On Mother’s Day

20190512_173309.jpgDear Mom,

This year, on Mother’s Day, I felt like I was procrastinating so much on what I had planned to do, which was to go to the cemetery and visit your grave stone. I wanted to get up, just eat some breakfast, buy some flowers, and head out as soon as I could, to spend the day “with you” or “for you.”

I showered and ate, but ended up puttering around getting things “done” that were so not important that I don’t even remember anymore what they were.

And I got really mad at myself about this. It felt the same way that I felt when you were here and I would tell you that I was going to come and see you or I had planned to do something for you. I just could never get around to doing it as soon as I wanted, or to be on time, or to get things done as well as I wanted for you.

And I think I have almost hated myself for that. I mean, you were and still are the most important person to me in my life. Yet, I would “put you off” sometimes without ever meaning to and I don’t really know why or how that would happen. I would give you a time I was going to come and see you, and then be super late. I would finally get to your place, and not be as attentive as I wanted to to your needs. Or I would be attentive but things would fall apart, and not go as I had hoped. None of this was your doing. I just couldn’t seem to get things together and I could never figure out why. You should have always come first. You were first in my heart but it didn’t always come out that way in my deeds. And I keep wanting to apologise so profusely for that. I am sorry, Mom.

And then here I was, doing it again, even after you have passed away. I just couldn’t seem to get myself together to get to the cemetery “on time.”

Things kept happening to “get in the way”, or maybe I was letting things get in the way, I thought.

But then again, sometimes, timing is a funny thing. Maybe it really isn’t all in our hands, and sometimes, that might be a good thing. Like maybe God or the Universe has a whole other agenda of timing set out for us, to have us encounter other “unplanned” things, uplanned by us at least. But maybe the plan is all set out by a greater force that knows way better what he is doing, and way better what is good for us.

This is what I mean:

I was getting side tracked. Looking for the ”perfect” flower, gearing myself up for the right mood. I even said yes to an acquaintance who I ran into in the little grocery story mall down the street from my place. She asked if she could bring over a candle she made for me to use in memory of you, when she heard that I was heading to the cemetery.

Her daughter was sick, and she was getting some soup for her. But her eyes became all watery when I told her about you. I didn’t realize she had also lost her mom. And she sounded like she felt a little guilty for not bringing flowers to her mother’s grave stone.

We both wallowed in our guilt for a bit while also trying to get each other to see the other side of things. Me assuring her that she had her own daughter to take care of and her mother would have wanted her to do that. And her trying to remind me that my mom would want me to take care of myself and would appreciate my efforts. I still felt guilty.

And I didn’t know if I should feel worse for delaying the time I would get to the cemetery even more now because I would go home and wait for this acquaintance to come by after she saw to her daughter.  It was a sweet gesture though. And as I walked to my place, I thought that I should give her something too. That’s what you would have done. So I gave her this sweet little illustrated book on grief therapy that Renee had given me just after you passed way. A colleague of hers gave it to her to pass on to me. So here I was planning to pass it on as well.

We exchanged our little gifts just outside my place, and then I finally set out to “meet you.” Or,  you know what I mean. To bring you the yellow roses I picked out for you, and the cute little yellow flowered plant I was hoping to put on Mama’s grave too.

My drive there was a bit longer because later in the day, the traffic was busier. But it was a beautiful day. Warm and sunny. So opposite to the last time I had been to the cemetery when the snow hadn’t melted and I couldn’t find your grave stone. And then I fell and bruised and scraped my knee and ripped my jeans. Did I tell you about that? It’s okay. Maybe I’ll save it for another time, or maybe it’s not important anymore.

Maybe it was just the contrast that was and is important now. On Mother’s Day, it kind of felt “heavenly” at the cemetery. By the time I had gotten there, many people must have already visited their mother’s gravestones earlier, because the cemetery just looked much more full of colourful, vibrant, newly placed flowers. And noticed that many of them were yellow- yours, Mama’s and my favorite colour.

I spoke to you at your gravestone for a bit. I might have even planted myself there for a short time. But I couldn’t sit still. I was crying through my words, asking if you could please give me a really clear sign that you are okay. I also was apologizing for being late, not just that day but for any days that I made you wait, including when you were in the hospital and I didn’t come out there right away every day. And I was sorry if you had already given me signs and I just wasn’t believing in them or missing them.

