Navroz Mubarak

Dear Mom,

Guess where I went AFTER dance class this time, instead of before? Khane! Yes, I know I said it’s only a few steps away from my zouk class, but I usually would drive out to the zouk social after, if I have the energy to do any dance.  But you know what I danced instead last night? You’ll never believe it. Rasra!!!

No really! You don’t believe me, do you? Or maybe you do, because you were there somehow in spirit and were the reason I even got the urge to do it?

I did tell everyone that I was joining the rasra circle for you, my mom.  It’s true. And I was with a whole bunch of boody mas- older women. And men, too. But mom, some of these women can dance!!! How do they keep it up for so long? I was exhausted after just a couple of songs. But these women in their 60’s and even older were just going on and on and on. And with a LOT of energy!

That dance takes a lot of cardio. Man. I had my zouk class before then, but we move in a less jumpy way. This rasra stuff was definitely taking my breath, or pumping my heart. And when you do it properly, it really works your calves. Who knew?

This older woman in front of me was trying to teach me, because I seriously felt, and obviously looked, lost when I first joined them.  And because I am a dancer, I wanted to not just get through, but also do some impressive turns and get the feet in rhythm and all of that. It looks easier than it is, for sure.  But I tried to get some spins in there to see if you might feel that energy, if you might be able to feel the reverberations of it. Of me sharing it with you.

I am sorry I didn’t have sherbet. You know I never really liked that stuff. Maybe without the nuts and stuff. I like stuff a little plain. I did have cake though. Just for you.  It was not as good as your cake though. No one’s ever will be. But that’s okay.  Yours and you will always be my favorite. Nothing can compare.

So yeah, if you haven’t already guessed, I went out there because it was Kushiali- December 31st.  They had a cake to celebrate Hazar Imam’s birthday. My friend and I were laughing because the candles weren’t being blown out. We were a bit worried that they would just let them die down on their own on the cake.

I don’t know many people at all in that Khane. I felt out of place, to be honest. Not in a non-welcoming way.  But just in a “what am I doing here?” way.  And then I remembered- I am celebrating for my mom.  I am sorry I didn’t celebrate Navroz enough with you,  Mom. I just never resonated with it. I felt disconnected from it. But I see now that it would have just kept us more connected. Given us more of an excuse to share more memories together.

But now I cannot bring back those days. I cannot turn back time to change the opportunities that I missed. All I can do is celebrate them with you in another way now.  I hope you can feel it, somehow. I hope you know that if I had the chance again, I would get out and have cake and do some rasra rounds with you, and even have sherbet. Anything to spend more time with and around my mom. Now I can only hope that you are surrounding me in another way.

Love you, Mom.

Navroz Mubarak.

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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

Live Life

Dear Mom,

Again, I haven’t written to you here in awhile. It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes, I have so much to say. I don’t know where to start. And I think that it has to be something in particular. Something worthy of talking about or different than the usual just missing you.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? I mean, that was the problem and now is.  That even when you were here, I thought I had to do something big for you in order to go visit. That I had to have some plan or have something in particular in mind. And when I didn’t, sometimes, I just decided not to visit, or I ended up visiting you, spending a lot of the time figuring what we “should” do, what I could do. But I was missing the point. There was nothing that had to be done or planned. I should have just been enjoying all the moments I had with you.  But I didn’t. I wasn’t fully present, or I had other things on my mind. Or I wasn’t a good listener. Or I thought that I needed to take you on the ‘necessary’ errands.

But all that was necessary was appreciating the woman in front of me. The only one I wanted to really put my time into. The most important person in my life.  And somehow, I missed that. And that is what is breaking my heart. There are moments where I remember being “with” you, like right next to you, but not taking it all in.

And the other day, I was driving over Lionsgate Bridge to head to North Vancouver. And I felt so sad that I couldn’t just pop over to your place and visit.  I felt so sad at the millions of opportunities I had to do that more, and I didn’t enough while I had the chance. And now, I have no chances left.

It’s hard to live with that.  I have tried to keep this blog more positive, and not always say exactly what I am feeling, in case someone else reads it and worries about me. I have tried to have a purpose to each entry, or a theme or a focus.  But, that’s not really how I thoughts come out when I talk to you.  It’s sometimes all a jumble of sweetness, regret, grief, fear, sadness, guilt and worry.  And I realize that the only way that I can really make use of this blog, of this opportunity to spill my thoughts on these pages, is to just say what is on my mind, on my heart.

It’s not really a blog for other people. Anyone can read it, of course. And I initially wanted it to be a record of memories of you that I could share with your granddaughters when they are older.  That they have something to read. But I hope that you and they will forgive me for making this also just a place for me to talk honestly with my mom, no matter whether the writing makes sense, is sad, or doesn’t really feel like it is going anywhere.

