The Weird and the Wonderful – There’s Something You Should Know

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On a spectacularly sunny California afternoon, the love of my life asked me to marry him, and I said yes.

There are certain things girls dream about. We fantasize, subconsciously or not, about the perfect ring, the ideal proposal, the classic dress and of course, the right guy.  I am no exception and while I’ve found the right guy, there is one thing I don’t think I’ll ever stop wishing – that he could’ve met you.

I think you two would have really hit it off. His sense of humour, though jarring for me at first, is so infectious that I now find myself cracking his kind of jokes right back at him.  We laugh more than we actually talk and I think you would’ve just loved that, I mean, you were quite a funny guy yourself when you were around.  If the two of you could be in  the same room, I think we’d all hear you both guffawing miles away.  He likes to horse around and just be silly, and, as grown up and adult as I sometimes consider myself, it’s a relief to just turn that off with him.  It’s a relief to just…be.

That’s not to say he can’t be serious.  In all my life, I haven’t seen anyone as dedicated to their goals as him.  When he makes up his mind to do something, that shit gets DONE.  You’d appreciate that about him, just as I do.  It’s reassuring to know that if I ever need help with anything, he’ll be there.  Even when it’s something he has no idea about, he’ll still do his best.  That perseverance calms me down.  I get worked up so easily about small, nonsensical things, and his steadfastness anchors me. It also makes me feel safe.  It’s a little like how, when I’d tell you I heard something outside, you would take a round of the front and back yards in the middle of the night, cricket bat in hand, ready to strike.  He’s like that, for me, all the time. It’s like having a bodyguard around 24/7, except this one safeguards my soul, too.

One thing you two would truly bond over is music.  His playlist is one you’d easily want for yourself and his love of Coke Studio could rival yours. Granted, you were only around long enough to listen up until Season 2, but the sheer joy and passion with which he enjoys some of the newer tracks often reminds me of you.  There are moments when he’ll be singing aloud at the top of his voice, and then suddenly pause to lament why he doesn’t have a good enough voice to properly carry a tune.  I tend to smile then, because that’s when I imagine the two of you together, listening to this music, with you actually singing it, and him being your happy audience, the way I once was.

You’d like him, you really would. I don’t just say that as a little sister who wants her big brother’s approval on her choice of partner. I say it because if you could see what I do, you’d agree. You’d see that he already makes Ami laugh and smile without even really trying, and instils in Abu a hidden hope of a son’s shoulder to lean on.  You’d see the effort he makes in learning about you, and keeping your memories alive for me, going as far as playing one of your favourite songs for our proposal. You’d see that he wants to move mountains for Ayana and get her every toy under the sun, without ever having met her yet.  You’d see that he worries about the aches and the colds of every member in the family, as if we were his own. You’d see that, in a matter of just mere months, he is family.

I never allowed myself to think too much about who I’d marry or how it would be, because anytime I did, my heart would shatter remembering that you won’t be around for any of it. Now, when I have someone who makes all the cliches about love and life ring true, I think about how it will be and I wish, more than anything, that you were here for all of this. I wish you could see your baby sister next month, getting engaged in front of family and friends to the man she loves. I wish you were around for all the planning, and the gossiping, the freak-outs and the dancing. I helped you make your wedding playlist, and I had always imagined you helping me make mine one day.

I wish you could be a part of this magic, in person. But because you can’t, I will console myself with what I know to be true – that I chose someone my brother would get along with, fantastically well.

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If I Were You, I’d Have Just 5 More Years

I turned 25 this week. In my head, that always seemed like a definite sort of age.

At 21-22, you’re still figuring your life out, getting used to the real world after the college bubble, learning how to deal with the perils of a full-time job and finances and bills. 22-23, for me, were years when these new adjustments solidified, and I began to make real choices about what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be and be with, and where I wanted to go exploring.  24 was quieter and louder at the same time, a sense of restlessness creeping into the routine of work life, but not enough to make me want to up and leave again, helping me build a resolve to stay and power through whatever needed sorting out. 25 seemed to me more decisive than others, a turning point from struggling to figure it all out to actually having a game plan set and in motion. Is that the case? Not really, and oddly enough, that feels more than okay. I didn’t expect much from 25, or from the months leading up to it. Perhaps this is why, the happiness is a welcome surprise.

