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.

 

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.

I’m Jealous

Dear Mom,

There’s a song I really like by an artist named Labrinth.  The song is called Jealous.  The lyrics talks about being jealous of how the rain falls on this person’s skin and how the wind blows through her clothes. The male singer is probably referring to a female partner he lost or never had but wanted.

He sings with such a deep expression and emotion that I feel it. But my thoughts of jealousy don’t go towards a guy. Instead, it is a jealousy towards whoever you might be around now. Those who get you up close and personal to you. Those who you might be working with or enjoying heaven with or laughing and learning with, or loving or teaching.

Because I know what that love is about and what a great teacher you are. I know how your touch and caring and nurturing feels. And anyone who gets to experience it now is very lucky. I know this from experience. It’s not that I don’t want you to be happy wherever you are. Of course I do. And I know that you will be deeply affecting any souls that get the chance to cross your path.

And of course I know you will forever influence my life.  I hope that our souls are still very much connected.  But I’m going to let my human, earthly, smaller mind get in the way for a bit and just complain that it’s not the same as having you right here where I can see you or touch you or smile and laugh with you and hear your voice.  I guess it’s not supposed to be the same.

At first, I think I worried that maybe you might be jealous of the rain and wind and life that is around me, or around your grandchildren or your son or the rest of your family, because you can’t join us in these experiences as we grow.  I mean, you can’t join us physically.  And that makes me sad for you. I don’t want you to feel like you are missing out or that we ever forget about you. We don’t. Truly, we don’t.

But then I also know that you were never one to want anything less than the best for all of us.  You wanted to give and give and give. So jealousy towards us doesn’t really seem in your nature at all.  You are the type of person that would just be happy for our happiness.

It’s hard for me to be happy without you though, Mom. It’s hard for me to be happy without feeling your happiness, I think is the more important part of all of this.

I am jealous of the people, especially the daughters, who get to call their moms and hear their voices on the other line. I’m jealous of the little girls who hold their mother’s hand as they walk down the street, or feel their mother’s touch on their face or their foreheads.

I am so jealous of the mothers and daughters who go on trips together, or go shopping together, or sit and drink tea together. I am jealous of any people who still have the opportunity to apologise to their mothers if they have said something that might have been hurtful. I am jealous of those who when they call out to their moms get an answer back.

Sometimes I stare incessantly at kids and their mothers, or even adults and their mothers. And I watch all the little nuances between them- the smiles, the tears, the hugs and love and connection. And I yearn to get even a little bit of that back. Even writing that causes my throat to close up a bit as my emotions just build up inside of me.  It hurts so much to not be able to go to your home and see your cute face opening the door to greet me.

I am jealous of the girl I was when I was younger, the one who was able to sit on your lap, and lay next to you, and be cradled and rocked by you, and picked up from school by you. The girl who had her lunches made by her mom. The girl who enjoyed her mom’s scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches. The girl who got to wake up to her mom’s face and warmth.

I am jealous of the girl who had her adult years with you The girl who could always just go to Mom’s place when she needed anything, especially when she just needed to be accepted for exactly who she was, without having to prove or do anything special. The girl who was special because of her mom. The girl who had a mom who made her feel so special.

I am jealous of the woman I became who, when she needed to apologize or right a wrong with her mom, could do so whenever she wanted. I am jealous of this woman who had her mom’s forgiveness, sweetness, compassion and strength around her always. That simplicity in living and loving that made her know exactly what was important in her life.

And then I realize I am jealous of myself.  That the time I had with you has passed and I wish so much to have it back. But I need to recognize that I was so lucky to have had it at all. 40 years of it. It sounds like such a long time. But it feels like it went by too fast.

I can’t be jealous of what I already have, can I? Maybe others can be jealous of me, because I had you, for those forty years. And you made me who I am today.  Everything that is beautiful about me came from my beautiful mother.  That is not something to be jealous about, but to be so proud of I’m trying to remember that, Mom.

I just miss you so much.  And Mother’s Day is coming up.  How do you celebrate a day dedicated to a woman who is no longer here with me physically but who gave me anything and everything I could have possibly wanted? and didn’t even know I wanted.

