It is that time of the year again.
The time of horrible flashbacks and remembering moments of pain, the time before and after my husband left this world – exactly five years ago.
“You must have been mentally prepared.” a friend of mine remarked.
“No, I wasn’t. It was the greatest shock.” I told her.
The doctors had asked us not to hope for a miracle, but they didn’t know how many ‘miracles’ Najib, and I had experienced. In front of that, four days of coma didn’t seem impossible…
How many times in our past” Allah pulled us out of so many ‘impossible’ situations:
Remember Najib, when we were on that Euro Train in Belgrade? When you had our passports etc. and had gone to the station to get food for us. The train suddenly, started moving, by the time you realized, we had left the station. You ran and caught the last bogey of the train – like a Hollywood film hero – it was impossible. You had been the best Marathon runner as a cadet, that helped you. Yes, you made it. Otherwise, we both couldn’t imagine what would have happened!
Once, in Saudi Arabia we had driven seven hundred kilometers from Riyadh on way to Makkah, when you realized that our papers (including passport etc.) were missing. So, we drove the seven hundred kilometers back again to your brother’s place, hoping to find the papers there. So, we had travelled fourteen hundred kilometers that one day. On the way, we were checked by the police which waved us onwards due to the number plate of our car which was of Kuwait. (Kuwaitis didn’t need visa for travelling to Saudi Arabia.) Our complexion also matches theirs. But we did have pounding heart beats. Luckily, we found the papers behind the bed where we had slept the night before!
A successful and brilliant air force officer, a Sword of Honor winner, and recipient of Sitara-e-Imtiaz, you had a wonderful career in the Pakistan Air Force.
Remember, one day in Sargodha, when you came home from office, in the morning around 8.30 am looking for a file. I was very sleepy and dopey. You knew that once up I never go to sleep again. You realized something was wrong. You found out that the maid had doped me, you immediately called office that you won’t be at the meeting. You made me a strong cup of coffee and sat with me till I felt better. You found out that the staff had disappeared and had planned a clean sweep while you were in office. Yes, you saved me that day. Somehow, providence always helped us.
Travelling at night on the Muzarffar Garh Mianwali road, there was that band of men in white shalwar kameezes, in the moonlight, walking in the middle of the road. It was out in the wilderness, and we were sure these were burglars out to get us. There was no choice but to carry on in same speed. They moved aside as we came near. It turned out they were walking there to avoid the snakes which were so prevalent there.
Once, we camped in the desert in Kuwait. You found that scorpion and so we decided to pitch our tent in the middle of a football ground, near some habitation. Late at night we were rudely woken up by a gang of seemingly drunken youth. Our tent was surrounded by cars of those youngsters out to have fun. One man called out, and you bravely walked out and told them that you had your family inside the tent. I was sitting up with baby Nadiya in my lap whom they saw in the torch light, and two year old Nataliya. Then they drove off, yelling and laughing. It was kind of scary.
When we went on our trip to Europe from Kuwait, we took the trip which no one had ever taken before us. We started by going through East Europe. Travelling through ten European countries in twenty days with a one year old child.
So, how was I to believe these doctors who knew nothing about our history?
Of course I wasn’t ready for you to leave me.
In fact, the last words you heard from me was telling you that I loved you, and won’t let you leave me, or our family. That we were going to walk out of that hospital together. You looked at me with focus and then closed your eyes for the last time. Next day, we saw all the monitor’s screen lines going straight. … It was 17th of January 2012.
We both had to bow our heads to Allah’s decision to take you for a better world; you left me behind to fend for our daughters and the home that we both were building for our family.
Alhamdolillah, we had a good life.
Allah has truly blessed us with lovely daughters we have been proud of. You not only said they are our sons, but you brought them up like that too.
The turmoil we faced along with your passing, was unbearable. However, I knew that I had to keep the legacy of our family alive . So, there was this desperate effort to make life as ‘normal’ as possible.
Remember, whenever you would go out of town on some official visit, everything in our home would start collapsing. The fridge, the microwave, the car, and almost everything would start mal-functioning. As soon as you would step inside the house, you would touch the things, and more than half of them would start working.
