to remember here was first off, the mesmerizing song Intezaar. That song still gives me goosebumps. I didn’t have much of a clue of what the woman was singing in it, but I could feel it, I could feel something very deep in it.

And I learned that the word Intezaar means wait, or waiting.

So I ended up using it in an assembly I did with my students years ago, when I was teaching Grade 6. I wrote an assembly with some characters based on our family but mixed some names around. For example, Laila, the sister, was played by this girl Nisia in my class.  I believe that is what I named that character- after you, rather than after me. And then the little boy, the brother, was played by the most adorable little guy in my class who had blond hair and was caucasion. But I believed I named him Rahim. Haha! And he was always teasing his sister. I wonder who that sounds like. 😉

And the students – the girls- all wore yours and my saris. Remember that? They loved it. I think you came and helped them put them on. I know you definitely came to watch the play. And the boys were dressed in Indian outfits as well. They seemed to really enjoy learning about the culture. If not the outfits, then the boys I think loved the food. You made samosas for us that day, or on another day, right? I am sure EVERYONE loved those.

Anyway, that song played in the introduction of my play. I loved it. It was beautiful. I think the girls got set up while that song was playing and the music just distracted the audience with some soothing sounds, and Indian instruments and that voice. Man, I love that sweet voice.

I watched the movie so long ago. And I don’t remember the details. But again, details don’t always matter. What matters was the message in this case, I think.  This woman dedicates her life to a monastery or convent. I can’t remember what brought her there in the first place. But from what I think I remember, she believes that the most giving thing she could do is to give herself to God, to be in the service of God, and live out so far from everyday life to pray and be around the monks and others who were so pious and all about spirituality in a very simple and non-materialistic, non-sensual, non-‘toxic’ way.  She is taught or believes that this would mean she would be living a life without sin, as much as she could.

But what she ends up learning is that actually, the sin is her giving up her everyday life, her life of mistakes and love and sensuality and sex and relationships. She ends up learning that for some people, the sin is NOT giving yourself to a relationship, to NOT being open to love and life.  She ends up learning that NOT appreciating and surrendering to the gifts we are given as humans- such as passion and love, is the ultimate sin.  And so she allows herself to fall in love and to allow another to love her. And she trusts and shares her life with a man who also shows so much passion and love towards her.  I definitely need to watch the movie again, because I feel like I made some of this up. Haha! Or maybe I just haven’t given enough of a summary of the story because the details have escaped me. But this is what I learned from what I remember.

And just recently, I decided to learn the lyrics to the song and use it in the vocal lesson I had last week. It felt very nostalgic somehow, when I was singing it, even as I was practising it at home.  I’m not sure why. Maybe because I first heard the song a few years ago, and you were here at that time, and I was teaching, and somehow, the song brought me back to that time? But somehow, it felt like more than that.  Like it was connecting me to something. I don’t know how to explain it.  But it was resonating with me, and within me, as if there was a bigger message or purpose in it.  Maybe you could hear it or me, when I was singing.

Intezaar- waiting… for you, Mom.

Love, Tas

Strumming for You

Dear Mom,

I’ve been playing my guitar, and it’s all really thanks to you.

Do you remember that time that I came to your place with my little three quarter acoustic guitar? And I barely knew how to play two chords. G and C, I think. Or maybe it was D and G, just because I couldn’t get my fingers to sit comfortably or accurate along the frets on the C chord.

I sat or almost stood on your couch. And I was just strumming the same two chords, very badly, I might add. But mothers never see the bad, do they? At least you didn’t.  When I stopped, and got frustrated, there was not even a hint of relief in your voice. I would have thought that anyone would have been so frustrated by the noise I was making. But not you. What did you say?

“Don’t stop. Keep playing. It sounds so beautiful. You should play in the Ismaili band.”

Haha. Mom, you could always make my heart melt. And on that day, I had no idea how much your words and that moment would mean so much to me. I had no idea how much that moment- your smile, your encouragement, the furry feel of that blue and orange plaid kind of blanket on the couch, and the warmth of my mother’s home would soak into me.  It had to. It has to. It is no longer there. I can’t believe that was only a few years ago. Another part of me can’t believe you have been gone over two years.

