Laila, oh Leila, Layla

Laila1Dear Mom,

Besides latching onto hearing your name called out in a cemetery as a sign that you’re okay, I also have been following your name around in terms of other types of signs.

The first one I remember is when I was apartment hunting. After you passed away, just after actually, I needed to look for a new place to live because my previous roommate was selling the place I was living in.

I didn’t know whether I was going to stay in North Vancouver or move to some other area. All I knew is that I was feeling lost. You had just passed away. I was devastated (and some would say I still am after four years). But I was in shock of a different kind back then, and I had to move, and I didn’t know how I was going to afford paying for just a room in a shared place (which I was getting an amazing deal for) compared to living in my own place somewhere else.

I was pretty certain I could not live with roommates anymore, mostly because I needed to do my own grieving, healing and just be allowed to be sad without worrying that someone around me would be brought down by it. I needed to be on my own and figure out… well,  my life. I didn’t know how to live it without you and frankly, I still don’t. But I just take each day as it comes.

Anyway, I was looking in the paper or on craigslist- I can’t even remember- for apartments.

And then I was also just driving around to see what was available.

I ended up being really drawn to this apartment for rent in the Joyce Station area. It’s not even a spot that I would have thought of before. But firstly, the rent was way more reasonable than any of the other places I was looking at, the place seemed pretty decent from what I heard and saw in the pictures and from the person renting it out. But mostly, what made me think that this is the place I needed to move into was that the girl who was currently in it- who was advertising it- her name was Laila. I can’t remember if she spelled it the same way your name was spelled or if it was with an e. I think it was Laila. Same as yours.

Laila ShirtAnd so of course, a big part of me was hoping that this was somehow ordained by you. So not only was I being led to the apartment that I needed to find, but I also was maybe getting a sign that you are always with me, and that you are so okay and well and happy, that you were already helping me find the right place for me to move into.

Well, that apartment didn’t work out for me. I actually really liked it. It was really cute, and I ended up meeting that Laila. She was a sweet, beautiful young girl. Her and her boyfriend were moving out together into a bigger place. I told her the story of how and why I was drawn to her apartment, and her name. She seemed to empathize with me and hoped that I would get the apartment.

The choice wasn’t up to her. I guess it was the manager’s decision and it turned out that there were a few other people on the list of potential tenants before me. Someone else got chosen for that place.

Though it would have been less costly to stay there, I ended up choosing the place I am in now instead. It is in an area that I love, and is probably safer and allows me more interaction with people and freedom to sing in my apartment (which has somehow become a huge part of my life these days).

The place near Joyce Station would have been way more affordable, but maybe not in the long run since it is further out from the center of town. Mostly, I liked the association with your name at that time and I somehow thought I was losing not only the opportunity to stay there, but also the hope that you had something to do with it. I wanted to believe that your name and you led me there.

But my current place is owned by Ismailis, and is so close to the first elementary school I went to, and to the area where we grew up in the first few years of my life. In that sense, it brings me back to you, and connects me to childhood memories or surroundings that I think I may have otherwise had forgotten.

Though there isn’t a particular Laila in this building that I know of, I would still like to think that you somehow led me here. This place brings me peace. I have helpful and kind neighbors.  I feel a lot of freedom and security here. The tree lined streets, quaint coffee shops, convenient grocery and drugstores, and a reminder of where i came from surrounds me. A reminder of the “simple” life, living with you growing up here, and having had a mom who raised me without having much herself.

I don’t know how you did it, Mom.

But I am grateful for it and you every day. And Laila is still the name that rings in my heart always. I pick up on it in all its forms and spellings, but especially the “ai” version. Sometimes, I see it in books- as a name of an author or character. Other times, it’s on advertisements for performances- especially middle eastern dance or music. And sometimes, I just keep my ears open for the name in case the wind whispers it in my ear to tell me you are near. Laila. It is such a beautiful name.

LailaShirt3

I miss you, Mom. I miss you so much.

 

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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.

YOUR favor

live-life-as-if-its-in-your-favor

I used to love this kind of thinking, and I can believe it for myself. I mean, right from the start, everything WAS rigged in my favor. I got you as a mom. That is absolute proof right there.