I didn’t expect I’d want to celebrate this year, seeing as it hasn’t been much of a priority the past handful of years.  I didn’t expect to feel the euphoria I did, surrounded by friends and family at home and otherwise.  I didn’t expect to rediscover the old excitement I used to feel on my birthday, counting down the days like a kid and planning what I’d do, wear and experience. And, as much of an advocate of happiness as I can be sometimes, I truly did not expect to be so fundamentally happy.

A last thing I also did not expect was to be visited by you in my dream this week.  It has been so long since it last happened, that it actually took dream-me a moment to recognise you and register that it truly was you, my brother.  If someone had told me 10 years ago I’d have a hard time recognising my brother if he appeared in front of me, I’d have laughed dismissively.  But that is exactly what happened.  You showed up and my dream-state-mind needed some time to put the puzzle pieces of your face together.  The shock and surprise dream-me felt then, I can still recall that feeling right now as I type these words, and that fact, is as sorrowful as it is real and true.

The first year after you died, I had phases where I was in so much pain, I’d make myself feel better by picturing a time much later in life, maybe 4-5 years down the road, where your death was simply a fact of life I’d gotten used to and thinking about it wouldn’t hurt me. Heck, just the thinking itself wouldn’t happen much.  Guess what, though? That time is here, it’s right now. It doesn’t hurt to think about you, and it’s true, I actually DON’T think about you a whole lot normally. In day-to-day life, there are things alive that preoccupy my heart and mind.

This might sound callous or harsh but there’s only so much of the past I can allow myself to emotionally relive. I don’t usually talk about you or allow myself to think about you because I haven’t wanted to share these thoughts or tales with anyone.  It’s been an entirely internalised process, silent and inherent, not to be shared, not even to be self-acknowledged.  Lately, however, there’s been a slight shift.  I’ve been sharing your stories, and just through this act, I’ve been thinking about you, remembering your characteristics and habits, recalling your likes, dislikes and irritations. By using you as a topic of storytelling, I’m able to fondly step back into a time where I’m 10 and oblivious to what will happen to you when I’m 20; I’m able to think of you as ‘my big brother who plays the guitar and can charm an eskimo into buying snow’; I’m able to trick myself into putting you back into the present tense again.

It’s soothing to recount anecdotes of your life that make me laugh, because I can now share that laughter with a keen listener, who will join in and extend the joke and talk of you as if you’re still around.  It’s probably exactly what I needed without knowing it.  It’s been tough to recall the stories, not because it hurts but simply because they’re old and muddles in my head, and my memory muscle isn’t too strong.  Maybe your long-awaited reappearance in a my dream a gentle reminder from you, of you. There’s no way to know, but I’ll go with that interpretation. There are some bits I remember all too well, like how enraged you became when I secretly decided to tune your guitar and broke a string, and others that are blurry, like a song you had taught me how to play which I can only remember the first few notes of. Certain triggers, like this song, are still as strong as ever and will cause my eyes to smart quicker than raw onion juice.  Other triggers, like seeing the car you drove on the road, have, over time, settled into a state of relaxation enough for me to drive past with ease.

I just turned 25, which means that, in a few days, you would have been turning 35.  I used to wonder how my life would be if you were still around but, as alarming as it can seem sometimes, I have come to like the life I have right now, even without you around.  I’m powering through, trying new things each year, visiting unfamiliar places, connecting with unexpectedly like-minded people, and attempting to set goals that don’t always align with practical considerations. Am I fulfilled? No, because I keep wanting more and more and that’s okay, because if I were you, I’d have just 5 more years.

Happy birthday, to you and me both, this month.

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Just Because I Don’t Write About You

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Mom asked me the other day why I haven’t written about you in a while.  My answer was simple, instant, truthful.

“Because writing about him means I need to think about him.”

Perhaps it sounds callous, but it is candid.  I’ve become so accustomed to not thinking about you that it’s more a default way to function.  Does that mean you no longer matter? Does that mean I’m used to you being no more? Does that mean I no longer wish you were still a part of my life?

The answer to all those questions is a resounding NO.  Just because I don’t write about you much, doesn’t mean you no longer exist.

