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.

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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.

Journey Ring

Dear Mom,

20161011_173351Remember this ring you bought me?  You bought it from that jewelry shop that used to be at Park Royal- the North side of the mall.  Boy, that mall has totally changed since you’ve been gone. Sometimes, I really hate the changes.  Too much changes and then I feel I’ve lost places I could go to to conjure up more memories or feelings from when we use to just hang out at malls or restaurants. I know the memories should just stay with me, but I feel like the changes just remind me more that you’re gone.  And that is not something I need more reminders of.

At least I have this ring. So… you actually bought me a gold ring with an amethyst jewel in the center.  You knew that amethyst was my birthstone? Or was that just coincidence?  Well, I have such slender fingers. So do you, so DID you. 😦  But maybe not as small as mine. So I think what happened was that you brought the ring home for me and it was too big?  That’s when we went out to the shop to resize the ring.  And while we were telling the sales guy what we wanted, you must have put on the ring, on your own hand.  And I really liked it on you. So did you decide you should keep it then, or did I tell you that you should?

I always had to convince you to keep anything for yourself. You were always giving and thinking of others first.  But it looked beautiful on you- that amethyst ring. And you still wanted to give me a ring. I must have mentioned somewhere in the conversation that I really liked silver. The sales guy was on it, and he pulled out this little ring, a silver one, and it had these five little gem stones in it.  It was pretty, but I wasn’t totally sure about it.  Until, he told us the story behind it and its name.

“It’s called a Journey Ring,” he said to both of us. And as he pointed to each little gem, he said that they represent different journeys in our lives. And that the pattern of going from a small gem to a bigger and bigger one was supposed to represent going from one journey to deeper and deeper ones.

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You smirked and said something like, “It’s perfect for my daughter because she is ALWAYS on some journey.”  Haha! Oh my God, Mom, that was a good one.  And then the equally funny sales guy put his hand over yours and said, “Mom, we are ALL on a journey.”

I found it hilarious that he called you “Mom”- this tall, Asian Jewelry salesman in a crisp, classy suit.  I wanted to say, “Wait, she’s MY mom,” but of course I didn’t.  I know he was trying to be flattering and connect with us to make the sale. And actually, he did a good job of it, because I was sold by the story behind the ring and I loved its name. And I think you just liked that I liked it.

Did we get it resized there? I think we must have needed to. It seems strange that it would have fit perfectly.  That rarely happens with rings on my hands.

I never knew how significant that moment would be, how it suddenly arose as one so deeply etched in my mind and heart.  I was excited about having a ring from you and one that represented this travel bug I always seemed to have, and this search for something deeper.  Excited about all the future journeys I would be going on or that were waiting for me.  What I didn’t want to face was having to continue without you.  That is not something I was consciously thinking about at that time.  Because I know that whenever the idea did creep into my mind, I couldn’t stay with it.  It frightened me so much. I had to always try to run away from it or just brush it aside.

Since then, I have come to learn that there are many types of journey rings. It is not that unique of a name.  But my ring is unique because it came from you and holds the story of that day for me.

I’ve been going on a few more journeys than normal since you’ve been gone.  This time, they were all either in search of a connection to you, or in search of answers and maybe to escape the reality of your not being here.

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I have learned over and over that it is not something I can escape.

I have tried to imagine inviting you on the journeys, to accompany me and see all these new lands and people and sites and sounds.  But no matter where I go, no matter how far, or who I meet, I cannot fill the space that is left inside of me that only you and your voice and touch and your peace can fill. I am still looking for proof of your peace.

I don’t know how to find it. And when I am away, I feel guilty for not having made more time to go on and experience these trips with you. To experience new foods, cultures, clothing, and music that exist around the world with you.  Traveling has given me new insights, taught me so much, made me come back home with fresh eyes and a rejuvenated heart.  THIS is what you needed.  And I feel awful for not having helped you have those experiences. I shared this feeling of guilt with an acquaintance I met while I was away recently.

He told me that I no longer need to feel guilty because “Your mother is going with you now to all of these places.  She is probably thanking you for going on these journeys. Because all that you experience and see and feel through them now, she is able to share with you.”

I would like to believe that he is right. I really would. I just don’t know anymore. And I still am always looking for proof. I am sorry, Mom, for not taking more journeys with you, for not seeing more of the world with you.

