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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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.

 

…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.

Always Be Your Baby

Dear Mom,

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream about you and me.  I was sitting on your lap, not as a child, but as an adult. And you were rocking me or comforting me, and still being the mother who babies me. But the thing is that I liked it. Not just because you were holding me- though that was really nice.  But more so because you seemed strong enough to do so, comfortable and healthy and as if you wanted me to know you could still make things better.

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I was waiting for a class. It was some kind of class that I was nervous about- like an acting class or maybe some kind of dance or performance class.  And, without words, you wanted me to know everything was going to be okay.  I think that while I was sitting on you and you had your arms around me, I realized the door to the class had opened and I was going to be late.  I worried a little about that for a moment, but then I didn’t seem to care, because nothing seemed better or more important than to be exactly where I was, in my mother’s arms.

It was so different than most of the other dreams that I have had about you since you’ve been gone.  The other dreams are disturbing, painful, scary and don’t make me feel l like you are at peace. In the other dreams, sometimes, you didn’t know you had passed away. Other times, you were bleeding, or there was some part of your body that was not together with the rest of you.  Or you were tired or upset or I continued to make the mistake of not dropping everything and just concentrating on you.  In some of the dreams, I tried to help you, but I couldn’t for some reason. And then I would wake up in tears, or feeling guilty, or feeling as if my heart literally hurt.

And I didn’t know what to make of those dreams. Sometimes, I hear about people who have dreams of their loved ones who have passed away. That the person who has passed, sends down messages- usually of comfort or something more positive.

I started worrying that if I was only dreaming of disheartening things that felt full of anguish, that maybe that meant that you were not well, or at peace. And that is so hard to live with, or to not know the true answer to. And of course, the hardest part is to feel helpless in not knowing what I can do to make sure of your peace.

But then there was this one dream- the one about you holding me. And even if it means nothing, or even if I don’t know what to make of it, it is the one I really have to hold on to.  It just felt right- to be an adult and still be able to be comforted by my mother’s arms and her lap.  It doesn’t matter how old I get, or how much time passes, I will always be your little girl, your baby.

I am just sorry I didn’t let you baby me as much as you wanted sometimes, while you were here. I would do anything to have you put your hand on my forehead like you used to, to sooth my head. Or to lay on your lap. That was one of my favorite feelings.  Or even just to hold your hand or have you feed me a piece of cake, or to just sit near you or watch you sleep.

If you can hear me or read these words that I am typing, and you can findmothers lap a way to let me know how you are, through my sleep, I would love it if you could show up in my dreams sometimes.  Well, if I had my way, it would be all the time.  I just want to know that you are okay, and truthfully, not just because you know I want to hear it.

Send me any messages that you need to- whether they are positive or not.  I just need to hear from you. And of course, I do hope that you are at peace and being comforted and loved and pampered and showered with happiness yourself.

Oh, the comfort of a mother’s lap.  There’s nothing else like it. I hope you are enjoying the soothing of your mother as well.

Always your baby,

Love Tas

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.