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Papa

Papa. Not only my maternal grandfather, but one of the most humble and nicest people I have ever encountered. I was just super lucky and beyond blessed to call him my grandfather.

Most people, in fact, referred to him as Papa. Like he was a father figure to all.

His generosity? Kindness? Affection? Wisdom? Knowledge? Knew no boundaries.

I have never met even one person who had even one negative thing to say about my Papa. That cannot be honestly said about many people, but it is indeed true about Papa. In all my life, I can’t even think of a single time that he upset me or annoyed me. He was always Papa – the loving and caring self he always was. He’s been my role model since day one. He will be my role model for the rest of my life.

I loved every day I got to spend him. I loved, loved, loved just sitting with him all day whenever we were lucky enough for him to come stay over at our house. Not just his stories, but just his mere presence brought joy to me.

I loved how he would want to go everywhere with us whenever he came to visit, right down to simple errands. Like he wanted to spend time with us as much as we wanted to spend time with him. I remember the unsaid plan at the grocery stores: I’d do the groceries while my brother followed Papa throughout the store as he picked up nothing but junk food. Who wouldn’t love that?! Many times, we’d cut out things from our “to-do” lists because we were worried he would get too tired.

His love for his children and especially his grandchildren? Can’t even put into words to describe it. Just the extraordinary amount of examples flow through my head. It’s the little things you remember that mean so much. Thinking back to when we were younger, I can’t help but laugh at how much he spoiled us. That’s part of the job description for what a good grandparent is, right? If our parents said no, he would most certainly veto it. Hey, he was the boss, right? We had to listen to him 🙂 I wish Arham got to experience who Papa was.

His love for sweets [especially Kit-Kat and then later Almond Joy as well]. Tried my best to always have chocolate on hand whenever he came to visit.

His love for Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune [and then later Price is Right as well]. Don’t ever call him from 7-8 PM: he was busy watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune at that time.

His LOVE for reading the Qu’ran. He did so daily without fail.

Smiles. Laughter. Happiness. Joy. That’s what the memories are full of. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A life truly lived for others. He was one of a kind, and I am truly blessed beyond words to call him my grandfather.

Papa, I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ll miss you.  My heart aches of emptiness when I think that there won’t be a next time for you hug me and kiss my forehead like you always did. Truly, I lost a part of me. Time heals all wounds, and perhaps will ease the pain, but I hope I never forget the kind of person you were and what I want to emulate. He is everything I want Arham to be.

In recent years, as Papa’s health started to decline, I hated that he didn’t feel good inside and my heart ached for his well being. I kept thinking one thing over and over : I wish I could take it away from him. I didn’t want to dwell on what Alzheimers’ did to him and the effect it had in this post; instead I want to focus on all the great memories.

He, up there, called Papa home this morning after a very difficult three weeks for my family and I.

I’ll miss Papa with all my heart, but if there’s one consolation, it’s this: he is at peace.

Family Pillars

There is just something about the generation of our grandparents that hasn’t shown up in our parents or ours. It’s hard to pinpoint, but there is something remarkable about them. Something that stands out.

That or maybe we were just extraordinarily blessed to have wonderful role models in so many of them within our family.

We have lost three great souls over the last year and each one has had a deep impact on me.

Munni Dadda- it was impossible to not be laughing hysterically every time we saw her because of her sense of humor. Her zest for life and the joy she brought to us all is something I think of often. It was impossible to not start smiling the second you saw her — but unfortunately we didn’t get to see her often since she didn’t live nearby :(. Her stories, her humor, her style, her character are all things I think of frequently.

Both my grandmothers passed away before I was born, but I always thought of Munni Dadda as filling their role in a sense. She had that grandmotherly love that had no limits, was fun to talk to and be around, and I loved her sense of humor the most. No formality, no fuss. Just a down to earth woman who I loved seeing on any trip to Canada.

Kalam Nana – there were only the rare weekends where my parents didn’t go meet him, and I enjoyed going most of those weekends too to spend time with Nana. His knowledge, his stories, his genuine interest in all of us, his personality are all some of the things I miss most about him.