I have two guitars now, Mom. I still have the small one and now I also have a classical guitar that a friend gave me.  He wasn’t using it anymore. I play that classical one more because the strings are softer and the book I am practising from is geared towards classical guitar music.

I don’t play or practise often. But I know I won’t ever give it up. My mother taught me never to give up. Your voice, urging me to keep playing, stays in my heart.  I wish I could have played some songs for you- full songs. Not just a couple of chords. But I know that the chords were somehow just as beautiful to you as any complete songs. Because you just saw and brought out the beauty in me your daughter. It didn’t matter what I did or didn’t do. You just love me for me, and all that I was. You heard the music in me before I even brought it forth. You heard the songs before the were even played.

And so every strum, every note, every practice that I do practise is for you, Mom.  I will write some songs for you, to tell the world about you, and to also connect to you. Whether it’s with my guitar, with my keyboard, with just my voice or a combination of them. Or even if it’s just with my heart, I am going to make this music reach you somehow. I have to.

If you have been near me, especially in the past few days, you would have felt the surge of hope and energy and light I felt at reading this new book Crescendo, by Amy Weiss, I heard about through the Hay House World Summit.

It is precisely about this- about the power of music to transcend life and death. That there is no death, just transformation, and many lives.  It’s a beautiful story, Mom. I want to believe that you are at peace, and flying and free and resting, resting from the pains and worries and heartache that you may have felt in this life.  I want to believe you are always with me, but without any fear or hurt or regret or worry.  I want to believe I will see you again and again. And I wish that I could give a copy of this book to everyone around me.

And you know what the character’s name in the story turns out to be, right? Aria. Somehow, I don’t think this is any coincidence, not just for the musical themes in this book. Of course, that was intentional. But also that we have an Aria in our lives, in our family.  But I’ll save that for a whole other entry. A whole other story or maybe even a whole other life.  Many lives even. 🙂

I love you, Mom.

Thanks for the music, for making me believe I can create my own songs. All I want to do is to reach you through some of the magical notes, chords, sounds and silences.  I hope you can hear them, hear me, and feel me.  I just need to know you are okay, that you are well, that you are taken cared of and at peace.

Every song and melody and note is for you.

Love, always and forever,

Tas

…Something That Is Red

Dear Mom,

A couple of days ago, I was walking home near my place. And this cutest little child’s voice caught my attention.  I looked over saw this little girl, with kind of a bowl haircut, walking with her mom. They were holding hands at first.  It always melts and then almost stops my heart when I see mother daughter pairs, especially when they are younger. It makes me wonder what we were like together, when I was just a little kid.  And I wish I could go back to those times to really soak them in and savor every moment of them.

First, I could hear the girl counting things. Trees? Cars? And her counting would go up to ten and then her mother would say, “Are there only ten? Are you sure?” And so the girl would start again, her mother obviously trying to get her to practise counting past ten.

The girl started saying, “eleven, sixteen, seventeen, twenty!” and skipping numbers. It was adorable. I couldn’t stop laughing but they were behind me so they couldn’t see my facial expression

The mother was pointing out some things for the little girl to look at. It was so cute, the way the girl would react.  But I was almost in tears, wishing that I could get those moments back with you.  Wishing that I could just hold my mom’s hand again, whether as a child or adult. It didn’t matter.

When they got to another corner, the girl put out her hands and asked her mom to carry her.  Her mother lifted her up and started saying, “I see something that is…”  And I realized it was the same game you would play with us a lot. You know the one where you would call out a colour or a shape or a word, and say you saw it somewhere, and we would have to point to what it is that you were referring to?  Kind of like a parent-child version of Eye Spy. Yeah, they were playing that game.

I don’t even know if I remember actually playing it with you. All my childhood memories seem like such a fog. Sometimes, I think they are memories, and other times, I am not sure if they come from my own imaginings, or from photos, or from stories that other people tell me.