And I still experience so much goodness, and “luck” and beautiful happenings that make me feel so grateful and loved.

But what makes me angry is that I feel like everything wasn’t rigged in your favor. That’s what I wanted.  Because you deserved everything in your favor more than anyone else.  It makes me so sad how the string of events, especially at the end of your life, felt like they were completely opposite to being in your favor. Why did it happen like this?

Why to you? You deserved everything going your way. You helped all of us stay safe, loved, and cared for.  It should have been given back to you many times over.

Maybe there is so much in this that I don’t see, that this was all for the good of you, that there were things behind the scenes that were happening that were for the best, the best for you. But I don’t see it. And I don’t know if or when I ever will. Because we just don’t know. We just didn’t know.

And I’m sorry I didn’t know, Mom. I’m sorry I didn’t know how to turn things around for you.  I wish I did. I wish I still could.

I hope that somehow, everything is so rigged in your favor now that you are enjoying every moment, peacefully, happily, without any pain, without any worry, without any struggle. Just lightness, just love, just sweetness and warmth and safety. Forever taken cared of. It is how you made me feel, how your love made me feel, always. It still is.

Morning Prayer- 3 years now

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.

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

~ Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi~

 

daisies

Dear Mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here it goes:

Hi Mom, 
Good morning. 

What are we going to do today?

Where are we going to go? 

What are we going to see?

Who are we going to meet?

What are we going to say?

What are we going to change?

What are we going to cry over? 

What are we going to laugh through?

What are we going to stand up for?

What are we going to believe?

What are we going to choose?

What are we going to create?

What are we going to paint?

What are we going to sing? 

What are we going to dance?

What are we going to write about?

Who are we going to date?

Who are we not going to date?

What are we going to achieve?

What are we going to dream?

Who are we going to help?

Who are we going to inspire. 

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

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

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

 

Everything Comes Back to You

Every word, every book,

Every step, every trip,

Every page, every story,

Every Sunday morning.

Every bite, every taste,

Every flower, every gaze,

Every giggle, every tear.

Everything comes back to you, Mom.

                                                                                               ~ Tasleem

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

This one in particular, these days:

“Over and over, the only truth,

Everything comes back to you,

Everything comes back to you.”

                                                                                             ~ Niall Horan

 

 

Mom’s the WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tea and toast

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Grandparents’ Day

grandparents day

Dear Mom,

A little voice called me up last week and said, “So, since Laila Mama can’t make it this year, would you like to come to Grandparents’ Day?”

It was your oldest granddaughter of course.

I must have paused for a moment, to catch my breath and hold back the tears, or the lump in my throat.  Maybe it was the sweetness of that voice, that I didn’t expect to hear when I picked up the phone. I didn’t recognize the number.  Or maybe  it was just in her asking me to attend an event at her school, in your honour.  But it was definitely not because I was unsure whether I could go.  I knew it was the right thing to be there, for her and for you. And I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that.

I think I was just touched, for you mainly, because she started the whole question with you as the basis of it.  And I hope you can feel how much she loves and thinks about you.

The funny thing is that there was no hi, no greeting of any kind on the phone. She just got straight to the question. And she kind of made it feel like it was a conversation carried on from another day, or another moment, even though we hadn’t actually talked for a couple of weeks. And we definitely didn’t talk about any of this kind of stuff.

Without realizing it myself, I think I needed that kind of familiarity, that kind of lightness about the whole topic.   There was this definite sense that she wasn’t just asking me to be there, but that your granddaughter was acknowledging you.  Yet, she didn’t say that you were gone, or passed away.  It was just a simple, “since she can’t be here”.

Kids make things so easy sometimes.

And I have decided that on some days, that’s how I need to look at it.  That I need to focus a little less on the heaviness of your passing away, and think of it more like you just can’t be here for some things physically. But that you might very well be here through it all with us in spirit.  Maybe you were there with us at the school on Grandparents’ Day, even though we couldn’t see you.

I hope you could see or feel us.  Were you the one who helped me beat the traffic even though I was so stuck before the bridge and didn’t think I would make it on time?  I thought I left early enough, but then no cars were moving for the longest time and I panicked thinking that A. would think I forgot or something. I even called the school, asking them to pass on a message to her, letting her know I was on my way.