Right now, I need it as an outlet to just be with you, Mom. It feels different than writing in a journal to you, though I did do that often for the first couple of years or so.  Those words seemed to have gone into the pages and stayed hidden there. I am too scared to go back and read them. These words feel like I am letting them go somehow- like they are freer to soar and just maybe make their way to you through the internet, through the Universe, rather than tucked away in a book, in a box, under my bed, too closed for anyone or the universe to fully get a grasp on.

I went to a little craft fair today, near my place. All the vendors were selling handmade items like scarves and jewelry and soaps and even slime! Oh yeah, I still have to tell you about who in our family is crazy for slime.  I bought her a little for Christmas. I hope she likes it. I will tell her it’s also from you.  Although, maybe that’s not the kind of thing you’d want to give to your granddaughter. Don’t worry, I will choose a few other things that might be more up your alley to give to her.  The other little munchkin granddaughter has some cute things coming to her from me and you too. Don’t worry.  I just didn’t see anything that she’d really like at that place.

But you know who I always automatically look for gifts for? You.  No matter where I go, whenever I see some earrings or a nice sweater or shawl, or bracelets, I think, “Mom would really like that. Or that would look good on Mom.” I almost said that to one of the vendors today. But I didn’t want to confuse her or sadden her by telling her that my Mom is not here anymore.  Or maybe I just didn’t want to hear myself say it out loud because it would sadden me to say it.

Somehow, I will always be shopping for you, Mom. Even if I don’t end up buying the items, you are always still the first person I think of when I do most kinds of shopping.  You’re always at the top of my list. It’s going to be another tough Christmas without you.  I will make sure to buy or do something in your memory.

I did feel very sad  about it today, and I remember wondering what I should do about it. How to get through this slump that I am feeling. And then a car passed by me with the license plate LV LIF, or was it LIV LF or LIVLIF?

I tried to take a picture of it but I wasn’t quick enough. Was that you again, Mom, letting me know I need to get my butt going and just enjoy the life that I have? I hope so. Because that could mean that you are watching over us up there, and enjoying your heavenly days.

Love Tas

You Are With Me Everywhere, Every Day

“When I am gone, look for me in every star,

every moon, every brand new day.

I am not gone.  I am everywhere with you dear.,

everywhere the light gets in.”

stargazing2

Dear Mom,

Yesterday, I went out to run some errands, and at a certain point, I thought I was lost. Lost in my own city, lot in my own neighbourhood, I was wondering what the point of all this roaming was.  Lists of things I ‘needed’ to get done throughout the day.  How did these lists even get made? I mean, how did I decide what to prioritize over what? And why?

My heart just felt heavy. I thought about you and how that should have been my main priority. And now, it hurts to not even feel like it’s an option- to give you my time, or love or get that unconditional love back from you. I was stepping on the pavement along the street, but felt a loss of footing, ungrounded.  I kept trying to keep myself focused on my list of things needing to get done, and not get distracted. But then I saw these pretty little cards and nick knack gifts at this cute shop along my path. And I stopped in not knowing what I was even looking for.

It turns out, I didn’t have to go very far. I hardly took two steps in, and IT found me. I didn’t have to even try. The first card, staring me right in the face. Or should I say fluttering it’s sparkly butterfly wings into my heart.  That little poem at the start of this blog entry is what was written on the card. And although I didn’t have my phone with me to take a picture of it, or even a pen to write it down, I sneaked open one of the pens that were on sale near me. And I jotted the words down on the corner of a little scrap piece of paper in my purse.  Don’t worry, I put the pen back where it belonged.

Hopefully, the universe will forgive me for taking a second to use a pen that wasn’t mine. I just felt like it was meant to be.  A message from you, I hope, I pray. A message telling me there is no reason to feel lost. You are with me, everywhere, every day.

I didn’t search for anything else in the store. Didn’t feel any need to delve deeper into all the cute items all around.

I walked out, walked to the bank- CIBC of course. Our bank.  And because I still don’t really like using the machines to make bill payments and check my balance (I’m very old school like that), I stood in line, and waited for a teller to be free.

I even remember thinking that I must have a lot of time on my hands to waste waiting instead of just quickening the process through the automated machine. But again, I was meant to be in that line. I am so glad I chose that “longer” path.  See, there was this older man in front of me. I’m guessing he was in his 70’s? I am not really sure.