But this game in particular stands out, because I know that even just a few years ago, you would remind R and I about the game. I think you said that you would play it a lot with us, or especially with him, when you were in car.

So this woman said, “I see something that is red”, while she was holding her daughter in her arms and walking down the street. And her daughter was pointing out things that were’t red at all.  So her mother started laughing. She seemed to be pointing to all the parked cars, but they were black and blue. Until her mom said, “Oh yes, the headlights are red.”  I think it taught both of us something.  We both needed to look a little closer.

And finally, it turned out that a red car and the fire hydrant up ahead were what the mother was actually trying to get her to see. But I guess the daughter made her see some other things she didn’t notice at first too.

Thank you, Mom, for playing games with us, for pointing out new colours and signs to us, and getting us to notice our surroundings more.  I know maybe it was a game to keep us distracted an not bored during car rides or while we were waiting somewhere that was not within reach of other toys.  But those games planted good memories, good feelings, and a closeness between us that lives on in me still to this day.

I could be so sad about seeing other mothers and daughters play such games around me.  Missing you and knowing that that I could never bring that back.  Or, I could pretend that maybe you planted that mother and daughter to play that specific game around me, just because you might not physically be able to do it with me right now.  But you still wanted me to notice the red around me, the beauty, the child like freedom and the never ending love between a mother and daughter.

Love you, Mom.

Can you find more ways to play the game with me again?

Choose another colour or letter, or shape next time. And I will try to see what you are seeing.  It will be like you are right there with me.

Thank you, Mom.

You, Me and the Fireworks

Hi Mom,

The first set of fireworks for this summer are about to start. I heard the tester ones just shoot up a few minutes ago. Tonight, Japan is being featured.

I am at home, in my ‘new’ little studio apartment. It’s not that new. But I guess I feel like it would be new to you because you’ve never physically been in it. I still wonder if you’ve ever been in it otherwise.  I hope so.

I don’t actually have to go anywhere to watch the fireworks. I can literally sit or even lie on my bed, and I have the best view of them.

I wasn’t even planning to stay home today. I had other plans. But I have had a really bad head and neck ache since last night.  So I cancelled everything and decided to stay close to home.

Maybe, deep down inside, the only person I would really want to watch the fireworks with right now is you.

I know I never took you to see them, all the years you would call me and ask me if I was going. And I’m scared that you thought that I was going, with my friends or other people besides you, but that I just didn’t want to take you. That is not true at all. I never actually went to see the fireworks myself. Especially when I lived in North Van, which was most of my adult years.

I like the memories of going to the beach when I was younger, going to downtown to watch the fireworks. But I also remember being annoyed by the crowds and crazy traffic and I’m not really into hanging out in big crowds. I don’t know if you knew that about me. I figure that as much as you might have thought you wanted to go see the fireworks, that walking through those crowds would be hard for you too.

But I should have asked you. I should have tried to make it work for you. I should have found another way we could have seen them together, even if we had to sit in the car, or just be somewhere away from all the rest of the people.

So tonight, I think about you. I imagine us watching the fireworks together. Maybe you are watching from above, so as I look up towards the sky, and all the magical colours that will come sparkling down from each burst, I might see or feel something of you up there. Or at least maybe you will see me looking up towards you.

Did I tell you A. asked if that is where she should look if she ‘talks’ to you? It was the cutest thing. We went out for her birthday, and I had this scavenger hunt list of things to do. Some were little things like eat something sweet, or find out someone’s name, or cloud watch. (Oh, wait! We never got a chance to do that one! I’ll have to remember it for another time).  But one of the ‘hunts’ on the list was to invite Laila Mama (you:–)) to this day.  And she was adorable. I was a little afraid that she might find it weird. I don’t think she did. Instead, she smiled and looked up and asked if that’s where she can look to talk to you.

I told her that maybe everyone has their own way. And she could choose however she wanted.  Whatever she felt comfortable with. I gave her the example that after I take a shower, and the mirrors and windows get all fogged up in the bathroom, I write “Laila” with my finger onto the foggy mirrors.