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Places are changing around me, even people and areas around home are transforming into newer buildings and businesses.  But I will hold on to the little things, like my journey ring from you, to remind me of the journey that I was blessed to have with you.  Even if it didn’t involve flying to another continent, or enough shopping trips in other countries, I know that my best and most meaningful journey was the one spent with you.  All the moments, all the conversations, all the silences, all the laughs and even the tears.  The best journey of my life was you. Thank you, Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Water Bottles and Other Stuff

hot-water-bottleDear Mom,

I am at home but I feel really cold. Maybe it’s my low iron again, or just that the temperatures have dropped a lot outside over the past few days. Or probably I just take after you. We both tended to get cold quickly.  I even have your plaid shawl around me- the heavy one I bought for you years ago, and a blanket on my lap.  But… .I still can’t seem to warm up.

So… I finally made use of your hot water bottle. Well, actually, if I remember correctly, maybe you bought it for me many years ago? And then I kept it in my kitchen or closet and didn’t make use of it. Remember the one with the tartan kind of fleecy cover on it?  I think that I ended up giving it back to you a couple of years ago? I don’t know. I’ve lost track of time and memories.

Either way, I know that you bought it for either you or me.  And you LOVED hot water bottles. They definitely make me think of you.  That should be all the more reason for me to make use of this one, right?  I am sorry to say that it’s actually  exactly what made it really hard for me to pull it out of my kitchen cabinet.

It’s just not the same without you.  Hot water bottles, Vix Vapo Rub, Dimatap, they are all full of memories of you.  Or they fill me with feelings about you.  All the best, most nurturing kind.   Same with cold compresses on foreheads, or just your hand on a forehead, or you massaging any legs that were near you- whether they were mine, your son’s or your granddaughters’.  Your soft and warm touch would always make us feel better without even us realizing it right away.   So calming and soothing and full of love.  Everything you did was out of love.

That’s why it has taken me over a year to pull out that hot water bottle, and just as I should have suspected, it doesn’t really seem to work. Sure, there is some warmth coming from it but it’s short lived and not at all the same.  Something is missing.  It wasn’t actually the hot water bottle that was warming me, was it?  It was you.

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They say that it takes time, but I think they are wrong.  Still nothing is the same without you.  And it feels words each day instead of better because at the same time I find it hard to face the memories, I am equally afraid to forget them.

I went to Save On Foods today- the one in North Vancouver we always went to.  It feels like every aisle conjures up another memory of you for me.  The pharmacy where we’d get your prescriptions filled, the wall shelf that housed the high in calcium (but low in sugar) energy drinks we’d get you, the cosmetics area where you’d buy the same shampoo in the thin green bottles.  Or and new bottle of hairspray.  God, I miss watching you spurt some hairspray over your head to add some body to the top.

And of course, the one percent milk and ,multi grain bread you’d know exactly where to find. Oh, and bananas, and sometimes mangoes.  We could never leave the grocery store without bananas. You loved bananas.  And I think you loved buying mangoes for me, and to remind you of Mama.

As I write these memories down now, a part of me smiles for a few seconds. I genuinely feel some of those moments so deeply embedded in my heart and mind, that they seem impossible to forget. But the thought that I will never have them again, the actual experiences with you, overwhelms this same heart with more sadness than I ever thought I could feel.  There is a searching that I go through every time I am somewhere that you and I frequented often together.  Like when I am in some of those favorite places of yours.

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It’s like I am looking through the aisles for you.  Searching for you.  But then I remember that you’re gone.  Maybe I find bits and pieces to hold onto, because of the sweet smells as I walk by the fruit section, or when I pass by the white basmati rice, but there are also holes and emptiness that must make me appear so lost.

For a moment, as I am walking back to your car in the parking lot, I remember that I will never have your rice or see you get excited about cooking samosas again. And I know that nothing can ever replace that.

So as I hug this hot water bottle tighter to my chest, to try to feel you closer to me,  I realize I cannot magically squeeze my mother’s warmth and love out of it, or through it.  And I just watch as my tears fall down onto its tartan cover. It is the same hot water bottle, but nothing feels the same as it used to be.

Guiding Light- A Gift

Dear Mom,

A few days ago, I bought my very first Christmas gift for this year.  It’s for you.

20161126_120825.jpgIt’s a snowglobe.  Remember how much you loved them? You would always buy one for someone else in the family- your granddaughters or me, or even some of the new babies that your nieces and nephews were having.  I remember some of your favorite ones were from Shoppers. The snowglobes with the place to slide a photo into.  I could never figure out how to do it. I remember trying once, to get a photo in, and it just wasn’t working, so I guess I gave up.