But he was waiting too. And while he waited, he spotted one of those baskets or bowls of candy at one of of teller stands.  I thought he was just going to grab one, …or two? But he stuck his hand in their pretty deep and grab a bunch. Greedy little bugger, I thought to myself at first. Haha.  I thought for sure he was going to shove them in his pockets or something before anyone of the bank employees could catch him (Even though there is a camera not too far from where we were standing. But anyway…)

And you know what he did instead? He put his hand out to me, to tell me to take one or some.  Awww… my heart just melted.  “Have some,” he said, before he even took one for himself.

“Thank you,” I replied. “That is something my mom would do. It means a lot to me. Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he said.

For some reason, I felt this need to add, “It almost makes me cry, because my mom passed away two and a half years ago. I remember she always used to pick up candy at banks while waiting in line, and give one to me and keep some in her purse.”

And he smiled such a genuine smile at me and said, “You know, I still talk to my parents, and they passed away a long time ago. We were taught that, that we could talk to them forever.  I came from a poor Irish family, but I was so lucky to have been brought up so well. I have had such a blessed life. Even my father never raised a hand or his voice to us. He didn’t have to. He would just look up at us and ask us to think about whether what we were doing was good or not.”

“Maybe you were meant to pass on a candy from my mom to me,” I said to him. “To remind me that my mom is always there.”

“Yes, she is,” he said.

And then he was called up to the next teller. And I tucked away the candy he gave me inside a corner of my purse, the purse you actually bought me, Mom.

You are everywhere with me, always.  I just can’t let it be any other way. I won’t let it.

I was, and still am, truly blessed to have you as my mom.

Love always and forever, Tas

 

 

 

Dance Me Free, …Spiritually

Dear Mom,

I ended up going to Khane yesterday. The funny thing is that I wasn’t planning to go, but guess what? The dance studio I really like to go to is only a few steps away from downtown Khane, literally.

I arrived at the studio earlier than I thought I would, and I had about half an hour before my class. So I walked into Khane just after first Du’a had started. And I sat downstairs, near the door, so I could make a quick getaway.

I know that sounds bad. It’s not that I wanted to get out of there, or that I didn’t enjoy any of it. But I have to take baby steps in getting into going there regularly, so I don’t overwhelm myself. And I didn’t want to be late for dance class.

This is the second time I have done this- gone into Khane before class.  I go in dressed very casually, but it works just fine at Drake. I like that non-pretentiousness about the Khane in downtown.  It’s a nice feeling too, to not put any pressure on myself to have to sit upstairs in the prayer hall. I just sit on the chairs downstairs, and end up sitting next to interesting people who either have little babies, or are unable to get up the stairs as easily, or maybe, like me, they like to sit away from the rest of the crowd.

Yesterday, there was a man who sat next to me with the cutest little girl. She was clinging on to him with her tiny little hands, and her little feet were all warm and cosy, covered up in the most adorable pink slippers/socks.  I just kept thinking about how you would have loved to play with her. Little kids always made your face light up.  And kids seemed to like you too.

There was also this older man sitting closer to the door. When he came in, he took off this thick woolen toque with a kind of native print on it. And under the toque, he had a very bald, shiny head.

I also noticed younger girls come in- in their teens and twenties. And some of them wore beautiful beige or black heels, while others were in comfy runners. Some had perfectly streaked hair- gold and deep browns and reds highlighting their heads.  While others had nose rings or jeans on. I loved the variety of people and outfits that walked through. There was no set way of what you should look like or how dressy or not you had to be. The feeling was just come as you are.  And that’s what I did.

You would have been proud of me, Mom. I didn’t cry once during the Du’as this time. I did think of you every moment I was in there, more than I already do each day.  And that is a lot, trust me. But I tried to just soak in the details of what was around me, just be in the moment, rather than getting down on myself for not concentrating or not sticking it out until the end. Oh yeah, I kind of left in mid tasbih, I guess you could call it? See, I don’t even know the terms. I think it might have been Chandraat yesterday, because everything was more delayed and more involved than a usual khane day. And I could have sworn they said something about Chandraat majilis in one of the announcements, but again, I could totally be wrong. I haven’t been keeping up on what is happening on which day.

I felt badly for leaving before it was done, but I was glad I went at all. And I think that is what I am going to keep in mind- the small steps I take to just surround myself with a little bit of that spiritual peace amidst the surroundings of the faith I grew up in.  It did take dance to get me there. And you, I’m sure.  But if it wasn’t for my dance class being so close, and being at such an optimum time for me to get to khane quickly beforehand, I would probably not have been there.