Before I could even finish telling her the example, she had already started gently tearing up the little pieces of red tissue paper that one of her birthday presents was wrapped up in. And she spelled out Laila Mama with the tissue paper pieces all across the table we were sitting at at Brown’s Restaurant.  That’s your granddaughter, for sure. Little miss creative, and jhittee. You called me jhittee, but I got that from you. But that’s a topic I will save for a whole other blog entry.

Anyway, there are people on their patios and balconies- family and friends all laughing or drinking or toasting or enjoying each other’s company on this special Vancouver night. I know that’s all you wanted. And I am sorry I didn’t help you take advantage of these firework nights.  But I promise you that I was not out on those nights either, watching the fireworks without you.

I just missed them everytime as well. I didn’t realise what a special memory they could have held for us.  How magical they could be, until now, when I watch them from my balcony and wish that I could turn back time and have this be one of our dates- just you, me and the fireworks.

Do you see the shimmery gold ones right now, cascading down so gently, with splashes of red every now and again? Oh, not there is the big bang white ones, that burst out like gigantic flowers opening up to the whole city.  My favorite ones are the sparkly white ones that shimmer quietly closer to the water.  They make me think of heaven, what I imagine it to look and feel like.

Oh.. now he shimmering white ones have these beautiful tips of deep purple added to them. I’ve never seen that before. Or maybe I just never noticed them enough.

I cannot turn back time. That is going to be an uvsose of mine forever.  (It’s funny, or bitter sweet how these kachi words just spring to my mind without me thinking about them).

But maybe I can make sure to sit with you on fireworks nights like this, writing to you and talking to you as if some things have not changed. As if you are still with me. That everytime the sky lights up with another shot of colour from these beautiful fireworks, that I can imagine that we are both finally watching them together.

I love you,  Mom. Until the next fireworks night.

Goodnigtht.

Love always, and forever,

Tas

Everything Come Back to You

Every word, every book,

Every step, every trip,

Every page, every story,

Every Sunday morning.

Every bite, every taste,

Every flower, every gaze,

Every giggle, every tear.

Everything comes back to you, Mom.

                                                                                               ~ Tasleem

Every song makes me think of you- especially the ones about love or loss.

This one in particular, these days:

“Over and over, the only truth,

Everything comes back to you,

Everything comes back to you.”

                                                                                             ~ Niall Horan

 

 

What About Angels?

Dear Mom,

feathersThis is the journal entry I wrote to you yesterday on Mother’s Day:

I’m sitting at your gravestone right now on a beach mat you gave me a long time ago.  I keep it in the trunk of your car so I can pull it out whenever I come here, and sit more comfortably on the grass “with you” and for a longer time.

The tree draped over that little river area here has gotten its green leaves back. It is not so dried up as the last time I was here. there are crows milling about on various parts of the grass. Two in particular, just behind me, seem to speaking to each other. I swear they are having what really looks like a deep conversation.  Remind me to tell you another time what I have learned from crows over the past couple of years.

There were kids running around the grassy area, just across the roadway on the cemetery plot area near yours.  I liked seeing them smiling and playing. It made it feel less like a sad place to be and more about beauty and innocence of life, rather than the melancholy of old age and death.

The kids made this place feel more alive for  little bit. I found it curious though, how the little boy in the family wouldn’t get into the car when his family got into the car, ready to leave.  He just stayed seated on the grass with his head down.  I wondered what was going through his mind or heart at that moment.

angels4When his father forced him to get into their white van, the kid started wailing.  Maybe he was just tired, or was being stubborn. But sometimes, I wonder whether he was feeling something from the cemetery that the rest of the family couldn’t understand. After all, they say that kids can be quite intuitive or sensitive to that kind of thing because they just came from spirit, not long ago. Whereas, us adults have been so far from it for so long.  But who knows?  Do we really return “home” after we die?