Mother’s Day is not a day, is it? It’s a lifetime. A miracle. Beyond one lifetime. It’s an energy. An everlasting love. An eternal love. A magic that I was so lucky to experience.

Thank you, Mommy. You are my everything. Always and forever.

Love Tas

I’m Sorry

sorryDear Mom,

I haven’t written to you in here for awhile, but I have been speaking to you every day, in the morning and later in the day, and sometimes in my journals as well.  Can you hear me?

I lost something that meant so much to me because you gave it to me. Actually, it was the last gift you gave me, at least in terms of physical gifts. And it was for the last birthday I had when you were here. I lost the dragonfly necklace you gave me- the blue one.

I don’t know how I lost it. It must have been on my neck and fallen off somewhere. I put that necklace in the same Pandora box every time I’m not wearing it. And it the box is always on the top of that thick brown bookshelf I have.  But one day, just a few months ago, I went to wear it and it wasn’t in the box. And it wasn’t around my neck.

I am sure I cried when I realized it wasn’t anywhere to be found. I backtracked my steps for those couple of weeks and asked around at any of the places I had been to. No one saw or found anything.  I put up a sign about it in my apartment building in the lobby and laundry room. I even posted about it on Facebook.  Some kind lady on Vancouver Buy and Sell saw my post and offered to try to replicate it for me for free. It was very sweet of her but it just wouldn’t have been the same, you know?

I am so sorry I lost it. I don’t know who has it. I was hoping it would show up somewhere- behind something in my place, or caught in a sweater or something I was wearing. Or I hoped that someone would call and say they found it. But no one did.

Then this guy at Karaoke said that maybe you took it. It made me smile, laugh, and get upset all at the same time when he said it. I would love that- if you were able to take it. 🙂

Then I would know that you are okay and you would obvious know that you can have anything of mine, ANYTHING.  But you were too kind to take anything from me. You should have though. I wish I could give you everything. I wish I had given you everything. including more time, consideration, respect, affection.

I gave you some but not enough. And I wish I could make up for it now, but I just can’t I guess.

I think a part of me was hoping that maybe you would make the dragonfly necklace appear somewhere. Somewhere I have already looked a million times, even if it was to suddenly just appear back in the box that I always put it, or better yet, to appear around my neck like poof! Magic! Just like that. Then, maybe then, I would or could believe that you are around. Like that would be my big big sign that you are okay, and that you are looking after me.

It’s not that I don’t think you are capable or wanting to take care of me. It’s just that I don’t know if you are okay now, who is taking care of you, and how you are feeling. Do people feel things, or do souls feel things, after they pass away? Like emotions? I don’t know how any of this works. I am trying to believe. Really I am.  But it’s so hard.

If you know where the dragonfly necklace got lost or fell or who has it, can you help me find it?

I am not usually a thing person. I mean, material things hardly mean anything to me. But this was something special. It made me feel like I was holding you around me, near my heart, and radiating the magic of the dragonfly to others around me. Radiating your forever giving and loving and beautiful heart and soul.

I know I can find ways to do that without the necklace, but it’s not the same.  I wanted to pass it on to your grandchildren too.

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I am sorry for losing such a precious thing you gave me, Mom. It was beautiful. And you were so so sweet to get it for me.  You always had good taste with those kinds of things.  I try to imagine that you still help me choose jewelry, clothes and other little things to decorate my place.  Not that I do a lot of shopping. Shopping was more your thing. And it feels silly now without you. But when I do go, I try to listen to hear what your opinion is and what you think I should get or leave.

Of course, you were always the one who would try to make me buy everything. Or I mean, you’d want to buy me everything. I still haven’t taken after you in that regard. Haha. I don’t even have enough space for things and I don’t like having too much around me.

I’ve been trying to get rid of or sell things more actually. But the one thing, or one of the many little things that I didn’t or wouldn’t ever wanted to give away or lose or get rid of was that necklace.

Where did it go? Where did I drop it?

Thank you for such a precious gift, Mom. I will keep looking for it and will keep an eye out for real dragonflies whenever I can.  But in the meantime, if you find it, or can bring it back to me, I would love that. I would think you are really here with me, every step of the way.  But I also want you to be doing your own heavenly things to pamper and be good to you. So… whatever you can magic up or have time for.