Next month will mark 4 years since you passed away.  That quantification baffles me.  4 years is seemingly a long time, and it truly amazes me how we’ve adapted to your absence.  We have filled in the gaps you left behind as best we could, and seem to be moving along now at a steady pace.  The hiccups are few and far in between, like when Ayana is at a birthday party and one of the games involves the kids bringing along their daddies, and she quietly sits it out, painfully aware that hers is no longer alive.

But what I said to Mom holds true.  I don’t consciously think about you much. Why? Because it’s still more painful than pleasant, it still inspires more conflict in my mind than any sense of serenity or contentment.  After 4 years, people would assume I have come to accept you’re gone.  But I am not.

It’s not okay that my big brother is no longer alive. It’s not okay that when I have a bad day personally, professionally or just for no reason at all, I have to resort to trying to find calm by listening to something you liked.  I can’t bitch to you about random, nonsensical crap the way I had imagined I’d be doing at 24.  Instead, I have to make do by wondering and assuming what you’d say.  I have to think. I have to think about what you would have done rather than having the luxury to interact with you in the present.  I have to think. I have to go back into the past, because that is all we have of you now. And that’s not okay.

I am not ‘at peace’ with it.  I am not okay.  You are dead and it is still unfair.  That’s the simple truth but that’s not something I can voice aloud to Mom.  Perhaps, she will read this and understand and not ask again.

 

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Are you there, big brother? It’s me, your baby sister. Help.

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.

You’re often loitering at the back of my mind as it is.  Bulk nestled into the grey beanbag, legs sprawled out so long it’s hard for anyone to cross the room, fingers lazily plucking chords on the guitar in your lap, foot tapping against the adjoining table leg to the acoustic rhythm. You seem to be waiting for something.

Usually, I am able to distract myself. I’ll run an extra mile, raise the volume on my headphones, read another dead poet’s verses, watch a half hour of mundane television.  It’s become increasingly difficult to do any of that now.  You’ve shifted from the periphery of my mind and begun to make yourself comfortable at its forefront and I question why.

You’ve set aside your guitar now (against the wall, careful) and are now sitting up.  The anticipation is as palpable as the tufts of hair that fall when I brush my hair each morning.  Light enough to float away into obscurity, but visible enough to stand out starkly against the white linoleum. Tangible. Dead.

I rack my brain for what to do but it seems to have taken flight in your considerable presence.  I’ve been overworking it lately. It’s likely to have left me out of exhaustion, with a sole lingering sentiment of comfort, “Your big brother is here now. Talk to him.”

And I want to.  It’s unbelievable how badly I want to talk to you right now.  I think back on our last interaction, a few hours before you left.  We’d sat across from each other, I on my laptop, you on yours.  I remember the song I’d made you listen to, and it angers me now.  I could have used those 3 minutes to tell you how much I love you instead.  But that was quintessentially us, affection manifested in a shared taste in music and words.

I try hard to remember some of those words now.  Each attempt seems as feeble as measuring a mile with my fallen hair strands.

I want to be 10 again, in the car with you to Dairy Queen, slurping sagely on a Peanut Buster Parfait as you speak about your current heartbreak.   Did I think it odd then that you were already talking in reminiscence of something that was still present in your life? I think the fudge may have been a sufficient distraction.  You didn’t want any, though, you were too preoccupied voicing the obscure notions plaguing your mind: love, life, and companionship.  I did listen, though, I promise.

I want to be 16 again, choosing to sit in your car and no one else’s, as we head to a family lunch.  I want to sink into the passenger seat, head and heart embroiled in the pitfalls of teenage romance, and stare out the window with eyes still swollen from the waterfalls of the night before.  You hadn’t said much on that drive, the need for conversation had eroded when you’d turned on the stereo.  Ronan Keating’s ‘I Hope You Dance.’ “Listen,” you’d said, “just listen to the words.”  I listened then, too.

I want to be 20 again, trundling around the airport parking lot behind you with my too-heavy suitcase.  I want to turn up the AC as soon as you switch on the engine and remark exasperatedly how the weather in Lahore is just so much better than Dubai’s.  You’d bait me into a playful argument, and I’d keep smiling, holding my tongue, as you poked fun at my new found Punjabi-ness and asked whether I ate channay and lobia for dinner every day.  For the record, I didn’t, but I never much had the chance to say so because then you’d move swiftly on to loudly claiming that you were sure I was failing.  You’d made the exact same claim just a few months ago when I’d called home to report that I was on the Dean’s Honor List.  Each drive home from the airport concluded the exact same way, with you asking if I was hungry and wanted something to eat.