And do angels really exist, Mom?  I’ve been reading more and more about the afterlife, about angels, and listening to talks by Angel “experts”, whatever that means.  And I’ve been using this angel deck cards- the Ascended Masters- by Doreen Virtue- more often again. Michelle bought me those cards many years ago. I had no idea what I would use them for, or if I would even use them at all. I don’t know if I believed in any of that at that time. I still don’t know.

But I feel like I need to believe in them right now. Not as a substitute for God or the Universe. But as additional helpers to connecting us to the divine. After all, let’s face it, God definitely has a lot to do on his own.

I’d like to believe that there are beings or energies that help each of us out during times of trouble, doubt, pain, or even times of excitement and adventure.  I’d like to believe in guardian angels and archangels to give me some sort of hope that there really is this angelic world out there after we pass away.  I need to believe that the angels help protect and guide us.  But mostly, I want to believe in something that can connect me with you.  It’s not that I don’t believe in God, it’s just that I need a ‘middle man’ to bridge this very abstract gap between us and God.  It’s hard to follow something you don’t see. And, though I know that angels are not exactly seen, I have heard that they can be called upon in a way that gives us a more tangible knowing of their existence or of the divine.

angels1I don’t know. It all sounds a little crazy to me too. But the bottom line is that if I could feel that angels exist, then I could believe that you must also have your own angels looking after you. In particular, I need to know that angelic entities guided you when you passed from this earthly realm into heaven.  I need to feel that you were assisted to not feel afraid and to just let go and be free.  I need to feel that you were assisted in any healing you had to go through along the way. That you were comforted and cared for and loved. I need to know that you still are.  That God and angels are surrounding you at all times, surrounding you and filling you with peace, happiness and freedom.

It feels strange writing “heaven” because I don’t know what I believe about it. I don’t know what YOU believed about it.  But I hope you are somewhere that is heavenly.  And quite possibly, you could be my guardian angel too, if you are not too busy with other things up there.  Maybe you and Mama and even my first brother who we never got a chance to meet or grow with- maybe you are all watching over us now.

angels2

I keep looking for signs that this could be true.  Like the sun keeps peering out every few minutes, shining a brilliant light onto these journal pages.  Each time I write another line, its like the sun light follows. I would love to believe that that could be you reading along as I write. Or maybe it’s the angels illuminating the page and words to take the messages back to you from me.

I love you Mommy.  I love you so much.  I hope God and the angels are looking over you and taking such good care of you.

Thank you for being my mother. It was the best thing that could ever, and will ever happen to me. Nothing could compare to you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I watched a movie at home last night before I feel asleep. The Fault in Our Stars.

Here’s a beautiful song from it which I thought was called What About Angels? Well, she says it enough times to make it seem like it could be the title. I am going to think of it that way anyway.

License to Believe

“Believe.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in the One who believes in you.  All things are possible to she who believes.  Blessings on your courage.”- Sarah Ban Breathnach

believeDear Mom,

I’m trying to find things to make me believe again.  To hold on to something that gives me faith in something, after losing so much of it once you were gone.  It’s hard. I don’t know how you did it. I know you had this strength and resilience in you that came down to a unshaken sense of faith.  But I feel like the way we lost you has made me come undone, especially my sense of what I believed in.

I try to keep reminders around me to keep believing. Even the sign above, which hangs on the back of my door so that I can see it every time I am about to leave my apartment.  I try to spend time with people who keep me believing. And I choose to spend time alone when it seems that somehow, the people around me seem to be more non-believing than myself. God knows THAT is the last thing I need. More non-believing attitudes.

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Sometimes, it’s not actual people or anything breathing that I look to to grow back belief. But signs.  Sometimes, they are billboard signs, sometimes, they are quotes or book covers, or inspiring Facebook photos.  But for awhile now, I’ve been looking to numbers, and license plates in particular, as little glimmers of hope.

Awhile back, just after you passed away, I remember driving and feeling lost, or maybe I was feeling lost, so then decide to just drive aimlessly somewhere.  I remember asking myself or the Universe to give me a sign that we are still a family together- you, me, and my brother. And I started realizing that often, in those moments, I’d see license plates with the exact initials of our names LTR or TRL or TLR around me, and for some reason, I felt that this was… hopeful.  That it was somehow reassurance that we are still together in some way or another, even if you are not physically here with us.