He always wanted to know what was going on in our lives– no matter was too small for him to have interest in us, no one was too young to have his respect. If we mentioned something to him, he remembered and always followed up later and I loved that. He cared.

Just a few days ago, on August 31st, we were discussing how it had been six years since Salam Nana passed away. I don’t remember much about him from when I was younger, and unfortunately I never got the opportunity to get to know Nana well enough because he was sick in the years I was growing up. Abu’s told us stories, of course, but it’s not the same.

On September 2nd, we were talking about it had been his funeral that day six years ago when a little while after that, we found out Rana Nanna passed away.

Rana Nanna – she made tafseer class fun and interesting and a good learning experience for me, which is something I’ll always be thankful for her. Growing up, Abu and Ami have always told us everything she did for the family after both my paternal and maternal grandmothers passed away and how helpful she was in that time. Her love for her [extended] family was obvious to all, and so was how much she loved feeding us all her homemade delicious food.

To this day, we have a sweater she sewed for Ayaz as a baby… growing up even my dolls wore this particular sweater.

Slowly, we are losing the generation that are our pillars. Yes, it’s a part of life, but it doesn’t get any easier. Especially when in about thirteen month’s time, we have lost three from this generation. May Allah SWT grant them the highest place in jannat. Three great souls. And all I want to do is freeze time and hold on to their wisdom for as long as I can.

They were the type of people you want to be. The type of people you wish your own children got to meet and learn from. The type of people that instilled values and love and kindness like no other. The type of people the world needs more of.

It makes me wonder what type of legacy we will leave behind for future generations. What we will be remembered for. Will we even have an impact and be worth remembering?

Ten Years Ago

Ten years.

I can’t believe it’s been ten years, but it is a day I will remember in detail for many many years to come… if not for the rest of my life.

What started off as an ordinary Saturday in July, quickly became a life altering day. Faraz’s graduation party was the following Saturday, and we were expecting a lot of family to start coming over the next few days… starting with that evening of the 16th.

I remember being in my room, when Faraz came in and gave me a heads up that the ambulance was on the way — Abu didn’t feel well and he was literally drenched in his sweat.

The paramedics starting treating him right away before transporting him to the hospital. With Ami in the ambulance with Abu, and Faraz and I [teenagers] having no idea how to get to the hospital… we did the only thing we could: follow the racing ambulance — which meant cutting red traffic lights, speeding, amongst other violations I am sure… to the point where a police officer started following us [but he must have realized the situation because he followed us to the entrance of the hospital and then went on his way].

Parking in a non-parking spot, we rushed in and after what seemed forever [but in reality was not] and countless medical staff in the room, the dreaded was confirmed: Abu had just had a heart attack.

I called Ayaz at work, and let him know what was happening.

Soon thereafter, signatures taken from Ami for consent [of necessary procedures, etc.], Abu was first rushed in for an angiography and we were told it would take about an hour to assess. By that time, countless family members had showed up and it was the longest hour of my life. When the cardiologist finally stepped out, he informed us that there was a ninety six percent blockage and they were going ahead with an angioplasty at this point and it would take another hour.

By the time he was moved into his CCU room, there were easily at least fifty family members in the waiting room.

Seeing Abu like that was probably the scariest and most eye opening experience for me at that age. Suddenly and very quickly I learned and realized at once how vulnerable life really was. The uncertainty that followed that in the early days, and in some ways, to this day is scary to process or even explain.

I remember a day or so later, the man in the room in the CCU adjacent to him passed away. The nurses closed the door for all the other rooms in the CCU as they moved the body, but it was useless: we all knew. And while we tried to distract Abu, we knew he knew and was well aware of it as well. The tears in his eyes were evidence of that.

Are we overprotective of him, perhaps, a lot of times ? Of course. Do the littlest health issues sound an alarm for us? Definitely.

But all for a good reason: he is, after all, our rock.

I can’t imagine having a better father. He is fun and games when he should be, and serious when he needs to be. He has kept me grounded, showered us with infinite unconditional love, spoiled us, always encouraged us to do our best, and made us strive to be better people. He puts us, his family, first always… and always has. He is a prime example of a selfless role model of the best kind of a parent … and I pray it’s something I am able to emulate in the future.

