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Part 9 – “You gave me a forever within the numbered days”

9 September 2018

In part 8 I had met Shafiq and all seemed well. Unlike in the movies, meeting my life partner is not the happy ending. In fact, as life goes, it inevitably is the beginning of the most educational chapter in one’s life, if one chooses to learn through it. In any event, love and its languages had to take a pause for a while. My life was being overtaken by another major event.

My beloved father had fallen ill. I thought he’d recover as he went in and out of hospital. I felt uncanny guilt about not being able to afford medical aid or a private hospital. Perhaps if I’d stuck it out in the legal field, much as I hated being an attorney, I would have been able to get the best medical care for him. This formidable man who had always been larger than life for me was fading before my eyes and I did not have the courage to accept it. I would see him walking in pain and I couldn’t bear to watch him suffering. At home, his pain-riddled moans and sighs pierced through my brain like a buzz saw and I felt I just wanted to get away from the whole scene. I couldn’t bear to see him struggle to walk from his bedroom to the bathroom. When he was in hospital, I questioned the doctors and sent letters to the Minister of Health about the poor state of the provincial hospital he was at. I even sent copies of his medical records to one of his doctor friends in Cape Town. When he said there was nothing to be done, I still refused to accept it. I was even too afraid to visit him in hospital, as I couldn’t bear to see him in such a state of frailty. It felt unnatural to me. He endured nine long months of illness and I endured nine months of resistance and denial. He was even too ill to meet Shafiq. Somehow, he knew that I would be marrying, without me telling him much about it. One night at the hospital he said he was not going to be around for the wedding. I still refused to accept that my beloved father and teacher was preparing to depart this world. I was with him one Thursday night at the hospital and he looked at me but right through me. It was as if he was not aware of anyone in the room. I distinctly heard him addressing my granny, (his mother), the way I remember him addressing her when she was alive. I went home that night, and quietly made sure that the telephone was connected, took out my prayer mat and in communion with my Creator, I felt a surge of release unto him, submitting to my father’s passing and seeking forgiveness for refusing to let go. For the first time, I sobbed acknowledging my father’s human frailty and imminent departure from this planet. Early that morning, the second day of October in the year 1998, at the time of Fajr, the early morning prayer, we received the dreaded phone call. My brothers and I made our way to the hospital. He lay there as if he was sleeping. I was struck with fear as I bent over to kiss his forehead not expecting the coldness of his skin as it grazed my lips. This incredible human being, an unsung hero who had touched so many lives was only here in body. My mind struggled to accept that he would not wake up at any moment. Everything felt surreal. I opened his favourite book containing the words of God in the manner he had taught us, and it fell on a verse of Jannah (heaven), one he had quoted and explained to us many times before. I couldn’t weep. I felt as if I was frozen. Everything moved really quickly after that. Family and friends rallied to arrange his burial speedily, as is the custom with Muslims. This was a blessing for me. I don’t think I could’ve managed having his body around for a long period. I really needed the speedy closure afforded by a quick simple burial. I went to buy flowers for his grave and only then, when I was alone in the car did I let out a deep moaning from the pit of my stomach followed by a guttural sobbing. My father was gone. I would not hear his boisterous laugh, and his smiling hazel eyes and full lips which I inherited. I would not hear his voice calling me “Ratz, Ratzy….” I would not be captivated by his wisdom. I would not feel his strong hands on my shoulder or his re-assuring pat on the back of my neck. A gesture he made with my brothers and I since we were little. I would have to rely on my memories of him and the many treasures he left me in my tool-kit of life. His body lay in a white calico shroud where people would have a chance to greet and make prayers before he was taken to the cemetery, I braced myself as I knelt to sit near him and I could swear I heard his voice saying to me, “sit at my feet and let the grandchildren sit near my head. You’d better read Yaseen coz you know it’s the surah you know best. Don’t wanna start hukking now.” I almost laughed. Whatever I heard that day, whether it was my father’s voice or my own thoughts, it calmed me, and I was able to pray for my father and bid him adieu till I meet him again when it is my time. He was buried before Jummuah, the Friday Sabbath prayer. My worldly attachment and dependence on my dad was suddenly snatched away. His passing left me vulnerable and alone. My father had been a focal influence in my life and I had a deep attachment to him. He was my back-up; my security, and his passing felt like a rug was being pulled out from under my feet. As much as I loved and depended on him, his onward journey was inevitable, and the reality of loss faced me head-on for the first time in my life. I had to let go and was gifted with the grace of understanding that I had to detach. We are social beings and have dependencies on each other. It was my father’s passing that taught me that the wonderful gift of relationships, be they with our parents, partners or children, friends or lovers, is not accompanied by any real measure of dominion. Love, ownership and control are mutually exclusive. We cannot control the time of departure from our loved ones. Transience defines our existence and defies the intelligence of control and dominion. The greatest gift that came with his passing was the freedom to make my choices without fear of his disapproval. He never imposed that on me when he was alive. I chose to seek it for myself, making him the barometer of my good and bad choices.

He returned unto his Creator and journeyed to the next phase of his existence. I miss him every day, but I can continue my life with appreciation of the invaluable tools he had left me. I am at peace in the knowledge and acceptance that he has continued his journey, where I would have to follow when it is my time. Life is a gift, as is everything else made available to us on this earth, but like everything else it is temporary and can be taken away, lost, or destroyed. I was forced to focus my dependencies elsewhere. There is a much greater reliance that I needed to develop, and my face turned towards my Creator as my benefactor, and the owner, controller, designer of everything in this world and beyond. As my soul pushed me toward him, the earthly need for love turned me towards another male figure. My future husband. As I lost the most important man in my life, I was gifted with another. But would I find the answer to my questions with a new love and my third marriage?

We’ll have to find out more next time God-willing

With love, Radia💚