What About Angels?

Dear Mom,

feathersThis is the journal entry I wrote to you yesterday on Mother’s Day:

I’m sitting at your gravestone right now on a beach mat you gave me a long time ago.  I keep it in the trunk of your car so I can pull it out whenever I come here, and sit more comfortably on the grass “with you” and for a longer time.

The tree draped over that little river area here has gotten its green leaves back. It is not so dried up as the last time I was here. there are crows milling about on various parts of the grass. Two in particular, just behind me, seem to speaking to each other. I swear they are having what really looks like a deep conversation.  Remind me to tell you another time what I have learned from crows over the past couple of years.

There were kids running around the grassy area, just across the roadway on the cemetery plot area near yours.  I liked seeing them smiling and playing. It made it feel less like a sad place to be and more about beauty and innocence of life, rather than the melancholy of old age and death.

The kids made this place feel more alive for  little bit. I found it curious though, how the little boy in the family wouldn’t get into the car when his family got into the car, ready to leave.  He just stayed seated on the grass with his head down.  I wondered what was going through his mind or heart at that moment.

angels4When his father forced him to get into their white van, the kid started wailing.  Maybe he was just tired, or was being stubborn. But sometimes, I wonder whether he was feeling something from the cemetery that the rest of the family couldn’t understand. After all, they say that kids can be quite intuitive or sensitive to that kind of thing because they just came from spirit, not long ago. Whereas, us adults have been so far from it for so long.  But who knows?  Do we really return “home” after we die?

And do angels really exist, Mom?  I’ve been reading more and more about the afterlife, about angels, and listening to talks by Angel “experts”, whatever that means.  And I’ve been using this angel deck cards- the Ascended Masters- by Doreen Virtue- more often again. Michelle bought me those cards many years ago. I had no idea what I would use them for, or if I would even use them at all. I don’t know if I believed in any of that at that time. I still don’t know.

But I feel like I need to believe in them right now. Not as a substitute for God or the Universe. But as additional helpers to connecting us to the divine. After all, let’s face it, God definitely has a lot to do on his own.

I’d like to believe that there are beings or energies that help each of us out during times of trouble, doubt, pain, or even times of excitement and adventure.  I’d like to believe in guardian angels and archangels to give me some sort of hope that there really is this angelic world out there after we pass away.  I need to believe that the angels help protect and guide us.  But mostly, I want to believe in something that can connect me with you.  It’s not that I don’t believe in God, it’s just that I need a ‘middle man’ to bridge this very abstract gap between us and God.  It’s hard to follow something you don’t see. And, though I know that angels are not exactly seen, I have heard that they can be called upon in a way that gives us a more tangible knowing of their existence or of the divine.

angels1I don’t know. It all sounds a little crazy to me too. But the bottom line is that if I could feel that angels exist, then I could believe that you must also have your own angels looking after you. In particular, I need to know that angelic entities guided you when you passed from this earthly realm into heaven.  I need to feel that you were assisted to not feel afraid and to just let go and be free.  I need to feel that you were assisted in any healing you had to go through along the way. That you were comforted and cared for and loved. I need to know that you still are.  That God and angels are surrounding you at all times, surrounding you and filling you with peace, happiness and freedom.

It feels strange writing “heaven” because I don’t know what I believe about it. I don’t know what YOU believed about it.  But I hope you are somewhere that is heavenly.  And quite possibly, you could be my guardian angel too, if you are not too busy with other things up there.  Maybe you and Mama and even my first brother who we never got a chance to meet or grow with- maybe you are all watching over us now.

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I keep looking for signs that this could be true.  Like the sun keeps peering out every few minutes, shining a brilliant light onto these journal pages.  Each time I write another line, its like the sun light follows. I would love to believe that that could be you reading along as I write. Or maybe it’s the angels illuminating the page and words to take the messages back to you from me.

I love you Mommy.  I love you so much.  I hope God and the angels are looking over you and taking such good care of you.

Thank you for being my mother. It was the best thing that could ever, and will ever happen to me. Nothing could compare to you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I watched a movie at home last night before I feel asleep. The Fault in Our Stars.