Married

Married.

I am married. I am a wife. I have a husband. Oh, and I am in Australia. Australia?!  Never in a million years would I have imagined these turn of events in my life.

But alhumdulillah. He is the best of planners.

2014, indeed, proved to be the worst of times and the best of times.

And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect” (30:21)

On a side note: Most people move from house to house. I apparently move from country to country. From Pakistan to Canada to the USA to now Australia. 

Please keep Faisal and me in your prayers/duas.

Thank you

Alhumdulillah what an amazing fun-filled extended weekend full of family and friends.

 

First and foremost, I couldn’t start this off without thanking everyone, far and near, that partook in the “pre-wedding celebration” on Sunday and all of the weekend’s celebrations. From the wonderful surprise bridal shower on Friday, the dholki/dinner event Javed Chachoo, Chotti Anna and Imran hosted on Saturday for me, and the absolutely amazing “Pre-Wedding Celebration” Sunday night to start off the festivities… it was the most amazing weekend full of so many memories. I appreciate it, more than I could ever articulate. Anyone and everyone who knows me know how much I cherish family time. And what a basket-case of emotions I am.

I have always said how much I absolutely love how close-knit our family is, alhumdulillah, but this year especially you all have made me feel loved and cared for in immeasurable ways. Your concern and duas got me through the toughest of the days. But your heartfelt joy in celebrating the good days with me have been just as strong.

I can’t believe in such a short time, alhumdulillah, I’ll be married [inshAllah].



To Abu and Ami: Thank you.

For always pushing me to do my best.
For letting me do things at my pace.
For giving me the space I need.
For always believing in me.
For never expecting anything less than my best.
For teaching us good morals from day one and the difference between what is right and wrong. And of course: what is right vs. what is easy.
For always asking why we got that one question wrong on a test in school. It might have driven me crazy over the years why a 98% wasn’t good enough, but it pushed me to always try that much harder.


For all the moments that count and matter, I never doubted that you were proud of us.
Thank you for being wonderful role models — as individuals, as a married couple, and as parents.


Ayaz and Faraz:
From the endless ridiculous quarrels to the countless memories: I am not sure how the time flew by so fast and the first of us three is [already] getting married soon. It seems like it wasn’t too long ago Faraz and I were building forts with chairs, cushions and blankets and using my toy cutlery set for picnics underneath the forts.

It seems like it was just yesterday Ayaz was shaking his head at something Faraz or I had said or done. Wait, scratch that, odds are that probably was just yesterday. [just kidding Ayaz… but we all know he is shaking his head reading this!]

You both have been my biggest bully but my biggest supporter all in one. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And I couldn’t end this before addressing the young ones–

To my younger cousins:
I have loved being your built-in editor, proof-reader, and problem solver. I have loved that you have always trusted me enough to come to me for advice or ask me for my opinion. I have loved the fact that you knew your secrets were safe with me. I have loved [and will always love] being your older sister. For years growing up, I used to always say to myself that I wished I had a younger sibling. I didn’t realize until much later Allah SWT gave me many younger siblings in all of you crazies.

While Australia may be [literally] on the other end of the world, always know this: I am still never going to be more than just a phone call, text message, email, what’s app message, Facebook message, [etc.] away. You get the picture. Some things change, but others never have to.

Milestone Anniversaries

This past Saturday, we celebrated my aunt and uncle’s silver jubilee [about a month early]. Their anniversary falls in the middle of Ramadan this year, so their kids decided to throw them an early surprise party.

My aunt and uncle in Canada will, inshAllah, mark their 25th milestone next month.

My parents just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, mashAllah, this past March.

My aunt and uncle in Norway celebrated their 40th anniversary this past January.

And my great aunt and her husband, mashAllah, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past November.

I pray Allah SWT bestows this kind of happiness on all of us.

All of these aforementioned couples have such distinct and different personalities. But they balance each other out. Like any couple should do.