There was really no way that I should have made it there on time, but somehow, I did- even after parking and getting up all those stairs to the third floor of the school, somehow, I made it to the classroom just before A. did.  Maybe you heard my prayer about it and helped.

Did you see A’s classroom, and her write up about Emily Carr? Did you see her teaching me her fraction puzzles, and reading me her art presentation?

And wasn’t she great in P.E.? Remember how I used to just do whatever I could to avoid those games in P.E. or just avoid P.E. in general? And you used to help me with sick notes? Haha! Well, A. luckily, did not get my lack of coordination and skill and courage in sport. She just gets out there and gets involved and runs around and participates fully with her peers.  She has so many friends, and gets along with everyone.  You would be so proud of her.  Actually, I know you already are.

But the funniest was when one of her classmates asked me if I was A’s grandmother. Did you hear that when the boy asked, as he sat at his seat with his grandparents sitting on either side of him?  I hope you laughed, Mom.  My response was, “I look pretty good for a grandma, don’t I?”

A. tried to explain that she was allowed to ask anyone to come.  I think she might have thought I was offended by the boy’s comment. But actually, it was such a great few hours.  I was so grateful to be a part of it.

Your older brother was there too.  I was so surprised to see him sitting in the cafeteria, eating cookies and tea with the other grandparents.  Chai and biscuits. That was your thing, Mom.  The more I write about the events of that day, the more I wonder if maybe you really were there, somehow.

Later, when A and her friend came back down to the cafeteria with me (I think they were doing whatever they could to miss math class-haha!), the head master of the school was speaking to all the grandparents.

I don’t think A. and her friend heard this part, because they were chatting and trying to negotiate how many doritos were a fair trade for a stick of kit kat.  I had given A. a Kit Kat bar which she couldn’t wait to break open.   I chose it because I know it was your favorite. Actually, every once in awhile I keep one in my purse, especially when I know I’m going to see her. Plus, I wanted to give her a little gift to say thank you for think about me and you on this day. Her friend saw it and A. saw her friend’s Doritos, so they tried to make a deal on how they could each get a little bit of each other’s treats.

The headmaster was reminding all the visitors what an impact grandparents have on their grandchildren.  He said he was reading recently about how grandparents can really shape the values that their grandkids can have, sometimes just as much as the parents of those same kids.

And I want you to know that you have definitely shaped A’s values. She has your loving, giving heart.  She is so full of smiles, is caring and sweet and she remembers you, and so much of what you said and did with her.  She will always remember you Mom. I can feel it.  You may have only had 8 years with her, but your impact will last with her forever. I can see it already. She smiles at every memory of you, and she says  your name with such warmth and happiness.

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And I know you felt sadness at not being able to build more of a bond with your youngest granddaughter. Not getting to know her, and her not getting to know you enough.  But she will know you, Mom. It’s impossible for her not to because she has all of us around her who will carry your lessons and love and memory with us forever.  Even in the less than three years you were around her, I believe that was enough to connect with her.  She got a sense of you which she will carry with her always.  And besides, your son, your eldest granddaughter and I, and the rest of your family will be sure to continue to teach little M. about you.  Your eldest granddaughter has adopted values from you,  and knew your love. You have shaped who she is and how she sees the world. You have influenced who she will become.  And she will carry this with her and pass it on and impact her little sister with it. So that in itself means that your light will shine on both of them, always, regardless of how much time you had with them while you were physically here with us.

Maybe you are already finding your own ways to shine on both of your granddaughters anyway. Knowing you, this can’t be far from the truth.  Those girls are everything to you.  And I know how much happiness being a grandmother gave you.

I am also personally aware what an impact a loving grandmother can make in a very short amount of time.  Say hi to mine for me. Tell her that I always think of her. I hope she knows that you both deserve a best grandmother award. There was no one like you two.  And there never will be.

I am so lucky to have two such beautiful angels watching over me now.

Please Mama, continue to take care of my Mom. And Mom, we promise to watch over your granddaughters.

