On Mother’s Day

20190512_173309.jpgDear Mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I mean:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girl in grass3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Father

Dear Mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love always and forever,

Tas

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

 

 

Look at the Water- ‘Duhryo Nar’

Dear Mom,

“Duhryo nar, Tas!”  Remember you always used to say that, especially when we were crossing over the bridge?  I do. I remember it now everytime I am near water.  Your voice saying “Look at the water, Tas!”  I wish I could hear that voice in real time all over again. But what does that even mean anymore- ‘real’ time? 😦

I used to get so annoyed because usually, I was driving when you’d tell me to look at the ocean. And I would be thinking, Mom, I can’t look right now. I need to keep my eyes on the road.  But guess what? I find myself sneaking a peak now everytime I go over any bridges.  I try to take a look for you.  You were right- it’s always worth even a second to glance at. And now I remember how excited you got when you saw the water. You seemed so in awe of it and this happiness and calm would just spread all across your face as you looked over at the waves and the boats and the beauty of it.

It’s funny though, that I don’t think you were much for being in the actual water. I don’t remember you loving being in pools or even dipping your feet in sand or the ocean. But I know you did come to a few, if not all, of my swimming lessons with me (Okay, I know there weren’t many since I can hardly swim now as an adult). But I wish I could thank you for putting yourself in an environment I know you weren’t that comfortable in just to help me learn and make me comfortable- knowing you were there with me.   I wish that you had been given more time as a child yourself, and as an adult, to just play and enjoy the water and the waves and to float on the water weightless and carefree.

I live only a few blocks from the beach and seawall now, the one that we grew up near. I have to admit that I don’t go out there enough- to walk and just soak in the fresh ocean air.  But when I do, I always make sure I stop in front of the water. I make sure I look out at the ocean, and take it all in with thoughts of you. Your appreciation for its vastness, its beauty and maybe it’s connection to God and the Universe. There must be something going right if we are blessed with such beautiful nature around us, right?

It makes me feel appreciative of my surroundings but also reminds me of how small we are. How small I am.  How there is still so much I don’t understand. And how some things are really out of our control.  That feeling is both a relief and causes me fear as well.  I still want to know where you went, what the Universe’s plan was in taking you so suddenly, and who is looking after you now.  Are you a part of the wind and ocean and air?

Do you finally get to float and move around freely without pain or sadness or heaviness around you?  Are you surrounded now by your own beautiful scenes like the ocean and birds that you loved so much here while you were with us?  How do I find you amongst all of this vastness? It seems so big and overwhelming, but I know I keep looking for you somehow. I don’t think I will ever stop until I get a sure sign that you are okay. And even then, I still need you in my life somehow.  I don’t know how or in what capacity, but I do need you, Mom. And you will always be my mom. The best one I could have ever asked for.