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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.

Be Your Own [Health] Advocate

By now, some, if not most, of my family/friends know that in the early months of last year[2014] I faced a pretty terrifying health scare — a possible/potential c-word diagnosis. 99.9% of the time referring it to as the c-word because it’s just that real still. Many tests, several biopsies, and months of uncertainty later: I had to go through the surgery route to find out with a 100% certainty. In fact, tomorrow marks one year since my surgery.

I can’t tell you how thankful/blessed I was to find out, post-op, that it was benign– that it wasn’t cancer. It was, for me, a stark reminder, to count your blessings, not your problems.

In the days leading up to the surgery, someone reminded me that God doesn’t give you more than he is certain you can handle and that He tests you only to your limits.

Allah does not place a burden to a soul greater than it can bear.” [2:286]

You just don’t realize it. Although, I won’t lie: sometimes, I feel like He gives me credit for more than I think I am capable of handling.

“Verily with Hardship comes Ease”.

While facing the uncertainty, in the months before the surgery, I’ll be honest: I couldn’t keep my mind off the possible “what if” scenario. It’s just not something you ever think could happen to you, unfortunately, until you are thrown into it. Especially at my age! Ironically enough, thyroid [c-word] is most likely to occur in twenty-something-year-old females. Me in a nutshell

One thing I knew for sure from day one: I wasn’t going to be just another statistic. I did my research. I asked questions [after questions]. I prepared myself for both of the outcomes. I was [and continue to be] involved 100% in my health[care]. From day one, I was my biggest health advocate. I’m detail oriented, a planner… and hate the unknown!

Without our health, we are nothing; and yet, most of us take it for granted and not care for ourselves nearly as much as we should. The time you spend on your external physical self [hygiene, makeup, grooming, etc]? That and more of a focus needs to be given to you internally and as a whole. Most of us, especially the younger generations, just don’t make our health a priority. Whether it’s not eating right, exercising [enough/at all], or making the trip to the doctors to make sure everything is alright. I can’t stress enough: preventative care beats the alternative a million times over.

Be your own advocate: make time for your periodical check-ups. Do your research and go in informed. Ask questions. Question them. And best of all? If you aren’t satisfied, seek a second opinion.

I avoided doctors [and OTC medicines] for the first 22 something years of my life like the plague, and then saw more doctors in a year than the rest of my life combined.

I was lucky mine was benign, but if it had been god forbid the alternative– think of this: I was asymptomatic. It was discovered by chance because I already had a thyroid issue that was closely being monitored.

Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?

***

On a side note: leading up to the surgery last year, I can’t tell you how many times I was blatantly told [by doctors, surgeons, and/or their nurses]: “honey, if anyone had to choose a cancer type, this is the one they would choose without a second thought”. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll choose to have NO type. Or “honey, this is the best type of c-word to get”. Yeah, no. Still sticking to the none. So thankful that He, above, agreed with me too.

I understand that this type has a great treatment plan, but cancer is cancer. The last thing anyone that is [potentially] facing it needs to hear is something like the aforementioned mindset. I can’t tell you how upsetting it was to hear that: a direct punch to my stomach. A stomach that was already in knots of nervousness, stress, fear and so much more. I’m not sure if they thought it was supposed to comfort me and put me to ease, but all it did was upset me even more than I already was facing everything I was.

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).

Falsehood

One of the most irritating things of a person’s character I find to be is this: creating false statements about others. Worse? Passing it on. It could be something frivolous or on a grander scale. Either way, it’s baseless. But it’s something I have never been able to tolerate. I pray to Allah SWT that it’s something that never consumes me.

How boring does one’s life have to be to have the time to create unnecessary lies? What good does it do? What satisfaction do people get from this?

Gossiping is very common, and I am sure everyone is guilty of it at least one point in their lives. But this is so much more that that. If a young group of people do it, I try my best to remind them how wrong it is. When adults do it? I don’t want to step out of line, I suppose, but it has taken a lot out of me lately not to do or say something about it.

These past few weeks, it’s been a continuous pattern in a group of people I know about someone very dear and near to my heart. About a person and their family that is so involved and does so much for the local Muslim community but humble enough to not let a soul know.

And for those partaking in this nonsense that actually attended the event? I sincerely hope the reason wasn’t to judge, and create more lies. Which, unfortunately, I have already witnessed.

It saddens me that people are so heartless. It saddens me because some of these people’s lives are a twisted mess themselves, yet they think it’s the right thing to do to create and spread falsehood about others. It saddens me that so many people are innately… not so nice? It saddens me that these people are so two faced. Mostly, it saddens me that I have to associate with these people, because I try my best to surround myself with people who make me want to be a better person. I just don’t have the time, energy or patience to deal with nonsense drama.

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.

Janaza

This past Sunday, I attended a janaza prayer [AKA salat-ul-janaza] for the father of one of our family doctor’s. Janaza prayers are the Islamic funeral prayers.

Now I’ve attended quite a few funeral prayers. My first memory of attending one, unfortunately, [for a close family member] is back in 2001 for my 15 month old baby girl cousin Aliya. And before today, that was the most packed one I remember attending. The day of Aliya’s was also  jummah-tul-wida so the crowd was a combination of family/friends and mere Muslim strangers that happened to be at the mosque for the holiday.

This past Sunday, at the very same mosque, subhanAllah, there was the same large crowd, if not an even larger crowd. All the side rooms, the offices, and the library were packed with people besides the main congregational prayer area, yet there was still not enough room to accommodate everyone– there were still people outside the mosque.

It hasn’t left my mind since.

I had never met the person who passed away. It speaks volumes to me, however, to see the community turnout for this man’s funeral prayers. Including several imams from local mosques. It says so much about this man’s character and how he must have lived.

We so often let the daily mundanes get the better of us and worry about the frivolous tangible possessions. We focus so much on the now– the this very moment in our lives. We worry about the past. Janazas are just the very real throw-in-your-face reminder that we all need more often that everyone must die one day. It should make you refocus and think about what is important in your life, and let go of the trivial nonsense. It should make you want to better yourself and your iman [faith].

It’s inevitable that we must all die one day. But what do you want to be remembered for? Are you maximizing your good deeds while working on improving yourself in the areas you aren’t too happy with? Are you leaving a lasting impression? Is it a good one? Are you making a difference with your life?