I am so sorry, Mom, for not trying harder with those little things and also the bigger things. I know I didn’t show enough appreciation each time you bought another one of those globes for someone else.  I think I just didn’t think the other person would appreciate it enough or was old enough to appreciate it. And I didn’t like seeing you only spend money on others. I wanted you to get something for yourself.

But I see now, that you saw the magic in those little globes.  They are magical, the way they sprinkle little bits of sparkle and something like fairy dust into a little bubble and you can watch it over and over again.  It is beautiful. You were and are beautiful for being able to see that and wanting to give it back to others. To give people magic, beauty and to remind them of the importance of simplicity- to cherish the little things.

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My friend Michelle, actually had a dream about a beautiful snowglobe scene with you in it, just a few months ago. She said you were so happy and you were sharing that happiness with her, maybe to tell me about it.  She described the scene as fun, and free, and shimmering- like the sparkle of new fallen snow.

I know you didn’t like the cold, or walking the snow, but you and I both had a love of snow because of Mama. Remember how she used to make little animals out of the snow that fell in our front yard? Or course you do, you would remind me of it years later, from time to time.

So I have been searching for a beautiful snowglobe for you for awhile now.  Some have been too touristy looking- with bears or deer or Vancouver’s city life.  Or the globes have been too small, or are those kind that have a flat side, which I don’t like. And others just seemed inappropriate- too religious, too generic, too much like something I could just pick up in a souvenir shop anywhere.

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But finally the other day, I was walking by this florist shop and saw a few more unique snowglobes in their window.  For a few days, I kept showing up at the shop at the wrong times- when it had just closed.  But then I made it a point to find out their hours and get out to the shop to see if the snowglobes looked as beautiful in person as they did in the window. And sure enough, the one I had been eyeing for awhile, was still there. And guess what? Besides the sparkles that shower gracefully when you shake the globe even a little, there is music that plays. You just turn the dial on the bottom, like in a jewelry box, and this lullaby kind of music plays so peacefully and sweetly.

There is a figure in it- a young child, in a pink nightgown kind of dress, and she is on a sandy kind of surface. She is in bare feet.  And she is bending down to pick up a starfish. I just noticed that now, because you have to really look down into the globe to see it.

Maybe it is in reference to something religious. I don’t know .There is a painted figure in the background- standing on the beach with a shawl hanging on his shoulder. He is looking back at the child. And there is a faded scene of an ocean and lighthouse in the distance.

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Guiding Light. I bought it for you. But that’s what you will always be to me. I am sorry that it took me this long to acknowledge that that’s also what you have always been to me.  My light that shows me the way.  I am really counting on you more than ever now, Mom. I feel so lost without you. But I just have to believe that you are out there, or inside me, leading me to where I need to be and what I need to do.

It isn’t even December yet, but I always loved picking out gifts for you for Christmas. You are my number one – the person I think of first.  So even without you physically here, I couldn’t help get you a physical present. I will look to it- the music, the child, the words- and think of you even more each time I see it.

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Love you, Mom. I hate having another Christmas roll around without you.  I hope you are surrounded by lots of magic sprinkling down on you just like in the snowglobe, and that your inner child is exploring and creating and free to be happy and at peace.  I imagine you as the one in bare feet searching for treasures and starfish and enjoying the tranquility of the lapping of the waves.

Leaving Notes,… Just in Case

Dear Mom,

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I hate this quote that starts, “Those who died yesterday had plans.”  I know it’s supposed to make us all stop and think and go out and do all those things that we want to do before it’s too late.  Not to take life for granted as it says.  But all it does is make me ache at the thought of all the plans you had that week or ten days you were in the hospital. And how I took all of that, and the idea that you would just be here longer, for granted.

It is so painful to think that that day that you woke up and went out in the afternoon with the homecare worker to get groceries, you had no idea that this is how it would all go.  That you were going to fall such a painful and devastating fall, right outside your place and end up in the hospital. And even in the hospital, you had no idea that you were going to stay there, and never come home again. I can’t even believe I just wrote that. Continue reading

Storytelling

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“Maybe mom planned that one.”