It seemed silly for me NOT to go, the way the universe planned it like this. Dance Me Free. That’s the name of my blog. Dance is even bringing me spiritual freedom, bringing me close to our place of prayer, giving me more incentive to sit with “my peeople” -haha!-  (too funny, because anyone who knows me knows that “my people” are not restricted by any race, religion, colour or culture. I am so fascinated by diversity and multiculturalism. But, you get what I mean, I think) and connect with your strong beliefs. To connect with you.

Who knew that Dance would bring me more spirituality not just from its healing and its powerful movement of energy, but also bringing me back to my childhood place of prayer.

Although I was a little late for class, I am sure that something about the peace and prayers that I spent in during that half an hour at Khane, somehow got me more connected and at peace in my dance class, in my dancing, definitely in my body, and in the moment.

I told the owners of the dance studio that you, my mother, probably is thanking them for choosing that location for a studio. For helping me to find my way back “home” in some sense.

Thank you, Mom. You were and always will be my home. So really, I am just always trying to find my way back to you and your spirit.  I will try to still be open to allowing Khane to be one of the avenues that will get me there.

Love, Tas

The Sufi Way

Dear Mom,

I haven’t made it to Khane much at all like I thought I would. I find it hard to get through even one Du’a (prayer) without just being in a bucket of tears. There are smells and words and sounds and textures- even holding a tasbih in my hand- that are so you. They remind me of you. And this should be a good thing. But they also remind me that you are not here to be the barer of them. And that weighs too heavy on my heart. So instead of solace, sometime being in our place of prayer makes me so overly emotional.

Don’t get me wrong. I think I have written this before, but what our faith and the culture you brought us in has taught me is invaluable. I feel so grateful to know that I could go to any country in the world, and if I walk into a Khane, I will be welcomed and be made a part of a community because of this commonality – a belief system- that we share or at least grew up in.

The problem is that I have so many questions. I have so many misunderstandings or “un-understandings” about the words and rituals and protocols we just follow. But I feel like I am following them blindly because I don’t have a good sense of what they mean or stand for. I do want to learn better. I want to learn not just for myself, but to teach others, especially my nieces, your granddaughters. I know they have questions too, and I want to help them find the answers, but also encourage them to find their own answers, and make their own choices. Faith should not be forced on anyone. It’s very meaning- belief- is about what we feel inside. And I want to feel a closer tie to this faith you so lovingly made a part of our lives. I want to do this also to feel a closer connection to you.

And sure, I haven’t been practising our usual Ismaili ways for years, in terms of customs or going to khane. But I think in my heart and the way I live and the way I treat people shows that I have those values in me.

And I found another way to delve deeper into Islam, through something that resonates more with me- Sufism.  Remember when I came back from that Sufism school that one day? I went to it somewhere on Lonsdale. And I told you about it that night or the next day. And you were so excited. I was excited too. But it was a little overwhelming for. But that and of course all those poems by Rumi, and my fascination with mysticism has just planted this seed in me that I think is my “ticket” into an Islam that connects with me.

Thank you for being so excited for me, Mom. I remember the way your face lit up when I told you about it. You didn’t know much about Sufism, as far as I could tell. But you were pretty charged up about finding me books or helping me learn more about it.

Well, guess what? I am now, Mom. I’ve been taking this online course called The Sufi Way of the Beloved.  It’s by Andrew Harvey, the author whose book I got sent in the mail. I think I have written to you about that recently. Well, he is a passionate speaker. And I was so drawn to his passion and the way he spoke about literature and spirituality and passion and … He had this one line in his description of the course. He said something about Sufism being transfused into your veins, and that just had me.

I have to admit, I have found a lot of the information quite overwhelming. It is a lot to take in and some of it, I don’t quite understand. Or maybe I have just never been a great listener to one voice speaking continuously for long periods of time. I need visuals. I need to read the words. I need to stop and think about them or discuss them. Otherwise, they all become a blur.

But each week, I took another line or another concept, or another piece of history or something that intrigued me with me. And it added up until last week where I just had goosebumps for the whole hour as Andrew spoke about Rumi. I think he is right. The other lessons and talks were leading me to Rumi. Rumi is my in to spirituality, to Islam, to getting back to my connection with my faith. And I am hoping it will help me find a connection to you.

I actually called in to the talk afterwards, and spoke to Andrew live over the internet. I told him about you. I told him about what I was struggling with, what my intentions with the course were. And he reminded me of something it sounds like Rumi taught him, or at least consolidated in him- that there is no death, really. That we are connected still. And that I can find that connection through honoring my name- Tasleem, which I know means surrender. And this is the reason I was so fascinated with Sufism in the first place, Mom. I never got a chance to tell you how after I learned what my name meant, I also found out that the Sufis believed that surrender was the highest attainment that someone to achieve.