Happy Grandparents Day!  I heard there is an actual Grandparents’ Day- an official day set out to celebrate grandparents, but it is actually sometime in autumn. But I am going to wish you one now since we had a mini one at A’s school.

Every day should be grandparents day anyway.

Love you Mom.

Tonight, I’m blowing you kisses from me, your son, and his daughters- your granddaughters.

 

Birthday Queen

Dear Mom,

I bought a gift for you. I know I can’t really give it to you, but I wanted to tell you about it.

It’s a crown.  It’s a little one – a Pandora charm.  I pick a different charm for different special occasions ever since you passed away.  And the crown is for your birthday because you were the Queen of our family, really.

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You kept us all together, you cared for a protected us, you were Queen Mother, Queen Sister, Queen Daughter and deserving of being treated like royalty. I wish I had treated you with all the respect, admiration and love that you should have gotten all the time.

I didn’t even show much appreciation for the Pandora bracelet when you first gave it to me.  I loved that you gave it to me, but I was feeling badly that you spent so much money on me. And I wasn’t really a big fan of Pandora or charm bracelets.  At the time, I thought it might look a little tacky to wear all these little pieces on a bracelet.

But now it’s one of my favorite things to wear.  And it has become really precious to me.

From left to right in the picture, let me know tell you what is on each charm that I’ve put on the bracelet so far.

The three leaf clover I bought in Ireland when I wanted to take you with me to Paint the Town Green.  That’s the name of one of my favorite songs, from my favorite band- The Script. I’ll tell you more about that another time.  It’s also St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, so it’s fitting for that. I am a big fan of Ireland since The Script inspired me and I was able to visit their home town and see them perform there.  And now I’m kind of a sucker for Irish accents. We can talk about that more later too. 🙂

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But yeah, that’s the first charm on the bracelet.  the second one I bought to match the round green one that you bought me with the bracelet. The one I chose has a little more aqua marine colour in it, and I didn’t realize until much later that it has these four leaf clover shapes on it too. So it kind of matched the Ireland charm. I think I chose that one for your birthday last year, just after you passed away.

Then there’s the center piece of the bracelet- the dangling, silver oval frame shape that has the words “Loving Mother” inside.  I love that one! It’s so perfect for you.  I think I bought that one for Mother’s Day for you last year. In memory of you being the best mother I could have asked for.

Then there’s the crown I bought for you for your special day today.  I didn’t realize until last night that the engraving along the edge says Snow White. Oops. Oh well, maybe I can find something fitting about Snow White that might be able to connect to you.  Or maybe it’s enough that it’s a fairy tale idea of magic, beauty, strength and an revered female. That would be you.  Plus, I like when you sparkled in your gold jewelry or bright colours like your yellow Panjabi suit.  You sparkled like a jewel. Which reminds me of a Queen and a crown. Also, we all had to listen to you, because you knew what was best. 🙂  Definitely Queen – like characteristics.

And finally, the last charm on my bracelet so far was a gift from Raym, Aria and Kat for Christmas. It has a beautiful engraving of a dragonfly in it.  They chose it because of the dragonfly necklace I wear all the time- the aqua coloured one that you bought me. The last gift I ever got from you.  I hardly ever take that necklace off, and I always get compliments on it.

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Oh yeah, it is a dragonfly. I know you and I both thought it was a butterfly. But I learned a few months later that because of it’s longer tail, it is actually a dragonfly.  Now I am obsessed with dragonflies because of it.

Thank you for all our thoughtful gifts, not just the material ones. But also the love and generosity and the sweetness that only a mother could give.  Those were the real gifts that the bracelet and necklace represent and hold.  That’s why they are so significant to me. They came from my beautiful mother’s love.

My birthday Queen.

Happy Birthday.

Love Tas

 

 

Champagne Birthdays

“…I know they bought a cottage
Just large enough for two.
My mother dusted it with love,
Baked sugar cookies, too.
I wish I’d been her neighbour
Who came for snacks and teas,
Who walked the back fence
Exchanging recipes.
I recall when I was small
She taught me prayerfully.
Sometimes I think my mother was
A little bit like me.
Of all the people in the world,
Much more than any other,
I wish I might have known her,
Before she was my mother.”
– By Brenda Leigh

 

Dear Mom,

In less than three hours, it would have been your 78 birthday.  That sentence feels so wrong to me for many reasons. The first one is the “you would have been” part.  I still don’t believe that you’re not here. It shocks me when I wake up every morning. Even in the middle of the night, I think it’s just the longest and worst nightmare I’ve been through.  But then I have to face the truth each day.