That’s what I texted your son when he messaged me to tell me that he and his family were on the same flight to LA as your sister’s family.  Neither of them knew that they were going to LA the same weekend. I knew, but I never really thought about them possibly being on the same flight or even leaving anywhere near the same day or same time.  So… it seemed like a pretty big coincidence. Then again, maybe there were only a select few flights that day so it was not that big of a deal.  Either way, I wanted it to be true.

I mean, I wanted you, Mom, to be able to ‘arrange’ those kind of cool coincidences in our lives.  That way, I could feel like you are okay, MORE than okay. I mean, if you are able to make big arrangements in our lives from way up wherever you are, then you have to be pretty comfortable and happy yourself, right?  I don’t know if I believe it is even possible. But I want to believe it. I want to believe that my mom can still sprinkle her magic touch over us even if she is not physically here. stories5

Maybe you know that our family hasn’t come together much since you have passed away. Maybe you wanted to create some opportunities for your son and his family and your sister and her family to catch up or at least just see each other to make sure they are okay. Maybe you thought your son need some Sunderji time, or that the Sunderjis needed a little Rajwani time, no matter how brief it might have been.

I try to pass this idea indirectly to your grand kids too.  “Guess what I have for you?” I messaged your eldest grandchild.  “Oreo cookies! But wait, they are not just any Oreos. They are Special Edition Mint Oreos!!!”

“Omg!!!” she messaged me back. “Where did you find them??!!!”

See, mom, I don’t know if you realize this but those mint Oreos you used to give your granddaughter- they are really really hard to find! I mean, sometimes Shoppers has them, but usually only in the colder seasons, and even then, they are really rare and you have to just be looking or you just miss them.  And your granddaughter remembers when you brought a WHOLE package of Oreos to Khane one day.  You told her you had something for her, and you opened your purse. And she still cannot figure out how you fit the whole package in that purse of yours. But she remembers that day clearly.  And has often told the story of how you pulled out the unopened package and made very apparent that you brought all those cookies just for her. We can’t seem to forget that now.  Oreos, especially the mint kind, are ingrained in us as a special present from mint-oreosyou. Funny how I could never have imagined how much something so ‘small’ like a packet of Oreos has now become so significant in our lives.

So I messaged your granddaughter back and told her that it was the strangest thing- because it was- how I came across that recent package of mint Oreos. See, it wasn’t even winter yet. In fact, it was later this summer.  And I was at Shoppers, looking for some snacks, and I saw regular packets of Oreos and then the green filling on one of the packages caught my eye.  And I realized that those were the mint Oreos that your granddaughter was talking about.  I couldn’t believe that they were right in front of me.  So of course, I wanted to grab at least once package. They were even on sale.  But then I noticed that it was the only package left.  It seemed a little strange.  But I didn’t ask any questions, and just figured one package was better than no packages.  Because actually, no packages of mint Oreos was what I was and still am usually faced with.  I almost thought your granddaughter was making them up until I saw this one package.

I bought it and still have it kept at home, waiting to give it to both of your granddaughters to share.  But I explained to the eldest that the next day, when I went to Shoppers to see if I could pick up some more packages, there were no new ones that came in.  And even the sales person told me that they usually don’t come in at that time of year. And I have never seen any more mint oreos every since.  Is this not strange to you, Mom? How did you find them so easily, way back when and…  maybe… this summer? Uh hem.

“I think maybe stories-6Laila Mama planted them there on the shelf for me to see, so that I would buy them for you,” I told your granddaughter.  It was like they were a present from you, through me, to give to her.  But it was also like a sign that you are okay, Mom, that you are doing great, working your magic from far away to let us know that you are actually not that far.  I try to convince myself that they are signs that you are still with us and this time, you can be with all of us at the same time, now that you have “special powers”.

Again, it’s storytelling. I know that. I know that not only am I telling these stories to others whom you loved, but I’m telling THEM the stories to try to convince MYSELF that they could be true.  That maybe, just maybe, there could be an ounce of reality in them.

I know it sounds crazy to many people.  Hey, it all sounds crazy to me too.  And I often become suddenly sad after I hear myself tell another story because it hits me how highly unlikely the story probably is.  It’s just a coincidence, my rational mind tells me.  It’s just what you want to believe but you have no proof, I hear myself tell myself.

But it’s all I seem to have right now, Mom. And if another little story gets me through another day or another hour or another moment without you, then I’m going to have to keep telling these stories because the alternative- not

believing at all- just makes living without you unbearable.