20190512_173431.jpgI looked around and felt around. I think I might have seen some crows and other birds come by. The little stream of water area near your gravestone was flowing again now, and the tree above it had grown vibrant  leaves again. It looked alive and happy. I could only hope that you have that kind of happy and peacefulness in you now too. But I still didn’t know. I laid down the yellow roses at an angle across the top part of your grave.

And then I got into the car and drove to where I learned from last time was Mama’s gravestone. Yours is in Brookside and Mama’s is further down in Benediction. In case any family members read this years later, Mama’s is 11 spots down from the Creekside Mausoleum buildings (11 spots east of those buildings. Of course it’s exactly 11 spots in. That lucky, magical number). And it is about 14 spots North from the Meadows area, I think.

Anyway, I finally found it and had the pot of flowers to put on it. And I decided to speak to Mama. I thanked her for all she did for us. At least that was what I was thinking about. But more than that, I thanked her for you. For having you, and for giving me the best mom ever. Of course, I know you had the best mom too, and I had the best grandma. 🙂

But then I reminded her that I have felt her presence over the years since she passed away. Somehow, I believe in her peace. Maybe because I knew her for less time, or maybe because it has been so long that over time, the signs were just more “felt” somehow. But I told her I was still worried about you and I needed a big, BIG sign that you were okay.

I am sure I was crying, again, through my words.

i just stood there, and maybe ended up looking around, “aimlessly”.  And then I heard someone yell out, “Laila, what are you doing? Laila, come back here.” I looked around. There was a huge Arab looking family behind me but off in the distance. They were in the Benediction part of the cemetery but not very close.

There was a little girl running around between the space where I was and the area where the family of around 10 people or more were standing.

Girl in grass3

I couldn’t believe that of all names, it was your name again that came up. And you know why I say again, right?

There was another time, a couple of years ago at least, when I went to the cemetery to visit your gravestone. And in another area, closer to where your grave is, on the way there, I saw a small family of about 4 people sitting on a beach type mat, on their loved ones grave stone. They looked like they were having a picnic, and were eating “with” their loved one who was no longer with them physically. But they made that person a part of their sitting in a way.

There was a smaller little girl with them at the time. And she was just make circles around them. I know that they definitely called out Laila to her. I was closer to where they stood than this other bigger family. So back then, I heard clearly that the little girl was named Laila. But I dismissed it as coincidence back then. I also almost took it in as a sad sign- a reminder that you were once a little Laila yourself, a little child. And that broke my heart thinking of how that child needed to be honored more, empathized with more, and so did you the adult Laila need more support and love and kindness.

But for it to happen again? Your name being called out again, of all names, for the second time, while I was at the cemetery asking for a sign? That seemed unbelievable. It couldn’t be coincidence.

Maybe I just wanted it to be true? Maybe I just made myself hear YOUR name in particular, because I wanted a sign? I was kind of far from the older girl who was yelling out to this little girl. So it was possible I heard the name incorrectly.

The big family was still standing around. And the little girl was still running around so I moved in closer to them, pretending to want to find another grave stone.

I got close enough to know that this time, when or if I heard the name being called, I would be able to hear it clearly.

And sure enough, the older girl yelled out what I think was her sister’s name, as the family were starting to move towards the car and head out.
“Laila! Laila! Come on. Let’s go!”

And I looked back at Mama’s gravestone and smiled through tears and thanked her. I said, if that was your doing, and that was my sign from you, thank you.

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It was so beautiful the way this little Laila was running around so freely with her long dark hair flowing in the wind, and her little brown booties twirling her around as if the cemetery was not a place of dying but a playground of magic and joy.

I hoped and hope that that is the freedom and joy and playfulness that you get to experience now.

I did go back to your gravestone, and I told you about this whole situation. I thanked you if that was your sign, and apologized if I am dismissing too many signs and frustrating you over it.

I can’t tell. Maybe I just needed your mother’s help to make me see things clearly, or clearer, because my tie to you is so strong and so deeply emotional. Maybe it blurs my ability to make space and see and feel fully your messages.

And maybe, just maybe, this time, I was not exactly too late. Maybe I was just in time… and all those instances that happened before I actually headed to the cemetery were put in my path intentionally. Because perhaps if I had gotten there any earlier or later, I would have missed little Laila, my sign from you and Mama, that my Laila is doing just fine.

Maybe. I can only hope, and wish, and pray. That’s what I do every day.

Love you, Mom. I hope you liked the yellow roses.

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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.

canada day2

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 :-).