It’s hard. I want to stay up until 12am and call you right at midnight like you did for my birthday last year.  Better yet, I wish I could show up at your place, and spend the night so that we could celebrate together.  I would watch Hindi movies, or eat samosas, or go to Walmart or Shoppers or even take you to Sha’s Video and James Street Grill if I could.  I wish I could do all your favorite things with you to show you how special March 16th is to me, how special you are, and how lucky I am to have had you as a mother.

And this would be your seventy eighth??!! Really? Honestly, Mom, you never looked a day over 50 to me. And even then, your skin and hands, your innocent smile, and your warm heart were always so youthful.

Youth.  I wonder what you were like when you were younger, before I knew you, like maybe on your Champagne Birthday.  Oh my God, Mom, I never got a chance to teach you about Champagne birthdays!  It was actually a term I didn’t learn until just a few years ago, when Renee had hers- her Champagne Birthday.  She actually taught me what the phrase meant.

See, Renee’s birthday is March 29th, so the year she turned 29- that 29th birthday was her Champagne Birthday.  Your birthday is on March 16th, so that means that your Champagne Birthday was when you were sixteen. Sorry I missed it.  I try to imagine what you were like at 16 or younger. Sorry I missed what kind of girl you were growing up- what you looked like, what you dreamed of becoming, who you played with, and even your laugh or the way you wore your hair and what kind of boys you liked.

I know some little things about that time- things you told me like you liked to wear long maxi dresses, and wear anjern in your eyes to highlight them with a black line inside your lower lids.  But what were you reading in this picture?  How old were you? What was in the suitcases beside you?  What kind of room did you have?  When did you first start putting on make up?

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There are so many questions, so many details I wish I had asked you, about the girl you were before you were my mother.  I loved hearing your stories.  They will never be the same coming from someone else.  You always said I should write this stuff down. Well, now I can only write down the things I remember.  There are a lot of holes- things I don’t know, things I was scared to find out about because I know you didn’t always have it easy. And I guess sometimes, we forget that our parents were not always our parents. You had a life before me. You ran around your own playgrounds, had your own parents who looked after you, you had your own dolls and favorite places to go to eat or meet friends.

I only have a few pictures of you when you were younger. But they are not as far back as when you were a child. I wonder if anyone has those.  I think you all had to leave them behind when you had to leave Uganda.  You lived in Uganda. That in itself is incredible to me.  It’s like another lifetime for me, but it was during your life, a part of who you were.  I wish I could have seen it from your eyes.

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You were so beautiful and looked so free in the pictures I saw of you before you were a mother.  I couldn’t have been there for that time in your life.  I guess I should be grateful for that because I wouldn’t have had you for a mom then.  So thank you for having me. You were definitely there at my Champagne Birthday! That would have been when I was three years old.  I found a picture from that year, that birthday.  Look at the way I was looking at you, Mom?   You feeding me cake, my eyes fixated on you like you were my everything. You really were, and still are.

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I hope that wherever you are now, you are being taken cared of. I don’t know if you celebrate birthdays up there, but this would definitely be a day to celebrate.  Your birthday. It was the best day of my life, because it was the start of the journey of you becoming my mom.  And you coming into this world- well, you touched so many hearts and lives, Mom, the way you cared so much. You always seemed to be buying gifts for other people, never thinking about yourself.

I can only buy you something now to hold onto myself, for you.  It’s not the same, but I try to still pick things that I think you’d like.  I loved buying you gifts. I still see things around at different shops and picture you wearing them or opening them as a gift, or I imagine what you would pick to buy or try on. Oh wait, you never liked trying things on. That’s right. You just saw it, bought it, and I hoped it fit so we wouldn’t have to return it to the store in time. And you were always grateful you didn’t have to spend time in a change room.