And that has been my goal ever since- to live up to my name. To surrender to life, to love, to God.  I just never knew that I’d be doing this without you physically here. Or at least not this soon. But Andrew gave me some wise words of wisdom. He listened with so much compassion and gave me so much hope.

Thank you, Mom, for honouring our faith and being so full of faith. Thank you for being such a beautiful role model of spirituality. Thank you for bringing me up with this as my grounding. I am sorry that I may have never really showed much appreciation for it. But I was feeling lost in it. Not quite understanding it. But I am wanting to learn. It may be through a different route that most, or than you went through or that I expected. But I think this is more me- poetry, mysticism, dance, surrender, passion, and love. When I think of these qualities as being so embedded in Islam, that gets me excited.

And I am going to use this to get more in touch with you. I will try to update you with what I learn along the way.  The Sufi Way.  It is kind of intriguing, and magical, and gives me hope that something truly beautiful will come out of this not just for me, but also for you and me together.

Love you, Mom.

 

Little Rookie

Dear Mom,

I had a t-shirt that said “Little Rookie” on it. Why do I remember that? I barely remember anything from my childhood. But that, for some reason, has stuck out to me for all these years.

I don’t remember exactly what the t-shirt looked like. I imagine it to be kind of a Tom-boyish t-shirt. Something sporty like a character riding a bike or playing soccer on it.  Or maybe I am just making that part up.  I don’t know. But I do know that the words “Little Rookie” were definitely sprawled across the front of it.

I am assuming you bought that t-shirt for me.  Do you remember where you got it? Zellers? 🙂  It was around that age, I think, when you worked at Zellers.  What was that like, being there at work?  Who did you work with? Sam Uncle?  Did you like going to work every day?  Were there regular customers who knew you?  What was your favorite part of the job?  What did you really hate about it?  Why did I never ask you these questions while you were here? Maybe I did, but things have become so cloudy for me.  I know you also used to say that you wished you could remember more about our childhood and growing up.  But you had a lot to do, Mom.  That was too much to remember.

Besides, it is not the details of the days that passed that were important. It was the feeling. And I want you to know that you always made us feel loved and taken cared of.  I know you went to work each day to take care of us. I know you wanted to spend that time with us more.  But you were an extraordinary mom. You did everything- you were the breadwinner, the nurturer, the caretaker, the father, the protector, the cook and the teacher. You taught us a lot, mom, through your actions, through your love, through your energy. The kind of energy only a loving mother could give.

That has stuck with me, and will continue to stick with me forever. There were some words you used as nicknames for me. One of them was “Rook”.  Was that some kind of term of endearment used in our culture? Or where did it come from?  I was going to say What does it mean. But sometimes, a meaning like a definition doesn’t seem so necessary when a feeling comes across from it more strongly. Sometimes, the feeling is more important. So “Rook” took on its own meaning to me.  I could feel the love and tenderness you were putting across through the word or name. It made me feel very special. It had a special quality to it.

So the combination of that and the Little Rookie t-shirt made Rookie stand out in my mind and heart a lot.  You calling me “Rook” didn’t have anything to do with the t-shirt did it? Or did you buy the t-shirt because you called me “Rook”?  I am assuming it was only a coincidence.

But it stayed with me. That word. And the phrase “Little Rookie”.  So much so that in the past, I was using it for several years for passwords on various accounts I signed up for online.  It’s funny how these things get embedded without us knowing it, right?

And so… the other day, when I was driving and again was struck by the license plate I noticed on another parked car (you know by now, this has been happening to me often), you can understand even more now why I wondered.  I wondered if you again had anything to do with it. Or maybe the Universe planted it there to pass on a message from you to me.

The license plate said ROOKIE.

I stared at it and then, as I have done in the past, I went around the corner and came back to that car. Stopped in a place where I could get out of my car and could take a picture of the plate.  It was like I wanted to show it to someone. To have “proof” that it really showed up.  But then I wanted to ask someone if it was just a coincidence or a real sign. And I had no one to ask. No one that I would believe maybe anyway, because how would they prove that they knew?

I guess, once again, it’s all about belief. What we want to believe and what we don’t want to believe.

I don’t know what I believe in these situations anymore. But what I do know, and I’ve said this before, is that I will just break myself down if I don’t believe in something, in these possible moments of magic, between me, and you and the Universe.

Will I ever know the answers even at the end of my life? I am trying to live my life for you, Mom. But I can’t help with all the questions.  I hope one day, there are answers, and the answers prove that all these ‘coincidences’ I see and feel have not been coincidences at all. But just proof that my mom is happy and at peace. And that a mother’s love never dies. And my mom just wanted to sparkle each of my days with a little message from her telling me that she is somewhere beautiful, being taken cared of. So there is nothing for me to worry about.

