By Mumtaz Saley
After suhoor, we got a call that Ahmed’s maternal aunt was rushed to the hospital and her condition was fast deteriorating. Ahmed was taken aback by the news especially as his aunt had cared for him as her own. Many years ago his aunt was found to be barren and Ahmed took to staying over at her house which was right next door. As the years passed he grew fond of his aunt and took her as a second mother.
As I finished dressing, Ahmed suggested we pray Fajr salaah before we left for the hospital. I understood the deep love he felt for his aunt. As if reading my mind, he took my hand into his and said explained that all good and bad was from Allah and that it was better to pray salaah than to miss it or be late. I felt his pain but admired his steadfastness and performing wudhu, we stood behind him as he began the prayer.
As soon as we were finished, we rushed to the hospital. His concern hung over him like a dark cloud and I gave his hand a squeeze as we exchanged looks. It seemed to give him some comfort.
We entered into a full waiting room. The entire family had assembled, so typical of us Indians - the whole ghaam makes their presence known! But most are there to hear the juicy stories to share later. The men all stand around looking as if they’re wanting to pass a bill in parliament. Ahmed rushed to his mother to inquire about her health but was interrupted by the arrival of the doctor who requested his attention. Ahmed left with the doctor whilst I sat comforting my mother-in-law who was sobbing uncontrollably.
Ahmed was gone for a long time and his mother began asking about funeral arrangements. I still had an ounce of hope and just maybe the family was being dramatic about how bad it really was and we hadn’t yet heard from the doctor. A relative overhead our conversation and said that since Aunty Fatima’s nose was looking a little too much to the left, it would be best, to begin funeral arrangements. I was amused but stopped myself from giggling as I had no idea who the lady was and I didn’t want to be rude.
The hours passed very slowly and I sat comforting my sobbing mother-in-law and impatiently waiting for Ahmed’s return. I was beginning to get a little agitated and worried.
Eventually, Ahmed emerged and he called my mother-in-law to come to see her sister. The look on his face was one filled with heartbreaking emotions. He tried to smile at me but tears escaped his eyes. I sat there saying a silent prayer for Aunty Fatima.
My mother arrived to collect the children, a blessing as they were bored and Mohamed was feeling hunger pangs related to his state of boredom. As they left, I took out my journal and reflected on my goals for the day but my mind raced back in time to the lovely memories we had shared with Aunty Fatima, especially the ones that had made us laugh so much. Ya Rabb, this was surely a test from Allah.
Ahmed appeared, grabbed my hand and informed me that Aunty Fatima was asking for me. As we walked toward her room, I tried to compose my thoughts when Ahmed stopped, grabbed me into a hug and wept into my shoulder. I let him cry as I comforted him and when he was eventually able to speak, told me that Aunty Fatima was indeed on her last. The doctor had informed him that she had difficulty breathing and the situation was worsening. His pain was palpable and I felt helpless to do more than be there for him.
As we entered the ward, I saw the ravages of death robbing Aunty Fatima of her once radiant beauty. She lay pale against the pink sheets but a faint smile appeared when she saw us arrive. Breathlessly, she asked the others in the room to leave as she wanted to talk to us in private.
Her almost inaudible words sent a cold chill down my spine. “My child, my time has come but don’t be sad as this is not goodbye as we will meet again in sha Allah. Since I’ve known you, you have been the perfect wife to Ahmed and I thank you and know that my dua is with you.” She became breathless but after a while she resumed, getting impatient as we asked her to rest. “But make certain you remind him that he was a gift to me and me to him and when he feels sad to make dua for my salvation. My dear child, be there for him as he will need you more now.”
She reached for my hands, kissed them with cold lips and then asked for the others to return.
We all sat in silent prayer, refusing to leave her side. A few minutes before the Asr salaah, Aunty Fatima breathed her last. The world as we had known it had received a blow sending it off-kilter and that would take time to correct. My heart felt heavy as I realised we’d no longer hear her laughter, soft, musical voice and the hugs and plentiful kisses she loved to give so freely to those she loved. Ahmed was hurting but like all men, remained strong on the outside. But I knew the turmoil he was experiencing.
My lesson for today – “Never think that tomorrow is promised, make the memories today. Don’t wait to change because tomorrow may be too late. Express gratitude today don’t wait for tomorrow.”