I hope that you are showered with the sweetest gifts now.  Have lots of cake with Mama and Bapa. I hope that they are feeding you all your favorite flavors.  And of course, that there is endless chai to go along with it.

Happy Birthday, Mom. You are so deep in my heart. I carry you with me wherever I go.

I am not into celebrating my birthday anymore without the woman who gave birth to me. It just doesn’t feel right. But I will definitely celebrate your birthday in the small ways that I can in hopes that you might feel me thinking about you.

You are never to be forgotten.  You will live on in my memory forever. And everyone of your birthdays will be the most special day of the year for me.

Love Tas

Chando Mama

 

snowmoon

Dear Mom,

Chando Mama. That’s what you called the Moon. At least that’s what it sounded like.

I know you loved the moon a lot. I can still picture you smiling like a child, and stopping to tell me to look up at the sky whenever we were out somewhere at night.

There’s a bright full moon out this evening.. There has been a lot of news leading up to this night- because supposedly this is a rare Moon night. They say that it is referred to as a Snow Moon, sometimes also called a Hunger Moon.

I heard on the radio today that it appears every 19 years?!

I know I could look all of this up to see if it’s true, AND look up the exact word or spelling of the moon in our language. But sometimes, I like to remember things the way that I was first told them, or just the way they were in my memory.  I don’t need it corrected. I just want to hold on to what I heard or felt at that time.  This especially is true about anything that I heard from you.

So Chando Mama and today’s Snow Moon that hasn’t shown up for 19 years it is.

I never got a chance to tell you that the Moon has been so significant to me over the past few years in particular. Some might say it’s because I’m Aquarius.  We are moon-crazy, I believe. Some might say it’s because I’m a romantic. Moon crazy indeed. Some might say it’s because I believe, or believed, in magic. I think all of these could be true.

But, the biggest reason for my love of the moon is over the past few years at least, I swear I could feel Mama- your mom- in the moon’s energy.

I actually would smile at the moon and speak to it on some nights, as if I was speaking to Mama. I could just feel her. I don’t know how to explain it. But at those times, I just knew it was her.

I never told you because I didn’t know if it would make you sad, or maybe I thought you would just think I was being silly. But now I wish I HAD told you, because maybe you would have believed it too. And maybe, in remembering that now, you would find some ways to reach me through the Moonlight because you know I’d be looking  for you or Mama up there.

When I was traveling, especially in foreign places, and felt a little lost or lonely, the Moon always kept me company.  Even following it somehow led me to places where I ended up needing to be, without realizing it.  I felt all of a sudden “found” and guided, rather than lost or unsure. And something told me that that was Mama’s way of still looking after me, after us, as well.

But over the last year, I’ve been losing those beliefs.  I wonder if those moments with the Moon and with my sensing Mama were just completely make believe. Maybe they never happened. Because if I had had those feelings from Mama, then surely, I would feel you- my own mother- somewhere around me as well.  I have been searching everywhere. I’ve been keeping my senses open and alert, to see where your energy  might show up- in the moonlight, in a song, in the sparkle of the ocean or fluttering wings.  Maybe in the wind.  But I’m not sure if I feel anything.  I’ve even waited for you to come into my dreams, but nothing peaceful and reassuring has come from my sleep.

But tonight, I did find myself a little hypnotized by the moonlight. I looked up a few times at it, and felt… something. I’m not sure what it was. But I decided to talk to it a little, as if you were there somewhere in its light.  I guess this night of the Snow Moon is also going to be my night when I open up a little space in me to hope and believe again.

And why not start with the Chando Mama, right?

If I once felt Mama up there, surely you’d have to be there with her.

And maybe some days, pretending is better than not having a hope at all.

I blew a kiss towards the Moon tonight Mom, for you and Mama. I hope you felt it.

Thanks for the light, for the guidance, and the magic in the sky. I am wishing up on the many stars around the Snow/Hunger Moon tonight that you are at peace, and cared for up there.  That while you are watching over me, you are being watched over and loved the way you truly deserve to be, the way you always took care of us.

Goodnight Mom, Mama, and the Moon.  With my curtains open, I am grateful to be sleeping under your light tonight. I will try to make tonight a new night of believing.