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I know, it sounds ridiculous. Even as I type this, I feel like rolling my eyes at myself.  But even when I would ‘forget’ about this little game of hope I had created for awhile, it would show up again,  at the moments that I felt most lost, or sad, or confused. Hopeless. And then there, out of nowhere, a car would pass me and it would be another combination- maybe RLT this time. Or I would find myself parking behind a car with some combination of those three letters. Or I’d be driving in traffic, frustrated or wondering why I took the route I took, but then there it would show up again- TLR. And so I decided that each time this happened, it was your way, or the Universe’s way, of telling me everything was okay. That you were okay, and that nothing can really split us three apart, not even death.

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One of my new favorites that comes up is the LMR license plates. I make believe that it stands for Laila Mama Rajwani.

But like many things that we can’t see and we have to just believe in, I do often find myself disappointingly reminding myself that it’s just coincidence. Child’s play. Adult Make Believe.   I mean, how can the Universe plant certain license plate combinations conveniently in front of me all the time, right? And who is this Universal power, magical being anyway, right?  Come on, Tas, I tell myself.  Maybe those letters are just very popular on BC License plates. Or maybe it’s just that my eyes see them more because I WANT to see them, but that they were always there anyway, and therefore, don’t signify anything.

I was in that kind of extreme frame of mind last year sometime. Really really down about beliefs and life, and almost mocking myself for making up these silly signs to try to alleviate my hurt over losing you.  Who am I kidding, I thought? None of this is real. None of this is proof of anything, I told myself.  And that night, I was so angry and just late for everything. I was driving around, trying to find a parking spot to make it to my dance class. Why am I even dancing when my mom is gone? I remember thinking.  What is the reason for any of this? How do I know where I should even be going or what I should be doing? Maybe I shouldn’t be here. I should just go home and give up on all of this.

And then I turned one corner, and there was one parking spot left on the side street a block away from the dance studio I was trying to get to.  So I parked, a little flustered, but relieved that I found something.  And as I was getting out of the car, I looked ahead, and became still for a moment. My mouth must have dropped, I’m sure. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, or shrug it off as nothing again. But I couldn’t this time, because on the license plate directly in front of me were the letters TAS.  My name. Or at least the shortened version that a lot of people would probably called me. But in particular, I thought of the way you said Tas [Tus] that really melted my heart, Mom.

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And it came to me in my head- you saying my name- at that moment, in your voice. And I imagined that you were calling out to me.  Telling me that if I am not going to believe in the RTL, TLR, TRL licenses that the Universe has been planting all around for me, that maybe this one would be a lot clearer that YES, we are still together. And yes, everything is going to be okay. And that you, my mom, are so well that you are able to plant signs, and even license plates, on the roads all over the place, for me to see and to assure me that I’m on the right path.

This might all be so farfetched.  It could be.  But I do still hold on to any of the moments when I’m driving or walking and see those letter combinations.  A couple of months ago, I was walking with a friend in downtown, a new person who had come into my life. I wasn’t sure about him or what the night would hold for me or us. But again, on a completely different road, in a completely different area away from the other dance studio site I had been the year before, I saw another TAS license plate. I smiled and told the guy I was with that I needed to take a picture.

Was it the same car I had seen the previous year? Was it the same license plate?  Or maybe it didn’t matter because all that did matter was that it was the same sign- to keep going as I am, because you, my mother, are still with me, calling out my name whenever I am needing it.

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Belief is a difficult thing. It is hard to prove. It is hard to stick by when you can’t see it physically or hold it in your hands.  But I realize it is all I really have now, to go by. And so I better take what I can- the signs that happen to cross my way, and hope that maybe, just maybe, my mother has planted them all along to let me know that she is still continuing on this journey with me. That THAT will never end.  And that she is able to look out for me and my brother now at the same time. So the three of us remain together, though on a different level, still together forever.