Love always, your Little Rookie- Rook (Ruk, or Ruku) You always had variations on it. And I loved them all.

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.

Our Father

Dear Mom,

So our dad died over the weekend. But I guess you know that. I hope you do. Because maybe that means that you are doing well, and can help him pass through to ‘the other side,’ if that is even how it is referred to ‘up there’.  All these directions- up there, pass through, other side.  Is this even a direction thing? It’s just an energy thing, right. Not just, but you know what I mean.  Maybe there are no directions just spaces filled in the afterlife. No up and down or back and forth. But just around and within. Around us, within us.  Filling and energizing all of life all around us. Who knows?

I wondered why R asked me if I had walked to Steamrollers, when I told him, over the phone, that I was getting food. I realize now that he was just checking to make sure that I wasn’t driving when he gave me the news. Smart brother I have there, you know? Of course you know.

It was a very matter of fact conversation over the phone. Because how else can it be? I wanted to cry, but he was calling from Hawaii, and we don’t have that kind of relationship anyway.  Maybe that’s a good thing. One of us needs to be strong on the outside, and you know it is definitely not me.

But I cried after I got off the phone. I looked up at the sky, as I stood on the corner of Robson and Bute, and wondered if I am really here. Are any of us really here? I mean, this all feels surreal. Like we are on a movie set. But the thing is, we don’t know the plot or even our lines most of the time. We are just given them as each moment comes. And it’s confusing when it’s not the way you thought the story was going to go.  Shakespeare was right. “All the world is a stage.”  It’s just that some days, I feel like I’ve fallen off of even that.

I think these moments of someone calling to finally say that line you know he is going to say, “And he didn’t make it,” are the moments where I am forced to step off the stage and look at it all from the outside in.  And then I wonder how R felt when he got the call too. I know he loved his dad, in his own way. We just didn’t know him.  It’s a weird feeling.

Did you know that just a few months ago, maybe last year, or something like that, I learned that our dad didn’t have parents? I mean, of course he HAD parents, but he didn’t know them. He said they died when he was young. And he doesn’t know exactly how they died. A cousin or young family member took care of our dad and his siblings. But they didn’t have much. And it was too overwhelming for the cousin. Maybe too much responsibility. And the cousin decided to take his own life.

Did you know this about our dad, Mom? You never told us.  When I found out, I was so confused. Because I had gone out to Khane that day, in Burnaby, specifically knowing I was going to go out and seek out my dad. He was normally there and I had some things to say to him. Some not so nice things, after you passed away.

He first asked me how I was, and I said not good. My mom just died.  And that’s how the conversation about his parents came up. He just brought it up.  He said, “Well, at least you had all these years with your mom.  I didn’t even know my parents.”  Jeez, Mom.  Many things started to make sense from just those few words. Of course our dad didn’t know how to be a dad. He not only didn’t have a dad to raise him, but he didn’t have parents to raise him at all. No one to love him and show him that he was valued and cared for and that he needs to believe in himself.  He didn’t have an all in one set of parents like I did- a mom and dad in one little, strong woman- you.  I was lucky, Mom. I was so lucky to have you.

But the thing is that’s what I had on my mind. Here he was, my dad trying to just open up to me in that moment and finally tell me something about himself. But I had you on my heart. So I was mad- about why he couldn’t have been there for you. Why he made you do everything yourself. He said that he tried to stay in touch, but we didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him. We were kids, I said to him. You’re the adult! What did you want us to do?

It was a stupid argument, Mom. I realize that I shouldn’t have said all of that without knowing his story and where he came from. But I wanted to finally stand up for you. I wanted somehow to make things better for you by standing up for what you deserved, to let him know that you had a hard life trying to do everything yourself.  But that you still did such a wonderful job of it. But you know what? I think I just made things worse for him.  It probably broke his heart to hear me say those things.

I tried calling him the next day to apologize.  His sister answered. She had no clue what I was saying or who I was. She kept me on the phone forever, trying to figure out why I was calling for him. And finally, she gave him the phone. I tried apologizing. I thanked him for telling me the story of how his parents weren’t around and how his other family member who was taking care of him died by suicide. I tried telling him about my work with teaching highschool kids about suicide awareness and stress management. He didn’t seem interested. Or maybe he wasn’t feeling good.  I even thanked him for marrying you so that we could be born. But I think I said something like it allowed us to have the mom we had. And maybe I didn’t acknowledge his value or his part in all of it. No, I definitely didn’t.

I don’t know what was going on on the other line, but he didn’t say much at all. He almost seemed upset or annoyed, and tried to just get me off of the phone. And I felt emptier after that phone call than before I called. And of course, he never called back.