But I am not 10, or 16, or 20.

I am 23, and poised at a liminal point in life, my head has abandoned me and my heart is in no mood to co-operate.  Don’t just sit there, help me.  Give me advice, tell me about a song, point me to the right words. All I want is a conversation with you, Bhai.

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2 Years: It’s been long, but not long enough

Let us take a moment
to pause and stare
Pause and stare at the fresh grave.
At the immeasurable spoonfuls of dirt
that will soon fill
it to the brim.

He died on a spectacularly sunny Saturday.  We left Canada almost a decade ago to relocate to the UAE, a country with one season reigning supreme all year long: summer.  Unlike this year, December wasn’t all that different from March or October in 2010.  To me, it had just been a day like any other in Dubai, hot, humid, and treacherously sweaty.

I had returned home for my annual winter break from college a few ago, and spent most of my time writing or playing with Ayana, my one-year-old niece.  Like my father, my brother was a banker and though Saturday is a working half-day for most banks in Dubai, my brother had been home all day.  In fact, he had decided to take his annual leave early and was going to be home every day for the next two weeks, a fact that did not register too well with me since I’d been planning on spending my days careening across the city and roaming the endless malls.  This would not be easy to do, with an older brother at home who had an inclination to call every hour, enquiring of my whereabouts.  Unknown to me, God had his own plans in motion.

Let us go
Let us embark on a journey
of thought, and descend
six feet under
to pause and stare some more.
Pause and stare
at the body that lies
beneath.

 4:30 pm.  I left the house with my sister, anxious to get some shopping done and spend some of the money Bhai had given me the night before.  This was new.  Usually, I’d have to pull my ‘I’m a poor, broke student’ routine to make him cough up some pocket money but this time, he had given me way more than ever before without even needing to be asked.  Perhaps I’d shouted out “Okay, I’m going now!” from my room downstairs or maybe I’d just flounced out of the house without a word.  Either way, there had been no real goodbye.

7:30 pm. My sister and I were browsing for sportswear, and dreaming aloud about all the things we’d do in London next month, a trip we’d been planning for the better half of a year.  At the same time, my brother had left home, bidding his mother, wife and baby daughter farewell for the very last time, to come to the same mall we were in, Mirdif City Center.  He had a weekly cricket match at its indoor play ground. Till date, I feel uneasy going near that area.

8 pm.  I was strapping on my seatbelt, and my sister and I were about to head out of the mall and back home when we received an unnerving phone call from my father.

“Beta, Bhai has collapsed.  Come to Playnation right away.”

My sister and I had been bewildered, but not as shocked as we should have been.  I’d always seen my brother as having a flair for the dramatic, with every little symptom exaggerated to generate the largest amount of sympathy possible.  I saw this as typical behavior, rolled my eyes and actually thought to myself: Well it’s not like he’s dying. But he was.

8:05 pm. As we maneuvered our way back through the parking lot, a series of phone calls followed with the last one falling like a jagged boulder on our souls.

“Beta, Bhai has died.”

How could my father possibly sound so calm?  His voice seemed wooden, jarringly inappropriate to the words he had spoken.  I couldn’t think, couldn’t move but knew we had to reach him.  I ran through the mall, panting and crying simultaneously, face etched into a mixture of disbelief and hysteria.  My sister must have been running with me but I was no longer aware of anything else but how fast my legs could take me to my brother.  I focused my thoughts again on my father’s tone of voice, the inflection in his words, rather than his actual words themselves.

Notice
the freshly cut nails,
the neatly trimmed hair.
One will yellow gradually,
the other will be nothing
but tufts and wisps
of dark brown.

I pride myself on my descriptive prowess, but even after all this time I cannot figure out how to fully convey the impact of what happened that night.  What i’ve realised is this: its not so much the immediate impact of the death that matters as much as it’s long-term effect.  Our swollen eyes, sleepless nights and struggle to put on brave faces were all just temporary afflictions. It’s what we’ve all experienced since then that is vital.