Here’s a beautiful song from it which I thought was called What About Angels? Well, she says it enough times to make it seem like it could be the title. I am going to think of it that way anyway.

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Every Morning…

Dear Mom,

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Every morning, before I do anything else (except maybe go pee- haha), I take that picture of you and I from long ago off of my windowsill, and hug it to my chest. Did you see that I changed the picture frame around it?  I also unplug the white lights I have surrounding the window and balcony sill at the same time.  And then I “talk to you” through that picture asking a few questions. They are always the same questions, just maybe in a different order. Today, the questions went something like this:

What are we going to do today, Mom?

Where are we going to go?

Who are we going to meet?

What are we going to say?

What are we going to believe?

What are we going to stand up for?

What are we going to change?

What are we going to let go of?

And I ask the questions as I walk to my little wine coloured shelf unit (that I put together. Oh my God, it took forever! -maybe you were there watching? or helping?)  that is in front of my kitchen counter. And then I set the picture of us on top of the shelf, next to the snow globes I bought for you recently and alongside the picture of you in your kitchen from just a few years ago.

I can’t seem to do anything else until I ask you to help me with my decisions for the day.  I like to believe that you are assisting me, that you are guiding me and encouraging me and still with me, by my side, somehow. I have to believe it, otherwise, I wouldn’t be very excited about getting up and going about the day.

Thank you, Mom, for continuing to help me live and make the right choices. I want to feel like I am including you in everything that I do. And I want you to know that you are always with me- in my thoughts, prayers and heart.

And of course, when nighttime comes, I take the picture of you and I and put it back on the windowsill and turn on the white lights to shine around it until the next morning, when I do it all again. And I’m never going to stop. It’s become a habit, a ritual, that starts my days and ends my nights with exactly what I need- my beautiful mother’s light.

Desigual

desigual 5.jpgDear Mom,

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve really hated shopping.

It was our thing, you know what I mean? As much as I wasn’t big into materialistic things, I loved how your face just brightened up whenever you went into a clothing store, or perused some aisles or shelves for something new that caught your eye.

You always were so into shopping for me instead of yourself.  I wanted YOU to enjoy the experience and buy something beautiful for yourself to wear and feel good in.  Something that would make you feel radiant and elegant and keep that smile on your face that I loved so much.  But nope, you always turned it around and made it about me.  So selfless.  I don’t know how you did it for so long. But I wanted to say that I appreciated it.  Really, I look back now and realize that those moments in Capilano Mall, or even way back during the Eaton’s Days- those were OUR moments. I just didn’t know it at the time.   Shopping was our thing, because it was your thing.  I should have savored it more.  Forgive me for moping so much lately when I walk into a shop, no matter how nice the clothes or how big the sale.. It just doesn’t feel the same without you.  Continue reading

License to Believe

“Believe.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in the One who believes in you.  All things are possible to she who believes.  Blessings on your courage.”- Sarah Ban Breathnach

believeDear Mom,

I’m trying to find things to make me believe again.  To hold on to something that gives me faith in something, after losing so much of it once you were gone.  It’s hard. I don’t know how you did it. I know you had this strength and resilience in you that came down to a unshaken sense of faith.  But I feel like the way we lost you has made me come undone, especially my sense of what I believed in.

I try to keep reminders around me to keep believing. Even the sign above, which hangs on the back of my door so that I can see it every time I am about to leave my apartment.  I try to spend time with people who keep me believing. And I choose to spend time alone when it seems that somehow, the people around me seem to be more non-believing than myself. God knows THAT is the last thing I need. More non-believing attitudes.

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Sometimes, it’s not actual people or anything breathing that I look to to grow back belief. But signs.  Sometimes, they are billboard signs, sometimes, they are quotes or book covers, or inspiring Facebook photos.  But for awhile now, I’ve been looking to numbers, and license plates in particular, as little glimmers of hope.

Awhile back, just after you passed away, I remember driving and feeling lost, or maybe I was feeling lost, so then decide to just drive aimlessly somewhere.  I remember asking myself or the Universe to give me a sign that we are still a family together- you, me, and my brother. And I started realizing that often, in those moments, I’d see license plates with the exact initials of our names LTR or TRL or TLR around me, and for some reason, I felt that this was… hopeful.  That it was somehow reassurance that we are still together in some way or another, even if you are not physically here with us.