Mostly, I want to say thank you for being the best gift I ever got- the best mother I could have every dreamed of. I am the luckiest.

She Used To Be Mine

Dear Mom,

waitress-a-r-t-jessie-mueller.jpgI went to see the musical Waitress over the weekend. It is a stage adaptation of the movie Waitress which I guess came out a long time ago, or awhile ago. I never saw it and can’t find it on Netflix.  I started using Netflix after you passed away. Sorry. If I had figure it out before, I would have shown you how to use it.

Anyway, the reason I went all the way to Seattle to see this show is because

1) It didn’t look like it was coming to Canada, or at least not to Vancouver.

2) One of my all time favourite singer/songwriters Sara Bareilles wrote the music for it.

3) She Used to Be Mine- one of the songs in the musical.

I’ve been singing Sara Bareilles’ songs now for sometime.  Her lyrics and compositions are so unique and full of memorable images and pauses, and syncopations and she has a beautiful voice.  I love how every song really says something. I mean, the something is always profound, or playful, or poignant or all of the above.  I feel changed after going through the stories in her lyrics and music.

But in particular, “She Use To Be Mine” gripped me almost from the first note, but definitely from the first few phrases.  I first heard it at a live concert of Sara Bareilles’. My roommate Karen and I went to see the concert in Seattle a few years ago.  At that time, you were still around, and the song still spoke to me, gripped my heart, and made me catch my breath a little. It made me sad, and happy, and feeling alive and inspired, but also pained and empathetic as well- towards the subject of the song or to myself, I don’t know.

It was explained to us at that time that Sara Bareilles wrote the song for the musical, and that the musical would be out in a couple of years. It was also explained to us that the song came about because the character in the play is pregnant, but she doesn’t want to have the baby. She is with a guy who doesn’t treat her well, and she doesn’t have a good paying job or much stability. So she feels like she has nothing to offer the child, and also seems to miss the person she thought she would become.

So at that time, the “She used to be mine” chorus made sense to me as Sara Bareilles meant it- that the person who was the dreamer and beauty, and go getter used to be a part of the main character. I think her name was Jenna. But that Jenna was mourning her passing- as if that part of her had gone and died. Was no longer there. As Sara Bareilles said in her concert- it is a concept and feeling we can all probably relate to- when something in our lives passes over us, and we don’t look or act or have the time to be or do that thing anymore that used to be such a part of us.

I fell in love with the song instantly, and when I got back to Vancouver, I wanted to sing it. I learned it and kept practising it. And something in it always brought me to tears, whether I heard it, was singing along with it, or just singing it on my own.

But after you passed away, I couldn’t say the chorus lines anymore without just breaking down.  The “She used to be mine” line made me think that I was somehow referring to you, especially when I had to sing the whole line, “She is gone but she used to be mine.”

I found out recently that one of the karaoke places I go to often has that song available for people to sing. So I started singing it again. I try to imagine that I am singing it for you, or to you, or to tell people about you.

But there is a change that I make in mind when it comes to the song and the lyrics.  Whether I imagine the “she” who is gone to be a part of me or to be you, I don’t allow myself to believe the “used to be mine” part.  You are still mine and will always be mine, mom.  As I have written to you before, no one can ever take your place. No one can every be or try to be my mom. You are the only mom I want, the only one I had, and the only one I still have. There is no “used to”. You are still mine. My mother.  I hope you know that. I hope you know that I never forget about you and never will.

In the play, the main character ends up loving her daughter the moment she was born, and deciding to take care of her on her own. She doesn’t want the father to be around because she knows that he is selfish and doesn’t know how to love the woman let alone a child.  And I thought it was so beautiful but also so sad, how selfless this woman becomes to give her all to her child.  Without any help.

She would speak to the baby when she was in her stomach. Dear baby, she would say.  She would tell the baby her fears but also her dreams for the baby, that she wished that she could give her everything.

I know you were that kind of mom, but you didn’t have to tell me what you hoped to give me. You just did it.  I don’t know how. And it breaks my heart a little every day to think of how much you sacrificed for me. How there may have been so many parts of you that went away or had to go because you ended up putting me first, putting both of your kids first.