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My most recent story is one I tell myself every day actually.  It helps me get up in the morning, each time I am faced with the reality that this was not just all a nightmare, that you really are not here physically.  I try to remind myself that you can still help influence my day.  I actually tell myself that I would like you to relate to me how you want me to spend my day.  I take that picture of you and me from years ago- I take it from my window ledge near my bed and put it on the burgundy shelf near the kitchen- every morning as soon as I get up.  I move the picture away from the sunlight so it doesn’t start fading more than it already has.

Then I ask you, “What are we going to do today, Mom? Who are we going to talk to? What are we going to say?   And where are we going to go?” And then I try to feel throughout the day for any guidance on these answers.  Yeah, I pretty much pretend that I can feel you leading me throughout the day.  You become my intuition and instincts.  I try to listen for it. Sometimes, it seems to work. Other times, I break down wondering who I’m trying to fool.  Like the other day, I just cried as I asked the questions, and hugged our picture to my chest as I moved it away from the window.

But I still do it the next day, and the next day and the next, even if I am fully in tears while asking and totally in doubt about whether you could ever hear me.  I still ask the questions. I still imagine that we can plan the day together.  And I will continue to ask every day.

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Maybe one day, I will feel a more clear and definite answer, one that really seems to be coming from your voice and your heart.  Until then, the stories are going to keep coming, or I will keep creating them.  It’s kind of what gets me through right now- storytelling.  It’s my way of not allowing our story to come to an end.  I refuse to believe it is the end.

 

Canada Day- a piece of cake…

Dear Mom,

Canada Day just officially ended.  And I had it in the back of my head all day and probably even last night, that I should make sure I get out to Save On Foods to get a piece of that cake you loved.  It was the infamous Canada Day cake they served to all their customers at the North Vancouver location.

canada-day-fireworksI did go out there last year, and make sure to get a piece for you.  It was “for” you, or at least the gesture was, but even then, it was kind of anticlimactic.  I mean, it was the excitement and pleasure you showed on your face and in your voice that made those cake eating moments the most fun. But now, I don’t have you to share it with. So… maybe, deep down inside, I wasn’t making a huge effort to go and get a piece.  At the same time that it seemed like a ritual type thing I could stick to, it also felt really sad.  And I just didn’t know how much more sadness I could take today.

So, I didn’t make it.  What I did was once I was up and had gotten some energy to head out and face A Save On Foods alone, I decided to go to the nearest one I knew- which was near Cambie.  When I got there, I was happy to hear that they also serve the same kind of cake. However, I got there too late. And the woman at the customer service desk was kind enough to call the North Vancouver location for me.  They also said that they were just packing up the last of the cake, so I wouldn’t have made it.

How can such a small thing, something that almost seems ‘meaningless’ like a piece of cake, now have so much significance to me?  I think the thing is that you never asked for much from anyone. But if you ever did hint at wanting something, it was always a simple, little thing.  Something I could so easily do.  Like taking you to get a piece of

canada day cake

Canada Day Cake at Save On, but, what really weighs heavy on me is that I didn’t always do it. I didn’t realize how big of a thing it was for you. How it would have just made your day.  And how now, my NOT having done it for you, especially the last Canada Day that you had, really just makes me feel so stupid.  You loved to see the parades and to have the cake.  You mentioned that you wanted to have some that day.  And I don’t remember what happened, or what I said. But I know I didn’t take you that year.  And I don’t ever remember taking you to the parade.

So now, Canada Day is tinged with a lot of regret for me.  On the one hand, I think of your most adorable face, smiling with cake in your mouth, so obviously enjoying each bite.  But on the otherhand, I think of how many years I could have helped to put that smile on your face over and over again. But sometimes, I chose not to take you.  And I am really sorry.  So so sorry.  You have no idea.

But I do want you to know that all those years I didn’t take you to the parade, it’s not like I was taking myself to the parade and leaving you out or not wanting to spend that time with you.  I just wasn’t out or up at that time. I wasn’t in the parade area and I didn’t make an effort for myself either.  I never got a chance to explain that to you.  But really, it’s not a good excuse. I should have been celebrating our lives in Vancouver, in Canada with you.

I should have been thank you every Canada Day, at least, if not every day, for coming out to Canada, and making a life for us here. You had to do so much to come here. I can’t imagine how scary it must have been. What a change in lifestyle. And how traumatic and sad it must have been to have been kicked out of the country you grew up in, in Uganda. To be kicked out of your home.

