Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Only Certainty

On a personal level, the past few weeks have not been particularly good…

Ramadan started with some bad news.. My mother-in-law was taken ill.. She has been struggling with ill health for some time, and, on that occasion, she had a bit of a relapse. After a few worrying days, she improved, and settled back into her usual routine..

Then another bit of bad news.. My uncle (well, he is not exactly my blood uncle, but he is married to my maternal aunt, and is like my Uncle, OK?..), is one of the sharpest minds of his generation.. Without going into too much detail, and without giving too much away, I will only say that he had an illustrious career in education and public service.. Widely loved and respected by everyone who knows him, he is one of the nicest people you can ever wish to meet… He earned national and international acclaim as one of the leading authorities of the Arabic Language, and received the King Faisal International Prize in Arabic Literature.. In other words, he is an intellectual of some standing, and at the ripe old age of 86, he still goes to the office daily, and still works full time… Then one day, he wakes up, and he cannot recognise the pictures of his children.. He can barely recognise his wife.. She asks him to go and shave, but he does not know the meaning of the word ‘shave’… Now, how can a mind so sharp and so alert be reduced to the mental capacity of a 3-year-old overnight?!.. As is the case for my parents, all his children live abroad.. Thankfully, he is already showing signs of improvement, although, sadly, a complete recovery is unlikely…

Then the hardest news of all.. My mother-in-law was taken ill again.. this time, far more severely than any previous occasion.. She fails to improve on home treatment, and is admitted to hospital, then to Intensive Care.. After a brief period of deliberation, my wife decides to go home to be with her mother, and my eldest daughter insists on going with her.. She and Grandma have always had a very special relationship… Most regrettably, I could not go with them, as I have already used up my annual ‘allowance’ to visit home… Two days after their arrival, my mother-in-law passed away this morning.. on the first day of Eid…

Living away from home means that you constantly worry about close family members as they grow more frail and vulnerable.. You feel immense guilt for not being with your parents when they need you most.. You feel helpless and impotent when you find out that they are not well.. You question your life-long convictions.. You wonder about the validity of that decision you made when decided to make a life abroad..

You might argue that the ‘decision’ is not always yours.. that the ‘decision’ is sometimes made for you, and more or less, forced upon you.. You can try and find mitigating circumstances.. You can try and justify your absence by telling yourself that you do it for your children.. or for peace of mind.. or for stability and security.. or for professional fulfilment.. Sound and legitimate as your argument might be, it does not make the pain any less intense, or the guilt any less profound...


No matter how expected, when death of a loved one comes, it strikes without mercy.. No matter how expected, it is always painful.. even when death means deliverance from pain or suffering, it is still very hard on those left behind.. because with life, there is hope.. one keeps hoping against all the odds, that something can be done to avert that inevitable fate.. but death is so final.. so absolute.. so irreversible…


Death, it seems, is the only certainty in Life...
(Picture: Painting by Asmaa Fayyoumi, Syrian Artist)

10 comments:

Rime said...

May God rest her soul in peace, al 3omr elkon.

Thankfully your wife had the time to rush to her mother's side, but may the pointless and stupid laws which forbade you this most simple of basics, and their instigators, be damned.

Your last three paragraphs are brutally true, painfully honest, and are increasingly relevant to my own life. I emphathize not only because I feel with you, but because I feel like you.

Wassim said...

الله يرحمها , البقية بحياتك

اما لخالك فالله يشفيه
(و منكم من يرد لأرذل العمرلكيلا يعلم من بعد علم شيئا) الله يستر كبرتنا

abufares said...

In moments of sorrow words lose their meaning but we say them anyway.
Allah Yer7am your mother-in-law and my deepest condolences to your entire family.
As you've said, it's especially more difficult when we're away but the decision you took or was taken on its own is never right or wrong.
God bless her soul, yours and ours.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Allah Yer7amha

saint said...

Syrian Brit, please accept my condolences for your mother in-law passing and may her soul rest in peace.
My wishes to your uncle of improvement since for the sake of the achievement you mentioned. I hope you will have a post in detail with his achievement, not many like him ever recognized. I love to see the people who deserve recognition being honored in the bloggers community not ignored such their government, and I wish for a Syrian Nobel Price one day.
And thanks Rime for reminding us that we the sons of the slaves can not visit own country more than once a year unless you have a master relative to go around the law.

The Syrian Brit said...

Thank you all very much for the words of sympathy.. It means a lot to us both to know that our cyberfriends are with us in this difficult hour..

Rime,
May they be damned, indeed..
I know I am not alone in the way I feel about being away from home...

Wassim,
Thank you for the kind words.. and for the good wishes for my 'Uncle'..

Abu Fares,
Thank you very much, my friend.. and how true you are about that decision...

DJ,
Thank you, my friend...

Saint,
Thank you for the kind words..
As much as I would love to post (and boast) about my Uncle's achievements, and as much as he deserves to have his efforts recognised, I fear that if I go into anything more specific, certain 'people' will be able to recognise who I am talking about, and then identify who I am.. At this point in time, I would rather not expose my alter ego ... I am sure you would understand...

Abu Kareem said...

SB,

My deepest sympathy to your wife and her family.

The Syrian Brit said...

Thank you very much for the kind sentiment, Abu Kareem

KJ said...

My condolences to you and your family. My Allah rest her soul in His lap.

I also wish a quick recovery to your uncle. Temporary and acute amnesias do occur and are recoverable but they need time. You all need to be patient and supportive and inshalla he will be fine :)

Eid Mubarak to you and your family. It has been a grim month for many of us I am afraid, bas inshalla rabna will not forget us and things will look up in one way or another.

The Syrian Brit said...

KJ,
Thank you very much for the kind words.. your wishes and condolences are deeply appreciated..