When someone near and dear to you, suddenly leaves the world, its hard to accept. We say ‘Inna lillahe wa inna ilaihe rajiun’ (to Him we belong and to Him we return). It takes time for the words to sink into ourselves and our lives. There is this complete form of inertia that you suddenly feel, when your heart isn’t into anything you do – even though you keep trying to force yourself into a normal life.
It was the recent death of my uncle Brig. Jaffar Khan which shook us all up. As a child, I always admired my dashing and debonair uncle who was in the army’s Guides’ Cavalry, and the President’s Body Guard during the times of President Ayub Khan. He was a sword of honor winner too. Now, leading a retired life in his farm house where their horses were in the stables and the lovely flora and fauna grew with so much pampering from the loving care given by him and his loving wife, Shahnaz Jaffar.
Brig Jaffar, thirteen years younger than my dad, has been a wonderful brother to him.
He has been a constant factor all my life. You know the kind of uncle whom you don’t even have to ask. He is just there for you, no matter what!
At a time in my life, when my husband was dying of cancer and my in-laws had done everything possible to make my life hell; most of our relatives watched on bewildered, my uncle Jaffar openly stood by my side. He spoke out for me, and did all he could to help me. He offered me money also through my dad, telling him not to let me know who was actually giving it. I politely declined, knowing life is not easy for anyone in these days.
The day my husband died, it was my uncle Jaffar who fought with my husband’s brothers to let me take my husband’s body home – at least for that evening for a few hours, (before they took the body to their ancestral graveyard in Tamman, the next day.) It was my Chacha jan Jaffar who stayed the night at my home, as the guests arrived. – All the guests paying homage to my husband lying peacefully in his coffin. The Air Force and my husbands’ friends arranged ambulance and other details, he stood by my side through it all.
During those days, he continued to visit me daily with his cakes and snacks tucked in his arms. – He knew I had no money. Once he came along with a heater. I looked at the heater, wondering why he has brought it? Not feeling the freezing cold, I was oblivious of all feelings. I had bigger things to deal with which had made me numb.
Yes, he was that kind of person. Standing up for the oppressed, the weak, and the ones in trouble. It was his habit to do what everyone else just thought of doing. In fact, he would be so concerned by other’s problems that sometimes it would be considered ‘interfering’. If he felt it was the right thing to do, he would go ahead and do it. Sometimes, I’d get hot headed too, and we’d have a tiff. He’d be angry that I’m dealing with all my issues on my own. “Why don’t you tell me, I’ll help you!” He’d often say to me angrily. I’d tell him, that it is ok, I’m managing.
Coming all the 28 km from his home at the Tarlai Farm, to our home in Islamabad, to take my dad to the hospital in Rawalpindi, he did this every month. You see, my parents had moved into my home about four years ago. All this time, he regularly came to meet my dad. No matter how much I offered, he insisted on taking my dad himself. See? As my dad’s daughter, I had a less lengthy relationship than that of his, which had begun all those years before my birth.
There was a time, about ten years ago, when I had a regular column in Dawn’s Metro section in which I gave details of flora and fauna of the season of Islamabad. My source of most of that information was my uncle. During that time, all this information was not easily accessible online, or in books. Once I wrote his name and quoted him in the article. When he read it, he called me to ask me why I had used his name in it. He was that private a person and so humble, (hope he doesn’t mind this blog!)
A well-read person full of information on birds, plants, religious details; he was fluent in English and Urdu. Here is a sample of his Urdu and Persian hand-writing:
An instructor at the prestigious Staff College in the army as well as in National Defense College, he was a great polo player. As his sons grew, the father and sons made up more than half the team. In spite of his jet-set life, he was a person who said his five-time prayers without an exception. His grand-children doted on him as did his daughters-in-law.
When I found out about his illness, it came as a terrible shock. As my husband had suffered from cancer, I knew exactly what this illness was all about. Feeling so helpless, I wrote a blog: Dealing with loved ones in pain. His leaving our world makes me feel as if a part of my roof has gone with him. Whenever my Dad got unwell, while we’d be taking him to the hospital, my father would ask “Have you informed Jaffar?” He knew, he will arrive as soon as possible.
Last time, when my dad said it, we looked at each other, as we knew my uncle Jaffar was in hospital fighting Lumph nodes’ cancer. We didn’t have the heart to tell my father . All I told him was that he was admitted in CMH, as the doctors cannot understand what his illness is, and are taking tests. I kept taking my father to the hospital along with my mother, to meet him. I knew it was important for them to see their brother. Yes, he had been a younger brother to my mother also, from the time of her marriage. She always loved him as the brother she never had.
I’ve never heard him saying something bad about anyone. Ever. Though he didn’t believe in the ‘mehndi’ function of a marriage ceremony, he wouldn’t try to stop us from it, he would however, not go to it. He didn’t even attend his own son’s ‘mehndi’ ceremony. So, naturally, we avoided inviting him to the function also. Yet, this wouldn’t stop him from his wholehearted participation in the rest of the functions of marriage.
Yes, there are very few people who are not afraid of “what will people say?” He was always clear as to what is the right thing to do, and he would go ahead and do it, no matter what.
So, when he found out he had cancer, he hid it from everyone. The one who always did everything for us, left us quietly, without letting us do anything for him. He had arranged and organized everything beforehand. Instructions were given clearly to his wife Shahnaz Jaffar and two sons Hasan and Junaid. They also made sure about following these to the letter:
- In the hospital: Not to put a tube when required for eating, or anything like a respirator or items to continue life. To let him go without any ‘help’ of prolonging his life, when the time came.
- After his death: To be buried in the nearby graveyard.
- To do everything according to Islam: no ‘Qul, nothing. Just three days when every one was allowed to weep but not to cry. No formal duas or anything.
So, when his family asked, how will people pray for you then? He said, they will pray when they want to!
That is all that is needed. All of us who miss him, naturally pray for him. When we miss him more, we give sadqa for him. That is all that is needed.
The result is that everything is over within a few days and we have time to pray for him, instead of focusing on rituals. The grace and dignity with which the family has faced this great loss is an example for us all. May Allah ease the pain of the loss of the head of their home. His family will continue with the legacy that was Jaffar Khan.
Now, there is just this ache in the heart in the place where he has always lived and will continue to do so.
Stay blessed with such endearing relationships, my dear Reader. 🙂