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You were so courageous to come here and have to leave everything behind. And just start over.  I know you did it for us.  I know it was so much harder and scarier and exhausting than you made it seem.  And I am so regretful that I never got a chance to tell you how grateful I am for what you did.  Mostly, I am regretful that I didn’t make more of an effort to SHOW you how grateful I am and how much you deserved to be treated with the most respect and generosity and caring.  I know it wasn’t easy what you went through. I know there are things that I will never have to go through- hardships that you went through- only because you made a better life for us coming here.  I am so grateful for my Indian background, for my mom’s East African roots, but also for her giving birth to me in Canada. I am grateful for being Canadian. I am grateful that you were able to come to Canada and have a safer, freer life here.  I am grateful forever grateful for you, Mom, the most extraordinary woman I will ever know.

Thanks for teaching me to enjoy and savor the little things, like a piece of Canada Day Celebration Cake.  It is hard to want to have it without you.  Sorry I missed it today.  Just as well, because it’s you I miss the most. And I’m not ready to enjoy the cake without the person that made it so meaningful.  Maybe next time.

Love you Mom. Happy Canada Day! Thank you for making me Canadian born and giving me so many opportunities to learn and grow and be safe and free as a citizen of this beautiful country. I wish you had had those same freedoms growing up.

My friend posted this article and video today.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-day-syrian-refugees-1.3661635

It made me cry along with the girl who was expressing her appreciation for being in Canada now.  She is a refugee and her and her family fled Syria during a time of war. How can I be so sensitive to a stranger’s  story of enduring very harsh conditions that I’m sure were devastating while she was back in her own home country, but not have realized that my mom and her family also fled really dangerous situation in their hometown.

It made me wonder what kinds of things you saw or heard or witnessed or feared while you were in East Africa. And that is a painful thought. You made it so easy for us to forget all that you went through back there. But that doesn’t mean you forgot.  And now I realize that just made you an even more loving Mom.  You tried not to burden us with any of what you went through. Maybe you blocked it out of your memory somewhat as well. But you still went through it.  And you deserved to be taken cared of especially after that.  I just wanted you to get all the love that you gave out back.  That’s my biggest regret. I could have given more, but I didn’t. I should have given more, but I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

All I can do now is show you how grateful I am now by living this life in Canada- of freedom and opportunities- in a way that will make you proud.  In a way that will make all you did for us worth it. And I promise I will keep remembering how lucky I am to be born and brought up here.  How lucky I am to be born from you.

justin trudeau canada day

And guess what else Canada has to celebrate? Probably the finest Prime Minister we’ve had. And how fitting that he is warming hearts and celebrating Canada and helping more people like that Syrian family in the video being welcomed into our country.  Because if my understanding is correct, it was his father who helped you guys and other Ismailis come into Canada so smoothly.  Another reason I like Justin Trudeau. I know you would have REALLY liked him.

It’s still  shocks me that you’re not here to witness all of this.  I still can’t believe you’re gone.  But I’m trying to make you proud, Mom. It’s just hard without you by my side.  But I’m just going to keep believing that you are somewhere around me, …just in a different form now.

And I hope you’re allowed to have all the cake and chai you want, where you are, so that the Save On Cake is nothing compared to what you get to indulge in :-).

 

Mom’s the WORLD

I wrote this many years ago for a contest in a newspaper.  I remember that the story was one of the winning ones, and the prize was something to do with a spa treatment or pampering package. I don’t remember if my mom and I used it together. I donmom5‘t even remember if my mom read through this whole piece. Or if she did, I wonder if she understood all of it. Maybe I just briefly told her about it out loud.

But now that I found this,  in my mother’s storage locker with some other course work and writing I had shoved away in a box there, I feel I owe my mom an apology.  For any of the times that I might have seemed embarrassed about something you did or said, or any of the times I might not have stood up for you or seemed as proud of you as I was, I am so deeply sorry. It was me who was actually the embarrassment in those moments.  I had the greatest mother in the world. And I wish I had told you, and showed you, every moment, every day when I had the chance.  Mom your really were and still are THE WORLD to me.

——————————

My mother sat at the window seat of my narrow dorm room, her small feet dangling just inches off the speckled carpet.  Her curly brown hair, and the thick, burgundy shawl draped over her shoulders blocked my view of the other students milling about on the college grounds.