I am not sure how many of you have heard the saying that “they were born in a time when if something was broken they would fix it, not throw it away.” There is just something about the previous generation that just makes it work. They won’t budge. They compromise.

Not just tolerate each other, but thrive with one another.

It’s probably one of the most valuable lessons they can teach our generation, yet at the same time– it’s not something you can be taught. Rather, it’s something you emulate. You can tell someone that marriage is full of compromises a hundred times over, but unless they witnessed that themselves from their role models… it means nothing.

In this day and age, where divorce and separation is as common as a new wardrobe, it’s something to think about. It’s something I have always thought about a lot… and even more so now with the big day being less than seven months away for me, inshAllah.

Anniversaries, and other such joyous events deserve to be celebrated. Whether it’s one year, nineteen years, or 60 years together: it’s momentous. It’s something to be proud of. And most importantly, I think, it’s a good reminder of what you have faced together. Not to mention what you have overcome together. The good times and the bad not so good times.

I pray Allah SWT showers everyone with His infinite blessings. I pray our generation not only emulates from the good examples from the previous generation(s) but also LEARNS from the troubled ones. And are a good example for the future generation(s).

Handmade

A couple of weeks ago, I found Ami trying to find my baby pictures, and it was so nice to go through some of our old pictures from our childhood. It had been a while since I had gone through them. Many of my newborn photos, including the first photo taken of me mere moments after my birth, have me wearing this reddish/orange blanket with a green border.

This blanket? It’s something I have treasured for as long as I can remember. It’s held a permanent residence under my bed in a container of things I’ve saved over the years. It’s priceless and you can’t even tell it’s over 30 years old. My mat9ernal grandmother sewed it personally.

It’s, unfortunately, one of the only [tangible] connections I have with my grandmother considering both of my grandmothers passed away way before I was born. Sadly, my paternal grandmother passed away a mere six days before her first grandchild, my oldest brother, Ayaz was born.

My dad’s aunt also sewed a yellow sweater for my oldest brother. That sweater? My dolls wore it over the course of the years.

Lately, I have very often found myself reminiscing and reflecting and things of that sorts.

If there’s one thing anyone knows about me, it’s that I am a) VERY emotional/sensitive [anything and everything makes me cry: whether I’m happy, sad, upset, angry… it just doesn’t matter] and b) a sentimental person. I don’t tend to save many tangible things, but I do keep the important stuff. The ones of value.  I can probably find any card given to me over the years… they, too, are housed in this aforementioned container.

I’ve said it a million times, I know I am overly emotional, but: I’d rather be very empathetic over apathetic any day.

Hajj Friends

Saturday night, several of the local NJ families from our hajj group finally got together. I say finally because we have been trying to make it happen since we got back from hajj six months ago but life kept getting in the way. Alhumdulillah for a huge and close-knit family, but sometimes that makes it nearly impossible to meet with other social circles. Not to mention, my life has been nothing but chaos this first quarter of the year.

Over the course of the past six months, I can’t tell you how many people have told me how nice it is how we have stayed in contact with people in our hajj group– that they don’t even remember most of who were in theirs, etc.

I have stayed in contact with several people over the phone, texting and of course Facebook… but to see them after so long? Joyous. Alhumdulillah, we picked up right where we left off. Reflecting, reminiscing… and recounting the many funny stories of course.

The friendship/bond I have with a select few of them is indescribable. It’s like we have known each other our whole lives, except for the fact that they were mere strangers six months ago who have become like family since then. No formality, no fuss: just plainly and simply a fun time with down to earth people.

I don’t know if our paths would have ever crossed, even though so many of us are from New Jersey, had we not been in the same hajj group. What I do know is this: they were [and are] a huge part of the “hajj experience” for me. I am thankful for their friendship and I am thankful we shared the experience(s) of hajj together. I hope no matter what the distance between us may be, that our friendship surpasses that.

We met and became friends in one of the greatest ways possible. Not to mention in the greatest place possible. The stories, memories and experiences we share are like no other.

And for that, they will always hold a special place in my heart. May our friendship grow even stronger over the years.