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I know, it sounds ridiculous. Even as I type this, I feel like rolling my eyes at myself.  But even when I would ‘forget’ about this little game of hope I had created for awhile, it would show up again,  at the moments that I felt most lost, or sad, or confused. Hopeless. And then there, out of nowhere, a car would pass me and it would be another combination- maybe RLT this time. Or I would find myself parking behind a car with some combination of those three letters. Or I’d be driving in traffic, frustrated or wondering why I took the route I took, but then there it would show up again- TLR. And so I decided that each time this happened, it was your way, or the Universe’s way, of telling me everything was okay. That you were okay, and that nothing can really split us three apart, not even death.

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One of my new favorites that comes up is the LMR license plates. I make believe that it stands for Laila Mama Rajwani.

But like many things that we can’t see and we have to just believe in, I do often find myself disappointingly reminding myself that it’s just coincidence. Child’s play. Adult Make Believe.   I mean, how can the Universe plant certain license plate combinations conveniently in front of me all the time, right? And who is this Universal power, magical being anyway, right?  Come on, Tas, I tell myself.  Maybe those letters are just very popular on BC License plates. Or maybe it’s just that my eyes see them more because I WANT to see them, but that they were always there anyway, and therefore, don’t signify anything.

I was in that kind of extreme frame of mind last year sometime. Really really down about beliefs and life, and almost mocking myself for making up these silly signs to try to alleviate my hurt over losing you.  Who am I kidding, I thought? None of this is real. None of this is proof of anything, I told myself.  And that night, I was so angry and just late for everything. I was driving around, trying to find a parking spot to make it to my dance class. Why am I even dancing when my mom is gone? I remember thinking.  What is the reason for any of this? How do I know where I should even be going or what I should be doing? Maybe I shouldn’t be here. I should just go home and give up on all of this.

And then I turned one corner, and there was one parking spot left on the side street a block away from the dance studio I was trying to get to.  So I parked, a little flustered, but relieved that I found something.  And as I was getting out of the car, I looked ahead, and became still for a moment. My mouth must have dropped, I’m sure. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, or shrug it off as nothing again. But I couldn’t this time, because on the license plate directly in front of me were the letters TAS.  My name. Or at least the shortened version that a lot of people would probably called me. But in particular, I thought of the way you said Tas [Tus] that really melted my heart, Mom.

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And it came to me in my head- you saying my name- at that moment, in your voice. And I imagined that you were calling out to me.  Telling me that if I am not going to believe in the RTL, TLR, TRL licenses that the Universe has been planting all around for me, that maybe this one would be a lot clearer that YES, we are still together. And yes, everything is going to be okay. And that you, my mom, are so well that you are able to plant signs, and even license plates, on the roads all over the place, for me to see and to assure me that I’m on the right path.

This might all be so farfetched.  It could be.  But I do still hold on to any of the moments when I’m driving or walking and see those letter combinations.  A couple of months ago, I was walking with a friend in downtown, a new person who had come into my life. I wasn’t sure about him or what the night would hold for me or us. But again, on a completely different road, in a completely different area away from the other dance studio site I had been the year before, I saw another TAS license plate. I smiled and told the guy I was with that I needed to take a picture.

Was it the same car I had seen the previous year? Was it the same license plate?  Or maybe it didn’t matter because all that did matter was that it was the same sign- to keep going as I am, because you, my mother, are still with me, calling out my name whenever I am needing it.

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Belief is a difficult thing. It is hard to prove. It is hard to stick by when you can’t see it physically or hold it in your hands.  But I realize it is all I really have now, to go by. And so I better take what I can- the signs that happen to cross my way, and hope that maybe, just maybe, my mother has planted them all along to let me know that she is still continuing on this journey with me. That THAT will never end.  And that she is able to look out for me and my brother now at the same time. So the three of us remain together, though on a different level, still together forever.

Journey Ring

Dear Mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guiding Light- A Gift

Dear Mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storytelling

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“Maybe mom planned that one.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

believing at all- just makes living without you unbearable.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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

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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