“Don’t worry about me,” she said, patting the cushion underneath her, “I’ll just sleep here.”mom3

I was supposed to spend my first week at Lancaster University participating in orientation activities, meeting my flat mates, and taking in the gorgeous greenery that blanketed the English county.  Instead, I rolled my eyes as my mother unpacked one of her bags.  What looked like a pharmacy rolled out of it- packets of tylenol, multi-vitamins, cough syrup and hurder (tumeric)- a chalky, mustard yellow Indian spice which my mom swore was the ultimate cure for any illness. I am sure I argued about how it was just going to weigh me down.

I tried to remind myself that she was only staying for a couple of days.  And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  We had never really traveled together, so we could get up early and tour around town.  But all I can recall seeing of Lancashire during those few days were endless grocery store aisles.  My mother dragged me out to buy fruits, vegetables, and cleaning supplies so that she could sanitize my room.  She even set up the kitchen for me- a kitchen that was shared between fifteen other college students, none of which were being followed by their frantic mothers.

I collapsed on my bed, looking up at the ceiling.  When my mother asked me, for the third time, if she could make me a cup of tea, I threw my arms up in the air and stomped out of my room.  I don’t remember what it was that I said to her at that moment, but her watery eyes stuck with me for a long time afterwards.

mom6For the next couple of days, my mom sat in the kitchen alone, warming her hands with a cup of tea, while I was out spending time with strangers who I never really ended up keeping in touch later.

One afternoon, one of my flatmates Lydia, knocked on my door.  While licking her chocolate covered fingers, she said, “Your mom came over to my room this morning.”

Panic struck my face as I wondered what my mom had done this time.

“She’s so sweet,” said Lydia, “She gave me these delicious chocolates, and then asked if I would take care of you.  You’re really luck to have such a thoughtful mother.”

A sudden knot gripped my stomach.  It was different this time. Not embarrassment towards her, but complete shame at my own behavior towards her.

I don’t even remember saying goodbye to mother, but I won’t forget what it felt like to sit in my room alone, once she was gone.mom1

I looked around me- the bed my my mom had made, the sink she always waited so patiently to use after me, and that bench where she slept. How did she even squeeze herself onto it, and how could I have allowed her to? Though I could now see clearly out the window, I didn’t feel any desire to.  Instead, I sat down at the bench, hugging my knees to my chest.

Over the next few months, Lydia became one of my closest friends.  Even though we didn’t have much in common, we had a connection between us- the promise she had made to my mother.  My mom and I kept in touch while I was away, and one day, she sent me a package.  I gagged as I opened the box- the pungent stench of more Indian concoctions, combined with Vicks Vapo Rub and Tetley Tea -wafted through the air.  “You sent me TEA in England, mom?  What were you thinking?” I remember asking her.

But shortly after, many of us in the dorm fell sick, and I ended up using all of the contents of that package.  My flatmates were impressed at how quickly the cold remedies kicked in.  And somehow, none of the British teas compared to the tea bags that my mom had sent.

Since then, I have traveled, moved out on my own, and have become a teacher.  Nevertheless, it is my mother who has been the most important teacher in my life.  She has been a mom, a dad, a friend, and an inspiration to  me.

She came to Canada, after being kicked out of her home in Uganda, with nothing more than her baby boy, her family and her traditional Indian values.  My mom had never ridden an escalator, was unfamiliar with the city of Vancouver, and had only worked at her father’s shop in East Africa.

mom2How my mother managed to get a job, find her way around a new city, with new customs and new cultures, raise two kids, and completely readjust the lifestyle and patterns of thinking that she had grown up with, astounds me.  But most of all, her strength to still enjoy each day and keep smiling, even after the loss of her own mother, reminds me that my mother is the strongest woman I know.

My mom possesses a particularly motherly magic.  She can sense what I’m feeling and protects me from any distance.  Even the cheesy Hindi movies she brings me, despite their Bollywood bombast, are carefully chosen with messages of guidance and comfort.  It amazes me that my mother knows the exact story lines in the movies I need at various times in my life, without either one of us having to say a single word.

Last fall, my mother and I finally went on our very first trip together- to Harrison Hot Springs.  During the car drive there, my mom revealed some childho

tea and toast

od secrets, and we laughed at memories of my brother and I fighting for her attention.  At the resort, my mother and I pampered ourselves with massaged and pedicures, a

nd relaxed in the steamy whirlpools.  We also slipped on sequined tops and high heels for the dinners in the elegant dining hall.  And at the end of every night, we made sure to sit near the window and share a warm pot of tea in soothing silence.