So I feel like apologizing and thank you all at the same time. I am sorry for all the things you had to do day in and day out to keep us safe, and cared for, and fed and loved, when sometimes that meant you didn’t have the time or energy to give that same caring and love to yourself.  Thank you, Mommy for having me, for caring for me, for sacrificing for me, for standing up for me and keeping me protected and happy.

In the play, the main character’s mom has already passed away. But she was taught to make pies from her, and so she continues to do so- talking about some of her mom’s favourite pie flavours.

What would I choose as a pie name for you? Sweet, Laila Mama pie?  Whatever it is, it could never capture all that you were and are to me.  I don’t know how to ever repay you for all that you have done for me. I wish I had done more to show you how grateful I was for you during the time you were here. Please give me signs as to what I can do now for you. I know it is not the same, but I want to try.  I cried so much in the play- for not being able to tell you all that I want to now.  For not having mother daughter moments with you anymore. Is there a way to still have different kinds?- that surpass time and space? I need my mom still, and always will.

 

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.

Songs That Choke Me Up

sad songs

Dear Mom,

I’ve been going to karaoke a lot lately. Though I have lost my voice from overuse or holding emotions in my throat (that’s a topic for a whole other blog post), I still like being around people who sing. And I am hoping to get my voice back to itself or stronger sometime soon.

The trouble is that songs years ago, that I really liked, and could have sung now…well, some of them are too hard to sing. Not because of the complexity of the song in my voice, but the complexity and utter anguish that it causes in my heart.

Did you know that my go to song when I first tried karaoke a few years ago was always Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper. It’s a great song, and fits well in my voice. But I can’t finish the line that says “If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting, time after time.”

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Navroz Mubarak

Dear Mom,

Guess where I went AFTER dance class this time, instead of before? Khane! Yes, I know I said it’s only a few steps away from my zouk class, but I usually would drive out to the zouk social after, if I have the energy to do any dance.  But you know what I danced instead last night? You’ll never believe it. Rasra!!!

No really! You don’t believe me, do you? Or maybe you do, because you were there somehow in spirit and were the reason I even got the urge to do it?

I did tell everyone that I was joining the rasra circle for you, my mom.  It’s true. And I was with a whole bunch of boody mas- older women. And men, too. But mom, some of these women can dance!!! How do they keep it up for so long? I was exhausted after just a couple of songs. But these women in their 60’s and even older were just going on and on and on. And with a LOT of energy!

That dance takes a lot of cardio. Man. I had my zouk class before then, but we move in a less jumpy way. This rasra stuff was definitely taking my breath, or pumping my heart. And when you do it properly, it really works your calves. Who knew?

This older woman in front of me was trying to teach me, because I seriously felt, and obviously looked, lost when I first joined them.  And because I am a dancer, I wanted to not just get through, but also do some impressive turns and get the feet in rhythm and all of that. It looks easier than it is, for sure.  But I tried to get some spins in there to see if you might feel that energy, if you might be able to feel the reverberations of it. Of me sharing it with you.

I am sorry I didn’t have sherbet. You know I never really liked that stuff. Maybe without the nuts and stuff. I like stuff a little plain. I did have cake though. Just for you.  It was not as good as your cake though. No one’s ever will be. But that’s okay.  Yours and you will always be my favorite. Nothing can compare.

So yeah, if you haven’t already guessed, I went out there because it was Kushiali- December 31st.  They had a cake to celebrate Hazar Imam’s birthday. My friend and I were laughing because the candles weren’t being blown out. We were a bit worried that they would just let them die down on their own on the cake.

I don’t know many people at all in that Khane. I felt out of place, to be honest. Not in a non-welcoming way.  But just in a “what am I doing here?” way.  And then I remembered- I am celebrating for my mom.  I am sorry I didn’t celebrate Navroz enough with you,  Mom. I just never resonated with it. I felt disconnected from it. But I see now that it would have just kept us more connected. Given us more of an excuse to share more memories together.

But now I cannot bring back those days. I cannot turn back time to change the opportunities that I missed. All I can do is celebrate them with you in another way now.  I hope you can feel it, somehow. I hope you know that if I had the chance again, I would get out and have cake and do some rasra rounds with you, and even have sherbet. Anything to spend more time with and around my mom. Now I can only hope that you are surrounding me in another way.

Love you, Mom.

Navroz Mubarak.

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