InshAllah, I can’t wait  to have the group gather again soon [and hopefully it won’t take another six months this time around]… you know, before I leave for the other end of the world… 🙂

Verily with Hardship comes Ease

2014, in essence, thus far has proved to be the worst of times and the best of times.

It started off as [relatively] horrible as it possibly could, with the c-word scare and surgery soon thereafter [and the not so fun recovery]. It started off with the many “what if’s”, “how could this be” and “why” questions. Not to mention the most stressful months of my life.

I often had to remind myself that this, too, shall pass.

And in the midst of all this chaos… in the way both spectrums intertwined at the same time… there is truly no other way to explain it in my mind other than: He, above, once again proved: Verily with Hardship comes Ease – [94:5-6]

Most of my family and friends, by now, know that  I am engaged as of early March.

In the days after, someone jokingly said to me that I apparently don’t do anything the normal/typical way. But that is my life. So why would this be any different? For the first time since leaving Pakistan 19.5 years ago, I will travel back to Pakistan mid December. And not just to visit, mind you; to get married there. Why not, right?!

Never in a million years would I have imagined traveling back to Pakistan, let alone to go back for the first time after so many years to get married AND move to Australia immediately afterwards.

 

But alhumdulillah. He is the best of planners.

 

Last year at the this time, it was all about planning/preparing for hajj. This year? Wedding/Pakistan Trip.

Coping with Dementia [Alzheimer’s]

I am no expert by any means, but I have very quickly picked up on some dos and don’ts for when dealing with those with a form of dementia and their families from recent encounters from my experience with PapaThese are my thoughts and thoughts alone! Not one of medical professionals, not my family members, just mine. Mine and mine alone.

One. Don’t judge and say something ridiculous like: “I just talked to [your loved one] for a few minutes over the phone and it didn’t seem like there was anything wrong with him/her”. Thanks, I’m glad you came to that conclusion in the two minutes you spoke to him/her. How about being grateful, that alhumdulillah, there are still normal moments around.

Just think for a second [or ask a direct relative if just pondering over it won’t be enough] what it feels like for an immediate family when [the loved one] cannot recognize them, or know where they are at the very least.

We cherish those moments where everything seems right with the world, and those are the moments that get us through the difficult ones.

So far in our case, alhumdulillah, most “days” run smoothly for the most part. It’s the evenings and nights that pose the challenge in more ways than one.

Two. Yes, I understand what [your loved one] is saying doesn’t make sense sometimes. Deal with it, and let it go. Don’t remind him/her that s/he is wrong or correct them. Play along. Say nothing if you must, but please for the love of God don’t make [your loved one] think harder.

Three. Don’t judge the family for what they say to [your loved one] to ease their mind. Chances are, no scratch that– I’M ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE there is a reason behind it and they know better.

Four. If  you are having a conversation with [your loved one], keep it simple. Enough said.

They don’t need to know a whole life story that will probably confuse them later. And they certainly don’t need to be put through a [political/personal debate/argument]. Not necessary. Chances are some parts [or bits and pieces of many different conversations] will stick in their mind and come back later out of context. Not to mention that it’s not good for them to be over thinking either. 

Simple is good.

Again: these are my thoughts, and thoughts alone about my experience. And they definitely don’t apply broadly to every person with dementia/Alzheimers/Sundowning Syndrome.

Everyone copes differently. What works for me? Writing my thoughts and sharing experiences with my family who get it simply because they are experiencing it tooIt’s not something that is easy to explain. Chances are you have heard of someone with Alzheimer’s, but until you experience it first-handed… it’s unimaginable.

I don’t know if it makes sense or not, but my love/admiration for Papa has grown even more. I’m blessed immeasurably to have so many fond memories of/with him that I cling to on difficult days. I just came back on the 17th from Virginia after spending a week with him and unfortunately had several reminders to cherish the moment. That dementia/Alzheimer’s is ugly. I hate dementia with all my heart and soul, but love Papa with every ounce of me.

P.S. Twelve days until my parents and I leave for a trip of a lifetime, inshallah… for hajj! More on that later.