I don’t remember my last Eid with Ami. On November 6 it will be 22 years without my mother. Despite her constant presence in my daily and special prayers, there is so much of her that I have forgotten. Her two photos in my room are like distant memories of a world in which she talked, laughed, hugged me back, waited for her four children to be with her at the same time, ate her favourite food, sang a Lata song. Of a lifetime with her, today I remember too little of her voice. The memory of her laughter fades a little every year.
I don’t remember the last time I hugged my mother. Hugging her sheltered me with the un-worded assurance there would be a tomorrow, a new hug, more shared moments of happy togetherness, growing old with my beautiful mother.
One day Ami left. Without a notification. Without me telling her one more time I loved her. Without me giving her another hug. Without her meeting my only son who was born almost three months after her passing. I miss her even when I don’t remember her.
My nani, our Bobo, was someone whom I thought I loved more than I even loved my mother. There was no one more loving, there was no one more caring, there was no one more concerned about our wellbeing than our Bobo. Her laughter was infectious, her advice even when unwanted wise, her eyes big and kind behind her glasses, her hugs a protective warmth.
Two of Bobo’s three children passed away before her. She hid her pain so deep her grip on reality begin to diminish. She was everything she always was but a little less every day. Her love for us remained unchanged, she withdrew into herself more as her familiar world became less populated. Bobo left us in August 2007.
Bobo is buried in our village, the place where she spent most of her life. She is in my prayers after namaz and my special prayers for her, my mother, and my brother, but it has been years since I visited her grave. Soon, I promise myself. That village was because of my mother and her mother. They are both gone. That village, the place I loved when I was little, is haunted with the memories of things that are no longer there.
It has been two years, four months and five days since my younger brother Babar left us. He is in every unshared story of my family, he shares all our happy and sad moments, his absence holds in a tight grip every day of my life. On almost every Eid for almost all our lives, we were together. On every Eid there was never even a question that we would not be together on the next one.
The death of your youngest sibling is something that turns upside down the natural order of life. The baby of the family must never ever be the one to leave the world first. That is a pain that leaves you gasping for breath. It hits me in the gut each time I visit his grave nestling next to my mother’s. He was the one always closest to Ami. Now he is the one who shares an eternity with her.
They leave. And we mourn forever. What seems like forever. Until we leave too. Blessed are those who are remembered. Who are mourned. Who are prayed for. Who are missed. Who add a light to our lives even after their passing with their lasting beauty, their endless love. On this Eid, I miss my Ami, my Bobo, my baby brother Babar. More than I did on the last Eid without them. I know they are with me always, but I miss them so much I wish I could see them smile one more time, I could hug them one more time.
On this Eid, as I spent a few hours with my father—my parents separated when I was five years old—my older brother and his wife, my sister and her family, and my nephew, Babar’s son, I felt the absence of everyone who had left us forever. Wordlessly, I was more grateful than ever for all who are still with us. Or who still have us. Geography separates us but we are a phone call, a text, a video call away from one another. My brother’s son, 24, is working in Boston, and his daughter, 22, is studying law in the UK. How much they all miss one another is something I can’t comment on, but I know how it feels when your most loved one is on the other side of the world.
My son Musa. My heart.
I talk to Musa every day. A little less in the last two months after his graduation, but our communication ties us in an invisible bond that is beyond earthly limitations. We share with one another everything about our lives, we listen and roll our eyes, we agree and advise, we argue and we laugh, and we are there for one another without ever being reminded. Last year, after four months with us in Lahore during the pandemic Musa left for his school in the US a day after Eid-ul-Adha. I miss him today. But I know, inshaAllah, we’ll meet soon.
Musa is always a heartbeat away.
Life is today. Love is today. Showing you care is today. Don’t TTYL I love you to the ones who complete your world. The articulation of your feelings for your loved ones should never be a rushed emoji, an abrupt interaction, a hurried hug, an I’ll-talk-to-them-tomorrow. Do it today, do it now. If you are fortunate to have them around you, hug them tight. If they are afar, have a long talk with them. If not a long talk, keep your love honest, your feelings transparent. Every moment is not memorable, but every feeling must be authentic.
Reach out. Tell your loved ones what is in your heart. Bridge the growing distance with love that you are too shy to express, heal the hurt of cruel words once said with a heartfelt sorry, accept an apology with grace, smile with the best of you. Life is today. Blink, and it is over. Miss a hug, and the regret is forever.
I send my love and prayers to all those who have lost a loved one.
I send a big hug to all those whose loved ones are away.