A couple of months later, or less, I went back to that Khane in Burnaby. I brought a black and white photo of you and our dad with me, to give to him. I thought he might want to see it. You both looked so happy and he was looking at you so lovingly.  Maybe it was also kind of going to be my peace offering. A step in reconciliation. But he wasn’t there. No one knew where he was. I was going to leave the photo with someone there, someone who said he knew my dad and could pass it on to him. But I didn’t give it to the guy. I wasn’t sure what the best thing to do would be.  I thought I should try again another day, so that I could give it to my dad in person and explain why I was bringing it to him. But I never did.

I thought about it many times, but I wanted him to make some effort too. I mean, I might be an adult, but he is still older and is still the dad. Maybe I was being stubborn. I agree with my friend Agata who yesterday allowed me to see that maybe I was still feeling like the little girl who wanted answers. It wasn’t that I didn’t care or didn’t want to be considerate. But there is still this little girl inside me, his daughter, that wanted to know why.  But I was too late, or didn’t try hard enough.

I know deep down inside, that I might have really been able to at least end things on a better note, that I could have come to better understand my dad if I had just asked him more positive questions like, “Were you ever in love with my mom?” And “Tell me the story of how you two met.”  But something stopped me from starting there.  I had so much pain in me over losing you, Mom. I wanted to first know how he could make such a loving, beautiful woman like yourself do everything alone. Even if you pushed him away, even if he didn’t have any money or was going through health problems, even if he thought we were not wanting to get to know him. I just love you so much, Mom. And I feel like your life would have been so different with more help from him, from all of us, maybe. Maybe this is just more about me, and my guilt of not doing enough for you. It’s like I am looking for other people to blame.

But look where it has gotten me? Another sad ending with another parent. Sure, he wasn’t the caregiver who gave us unconditional love and support the way you did. But he was still my dad. So… that feeling of the way I left things off on such a bad note is still crushing.  I wonder if I didn’t put more effort into sorting it out because, if I didn’t have the perfect ending with you, I didn’t want it to be a great ending with him. Stupid, isn’t it? But there was a part of me that always felt like I would somehow be a traitor to you if I went to my dad to find out more about him or to form a relationship with him. I wouldn’t have known how to. And I don’t think it would have felt comfortable. But I didn’t really try, so who knows.

Do you think he passed away not long after you because he really loved you? I mean, you hear about couples who were together for so many years and then one dies, and just months later, the other dies.

I know you didn’t have a loving relationship, and you ended things so many years ago on a really bad note. But, someone in our family, just after your passed away, told me that he felt that our dad loved you very much.  It makes sense to me in that even though he might not have been a good support or a healthy partner for you, how could he not love you? How could anyone not have loved you?

I wonder if your death, despite all the distance between you two for all these years, diminished him. Depleted his health and energy more.  I’m sure what I said to him didn’t help. And I feel badly for that. But do you think, when he crosses over to the other side, that maybe he will be very happy to see you? Maybe you two will be able to reconcile your differences and see things more clearly from each other’s point of view.

I was always on your side, Mom. Don’t worry about that.  But it’s kind of sad that I even felt I had to take a side.  It made things very complicated and confusing for me, not just as a kid. I don’t actually remember those years much. But more as an adult, who wanted to resolve those childhood issues.  And now,  I can’t ask either one of you about your relationship.

Maybe you guys can find a way to relay the story to me from wherever you are now. You might not be together, which is totally understandable and fine. But maybe you both have a way of reaching us now in a way that wasn’t there before.

I love you, Mom. Thanks for being my mother and father.  It was a tough job, I know.

And because of the loving mother that you were and are, I know you would have probably wanted me to resolve things with my father in a more loving way than I did.  I am sorry I did not pull through on that one. But please tell him that I am grateful for both of you bringing me and my brother into this life.  And we will do our best to take care of each other.

Love always and forever,

Tas

Dragonflies

Dear Mom,

I went to a show the other night with two of my friends.  But instead of watching the actors on stage, I found myself pleasantly distracted by the dragonflies that swarmed above us.

We were at Theater Under the Stars at Stanley Park.  And at first, I thought it was just one dragonfly.  You know, another sign, from ‘you’.  So I had my eye fixated on it.  But it seems that maybe it’s an area where a lot of dragonflies come to? I don’t know. That’s what I thought I heard.  And so, at first, I was a little disappointed. Like it was just a usual occurrence there.

Because you know I’m obsessed with dragonflies, right? And you know why? Because of the necklace you bought me on my la…, I was going to say my last birthday. It wasn’t my last. It was two years ago. But it felt like my last in a sense, because birthdays AFTER the person who gave birth to me is ‘gone’ just don’t feel like birthdays at all.