But this time when you left for ever. The UPS in our home just collapsed. So, for four months I just couldn’t get it working. We lived in candle light during load-shedding in our frozen home. However, the spirit of our family was never lost.
A place for you was set at the table every day at lunch time as usual. This carried on for at least two to three years. I remember the first time I went grocery shopping, Nataliya caught me buying things which she knew only you would have. She looked at me asking me “Why?” and I said, “But I’ve always got it for your Papa. I couldn’t imagine grocery shopping without getting things for you.”
When talking about anything, I’d catch myself thinking “I’ll ask Najib.” While driving I had to tell myself to drive carefully. Now, there will be no hubby dear to phone, if the car breaks down. How you would come immediately, when I’d call you with my problem!
The debt that was incurred during building of our home was very upsetting for me. I knew, that a debt is not forgiven even to a Shaheed. “But Mama, you know Papa would never leave anyone without payment, Allah knows, we are not at fault.” Our daughter assured me.
“Listen, Allah knows that, but what fault is it of the poor laborers and workers, who have completed our house, to remain unpaid?” It was a nightmare for me. There was no money, as the banks had been closed while you were alive, the legal procedures were taking years …. there was no money to manage.
Funnily enough, thanks to the cruelty of my ‘enemies’ we found out about some money that was due to our daughter Waliya. She got it and gave it to me to pay for the debt of her father. Those brothers and one sister who were so determined to get us out of house and home, were least pushed about the payment of their brothers’ debts. This facet of Islam was conveniently ‘forgotten’.
So, that money, which you had probably kept aside for her marriage, was now being used by her to pay your debts. Meanwhile, I’d regularly give sadqa or charity in your name, to elevate your status in heaven as much as possible.
Today, looking around at our completed home and the happiness and joy of our family living in it, I thank Allah for your determination to have our own home. You really wanted to build it ourselves, and also let me choose every item that we bought for it. Alhamdolillah.
I’d sit in our lawn, and find strangers coming in telling me how you gave that poor person some money as charity. Remember, many times it happened that we both had given charity to the same person, not knowing that the other had also given!
You know, I got my book published in USA the next year, in 2013, but I didn’t have the courage to write in the introduction about your passing away. It has been like an ode to the life we spent together. The funny incidents of our lives spent in different cities of Pakistan, and while traveling abroad.
I could go on and on. But today, it is my intention to finally let you be at peace in heaven. It is my wish that you have got there without ‘hisab’ as I’ve prayed countless times to my Allah – to grant you a place in the highest place in heaven – Jannat-ul-Firdaus.
“A time comes when you have to let go of your dear ones. To let them leave this world in peace.” This is what Stephen R. Covey had written when writing about the death of his son to cancer. At that time, I knew nothing about cancer – nor about losing a loved one – to death. I know you can forgive me for taking such a long time, but I think I can be forgiven for that.
Marriage has so many sides to it. It’s a real scrambled egg with – beautiful and ugly – moments in it. Both of us being very strong headed, naturally we had many bad moments also. But when you count in years, our happy years were far more than the unhappy ones.
Every couple begins to understand his/her partner’s weaknesses and strengths. During bad times this information about each other is used to big disadvantage. Paradoxically, this same information becomes the strength of the couple during ‘good’ times. I would know when you were down, and knew well how to cover up in front of the world. Similarly, you knew my handicaps and could cover up for me too.
Though your siblings made sure we never had a moment alone before your death. Still, you had said what you felt in a card, lying at home. The card you had written for me lay unread in your bedside drawer – it has been the final farewell for us. It has put everything into perspective. It was written I guess, at the time, when our house was to be ready in June, 2011 originally – when it is my birthday. It is obvious you had planned to give it to me then. When you found that the construction got extended, you were trying to remove the ‘happy birthday’ with a whitener, so that the card would be given whenever we actually enter our home together.
You left our world three weeks before we walked into our home, ironically, on your birthday.
Stay blessed in your heavenly abode, my buddy of so many beautiful years. Inna lillah e wa inna illaihi raajiun. To Him we belong and to Him we shall return.