What is Eid-ul-Azha when you don't know where your loved ones are!
Love is what connects us all. Here, there, everywhere. In Lahore, in New York, in Palestine, in El Paso, Texas, in Yemen, in Syria, in Sudan, in Afghanistan, in Dayton, Ohio, in Quetta, in Kashmir.
- Total Shares
Tomorrow is Eid-ul-Azha. Tomorrow, once again this year, I won’t be celebrating Eid. There will be the obligatory sacrifice, but there won’t be any joy about the day that is about family, celebration, and laughter and food with family. But like most other days of my life, it would have one thing in abundance: gratitude.
My family is not celebrating Eid this year because of the demise of my younger brother, Babar, on March 18, 2019. Never had I imagined that the pain of losing my brother would be so bad, so deep, so raw, so constant. Never had I known that it’d consume me more than the pain I felt when my mother left us on November 6, 1999. As I write today, I know a huge part of me died with my brother, my beloved Babari. My heart feels shattered in ways I didn’t know a heart was ever supposed to break. As I write today knowing I’d miss him tomorrow more than I did yesterday, there is another thing that moves within my mind like a restless, nervous, lost child in a crowd of strangers: gratitude.
This day is about family, celebration, and laughter and food with family. (Photo: Reuters)
Having lost my mother, my grandmother whom I loved like my mother, and my brother, with so much pain that I find unable to deal with on most days, there is so much that I’m grateful for, every moment of my life. Trying to come to terms with the finality of death after my brother left us, I’m learning to value life with each moment of my life, moving in slow-mo, in a loop. The few people in my life — my son, my niece, nephew, sister — mean more to me than I would ever be able to encapsulate in words. Each day, even when hued in pain, is a celebration of all that is good and glorious, and to me that is the love of my son and my family – mine for them, theirs for me. My gratitude for that love makes me look around me in wonder, every once in a while, how there is so much attention in this world on things that do not even matter. Love is not all that we need to survive. But love makes it possible to survive it all. The gratitude for that love changes it all.
As I talked to my son, Musa, on a video call last night, while he was trying to arrange his things in his new apartment in New York, he told me how much he missed me. It is rare that he tells me that. We talk every day, and that kind of diminishes the reality of oceans between us. Whenever I feel down, I reach out to him. Whenever I feel confused I seek his advice. Whatever happens in my life, he is the first person I talk to. My son is the only one on my speed dial. Being there for one another on the phone when he is in New York is the continuation of our life in Lahore. We talk like we have always been talking.
Talking to my only son every day is something I so deeply value I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I say a heartfelt thank-you to Allah all the time. It makes me think of all those mothers who are unable to talk to their sons, their daughters, their loved ones.
I feel myself go silent. I try to imagine their pain. What is it like to not know where your child is? How does it feel to not be able to pick up the phone and hear your child’s voice? Where does one go when all ways of reaching your child are closed?
I send a prayer to all mothers, fathers, grandparents that may they never lose their loved ones. (Photo: Reuters)
I wish I could visit my son in New York every two months. I wish I could hug him in person when he is feeling blue. I wish I’m there to arrange things in his new apartment. What keeps me going is the knowledge that he is in a safe place, he studies at a great school, he has wonderful friends, and he loves his life in New York. That makes me think about all those mothers whose sons are in a place that is not happy, that is not safe.
It makes my mind wander into dark places where their sons, their beloved children, are treated like inconsequential human beings whose lives are of no value. I feel an immense pain for all those sons who are not allowed to be who they are, who are not given their basic right, humanity 101, to be carefree young people with a smile in their eyes, a leap in their walk, a glow in their dreams.
Be grateful. Before you know it, it will all be over. (Photo: Reuters)
I think of the young people who live in a land of barbed wires, curfewed town plazas, empty boats, shadowy waters, deserted streets patrolled by men in uniform with their faces covered. They look at every young man as a dangerous enemy. Seen through inscrutable eyes, young sons of mothers turn into alien beings who are to be suspected and feared, the heavenly land of armed men is slowly turning into a ghost of a country of those who have forgotten how to just be.
Today, as I miss my brother, I send a prayer for all brothers, all siblings. As I pick up my phone to text my son for the tenth time in the last few hours, I send a prayer for all sons, all daughters, all children. Praying for my mother and grandmother, I send a prayer to all mothers, fathers, grandparents that may they never lose their loved ones, may their loved ones always keep them in their heart.
Love connects Lahore, Yemen, El Paso, Kashmir. (Photo: Reuters)
My gratitude for the existence and wellbeing of my loved ones make me value life. Every hazy, every full, every cherished, every wasted moment. That gratitude turns into a wordless dua for all who have lost a loved one, who are praying for a loved one, who miss a loved one. Geography is irrelevant. Love is what is. Love is what connects us all. Here, there, everywhere. In Lahore, in New York, in Palestine, in El Paso, Texas, in Yemen, in Syria, in Sudan, in Afghanistan, in Dayton, Ohio, in Quetta, in Kashmir.
Be grateful. Before you know it, it will all be over.