Anyway, you bought me this pendant and necklace. Do you remember? You were really sick that day. But we were in Capilano Mall. And you kept insisting that we get this pendant. It was beautiful.  A blue butterfly, we thought. At least that’s what I assumed it was. And to my knowledge, you weren’t familiar with what dragonflies were. So I am sure you thought it was a butterfly too.

I think about that moment now, and realize that either you or something in the Universe knew it was going to be the last present. Maybe you didn’t know. But you obviously felt very adamant that you were going to get me something.  Gosh, Mom, how that something became the thing that represented ‘everything’ to me.  Because wasn’t it only a couple of weeks later, not even, that you were in the hospital? I am so lost with time.

One day, many months or I don’t know how long after that, I went to get a massage in lower Lonsdale.  The girl who usually gives me massages said, “I love your necklace. Dragonflies are really meaningful to me.”

Dragonflies? I thought. But this is a butterfly, isn’t it?

Then, she told me that she could tell it was a dragonfly because of the tail.  And we started discussing the significance of these magical creatures. Their blue wings, their light and airy presence, their unique look and especially how they are supposed to be good luck. When you see them.  And I’ve been learning more about them ever since.

  • I’ve learned that the Dragonfly is the world’s fastest flying insect
  • That seeing them more often can represent being more receptive to messages from the Universe.
  • People who have absorbed and retain the energy of the Spirit of the Dragonfly are often good healers
  • A dragonfly paperweight will help to bring harmony to the environment.
  • You can call upon the energy of the Dragonfly Spirit to your mind- for healing of emotional wounds and grief.
  • “The Dragonfly has a 360 degree field of vision, the eyes have 30,000 facets, each of which is a separate light sensing organ. The Dragonfly has a particular optical illusion called motion camouflage, moving in such a way to project itself as a stationary object, whilst moving at great speed, as a method of self protection against all that would cause them harm.”
  • The oldest known species of Dragonfly are 320million years old, and appear in fossils.
  • When a dragonfly shows up in your life, it may be a reminder to bring more joy and lightness in your life. It can also be a message that it’s time for change.

I can’t find any specific writings on it now, so I don’t know if I made this next part up, but I thought that dragonflies were a symbol from heaven. So I’d like to think that they are telling me that you are okay, that YOU are telling me that you are okay. And that you are bringing me this beautiful flying insect, out of nowhere, especially when I am feeling really down and worried about you, to tell me there is nothing to worry about.

Because it wasn’t just in Stanley Park that I saw dragonflies. What about the one I saw a couple of weeks ago, when I was really sad after an appointment? I was thinking about you and all the medical things you had to go through. Some of which I don’t know about exactly. And I felt so heavy hearted and teary eyed. And I’m walking back to your car. Yes, I still call it your car as that’s what it was. And right there, on a side road in Kitsilano, I catch something out of the corner of my eye. And sure enough, it was a beautiful dragonfly. I followed it, and imagined that it was also following me. We did this little dance between the two of us for some time. And then it kind of just disappeared into the bushes or trees, and it was gone, just like that.

But the feeling it brought me- the lightness, and weight it lifted off of me, stayed with me for some time after.

And when I think about it, I have seen quite a few dragonflies since you passed away. Even at the skytrain station, when I realized I took the wrong train and wondered why I was even there. Why I made that mistake. I end up being accompanied on my wait by a dragonfly, just whisking above my head. Around and down and up and in circles, just flitting about.  I didn’t care anymore about the ‘wrong’ train I took. I felt almost like I had gotten a little taste of heaven in that moment. And I hope that heavenly message was from you.

So many people now know about my obsession with dragonflies. One of my friends from a grief therapy group I went to just months after you passed away sends me messages whenever she encounters dragonflies. She says she thinks of me and you at those times.

And even A. and K. and R. chose a dragonfly charm for my Pandora Bracelet (yes, the bracelet you bought me), as a Christmas present a couple of years ago, because they know how much I love dragonflies.  Because of you.

Thank you for that beautiful gift, Mom. I get so many compliments on the necklace whenever I wear it. I haven’t been wearing it as much lately only because one day, I realized the chain had undone, and I was so relieved that I didn’t lose it or the pendant. So I am just being more careful with it now.

But thank you for bringing my dragonflies, the spirit and magic of dragonflies. I hold them dear to me, as a sign that you are surrounding me always. And that you are surrounded by those and even more beautiful creatures and energies every moment of every day.   That you just send down a little taste of all the beauty that is around you now in heaven.

I love you.

Tas