Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Facts of Life...

The facts of life are these:
You will live.
You will die.

And whatever you choose to fill the space between those two periods with, is your choice. So choose wisely.

Tonight I attended a funeral. Someone dear to me had just lost someone dear to their heart.

To say that the family has been ‘burdened’ lately would be a kind euphemism. They’ve been tested in ways that are hard to imagine.

Yet when I saw her tonight, being strong for everyone, I thought of the saying:

"Wathinta abafazi, wathinta imbhokodo." (You touch a woman, you touch a rock.)

The South African proverb used during the struggle against apartheid in recognition of women's power and strength. She was indeed that rock. May Allah ease the way for her and continue to fortify her from within. Aameen.

I felt the heat in the living room as streams of mourners shared hugs and tears with the bereaved family and thought of the aayah:

 Qul Naaru Jahannamu Ashaddu harraa – 9:81

The Fire of Hell is fiercer in heat

I thought of the questions he would have to face. Of  the ‘life’ that awaits him.

I thought of faith. Of culture. Of how ‘culture’ has been turned into a dirty word in this age of big Muslim thinkers with equally big ideas.

Yet, the culture of offering condolences to the bereaved is less culture and more Islam. It is called ta’ziyah. Yes, there are indeed ills that go along with having huge crowds gathered in one place. But if each one of us smelt that camphor, tried on in our minds as our final perfume, then death would take on a whole new meaning.

If we all tried to feel the weight of death,  of having ourselves reduced to mere 'body'; the weight of sand on a narrow grave and saw it as our own, how much more would we not pray for those who have passed on?

Allahummagh fir lahum, war’ham hum, wa sakkin hum fil jannah.

I thought of faith. Of how it is my  way of making sense of this world. Of how it is my compass. The tool I use to navigate this journey. The tool that helps me fill the space between those two periods.

Of how it is the rock that I cling to when the tempest that is life threatens to throw me off course. Of how now, more than ever, for my friend and her family, it is all they really have. That and one another. The blessing of human companionship. Insaaniyat. And the comfort that brings.

Remember them in your thoughts. In your prayers.
Remember too, this sinner. This one, so unworthy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Love unchanged...

He held out a hand into the space between them, fingers scissored. She took a step forward, and held her own hand up. Pressed it against his, fingers matching. Palms joined. His hand was warm against her cold one. His fingertips protruded above her own.

She leaned forward. Pressed her mouth against each tip. Felt her breath fan against her skin. She did not meet his gaze, though she could feel his eyes on her face. Rather, she focused on the mole at the tip of his index finger, the curve of his callused thumb. The nail, how it appeared chewed. A new development.

She finally rested her mouth in the crease between their thumbs and index fingers. Allowed herself to be sucked in by the tide of memory that washed over her.

Did he have any idea what it was like to awaken in someone else’s dreams? She’d been waking in his since the day he walked away. The day she’d stood, a wind tugging at her dress, watching him grow smaller. He never looked back.

The memory was still enough to cause a sob to catch at the back of her throat.

He would go again. She knew that as certainly as she knew how much it would hurt.

“Stay…” She felt the words against her hand. Alarmed, she sprang back.. She had not meant to say them.

She searched his face, hope written in every line on her own.

He had aged. Graying temples. Laugh lines. The ridges on the sides of his mouth more pronounced. Each telling her of the time they’d spend apart. But his eyes. The same. Deep. Dark brown. Apologetic.

She swung around, stifling a sob, swiped angrily at the tears that dared leak. Wrapped her arms around herself.

“Why did you come back?”

She waited. Silence.

And then his arms were around her, his chin resting atop her head. His smell overwhelming her. She resisted her body’s urge to melt against him. Held herself rigid.

“I came to say goodbye…”

She felt the words vibrate within her. Felt herself crumple.

For an instant she saw them as they once were.

She felt once again the strong forearm that she’d run a hand along, the hair tickling her palm. The pressure of his mouth on her own. His breath hot against her lips.

The feel of his hand on her thigh. The grass that ticked her ear as she’d lain beneath the Dogwood, its branches heavy with a blanket of white flowers.  The wind that had moved, keeping time with them, raining a thousand flowers onto their bodies. The perfectly blue sky that had winked at her between the dancing branches.

She’d planted a Dogwood in her garden after he left. Little did she know it symbolized a love that remained unchanged through adversity. Did she really want that chain?