  • We can say your name without being overcome by a wave of tears every time.  When people ask me how many siblings I have, I am able to mention you.  I can say, ‘I had an older brother’ without my voice breaking.
  • We can smile and fondly remember things you liked to do.
  • We can do some of those things on our own.  We had a bbq last weekend, the first since you left.  You weren’t there to do all the work, but just as we were about to eat, it drizzled for a couple of minutes.  Was that you telling us you’re still with us?
  • We can talk to Ayana about you, and try answering her many, many questions about her Baba.  I can tell her that her love for singing and music probably comes from you, as well as her desire to have a pet turtle.
  • We can still go through moments of hysteria while thinking of you, but then we move past it.  Coming back from Karachi last month, I saw a man who looked a lot like you.  Same stature, same face shape, even a similar way of dressing.  I probably unnerved him by how much I was staring, and my heart broke a little when I lost sight of him, but I survived.
  • We can have dreams about you but still wake up to face reality the next day.  For the past few months, I’ve had this recurring dream in which you come back to us.  I don’t know from where or how, all that’s certain about it is the elation we all feel, and the sweet relief that this whole charade is over.  And when my eyes blink open and I see the framed photo of you I have on my bookshelf, I don’t need to lash out.

Notice
the glassy eyes slightly open.
They have witnessed the yellowing, falling leaves
Of only thirty Octobers.
Notice
the ears stuffed with cotton.
They have heard a crowd roaring, an audience clapping,
a baby crying.
These senses thrived for three decades
but now are dormant.
Not seeing, not hearing.

The truth is this: nothing fazes us any more.  Nothing rings truer than the oft-quoted saying: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  The cessation of your heart ended your life, but the end of your life did not kill us.  It made us stronger.  And with each passing year, our strength grows, our resilience grows firmer.  There are still moments of weakness, but that’s okay.  It’s been two years since you died, sometimes it feels like twenty, sometimes it feels like no time at all has passed.  That’s okay too, because though it has been long, perhaps it hasn’t been long enough.

Time has ceased.
Temporality is no longer
an affliction.
This body will lie forever,
Still and silent.

Let us go now
and ascend back into existence.
The moment to stop and stare
has passed.
It is time now
to let the spoonfuls of dirt
do their duty.

One Year: What My Brother’s Death Has Taught Me

December 18th fell on a Sunday this year. Last year, it had been a Saturday. Last year, it had been the day my brother died.

A cardiac arrest claimed his life of just 30 years, it happened in minutes. By the time we got there, he had begun turning cold already, with the multiple shock treatments doing nothing to revive his tall, broad body. I can remember that day, its brutal shock, its wicked reality check, within a blink. It doesn’t feel so far away. Yet, it’s been a year.

A lot has happened in this one year, and through it all, grief has been my constant companion. I’ve been successful in new endeavors, received opportunities for growth, tested my will and strength every day; it’s been more than just a roller coaster ride. At least on those, you know the ride will stop eventually. But with this, you’re in it for life, with no clue when you’ll be ‘better’, if ever. Nonetheless, I’ve gained some incredibly valuable insights from the experience; because of them, I can actually say my brother’s death has made me a better person.

1) FAMILY COMES FIRST
No matter how much I age, my parents will always worry about me. My father will always wonder if I’m eating properly or short on cash, and my mother won’t ever stop thinking if I’m free from harm’s way. My sister will always be my greatest guide, and my bhabhi will rarely ever say no to me. Ayana will love me and miss me no matter how long it is that I go away for. I knew these things before, but I’m more aware of them now. I’m more conscious and because of that, I’ll think more than just twice before doing anything stupid.
Before, I’d take risks and do silly things without any thought to how it may affect my family. I always put ME first. But now, I’ve begun to put them first. This is how it should have been all along. We go our whole lives oblivious to the pain we cause our parents, whether it’s by a major rebellion or just by using a certain tone of voice while speaking to them. It took a harsh wake-up call for me to realize that, and change, but that shouldn’t be the case for everyone. Our family is smaller now, more compact now that one of its main members is gone, but we’ve become closer too, stronger, pillars of support for each other. For that, I am grateful.

2) LITTLE THINGS DON’T MATTER
After seeing dead family, stuff like heartbreak and bad hair days cease to matter. Things I had thought were significant suddenly became stupid, and I saw those things for what they really are. I wouldn’t wish the loss of a family member upon anyone, but I do wish that everyone would realize this: Little issues are just that, LITTLE.
A boyfriend showing you attitude – you have someone who cares about you, suck it up or break up.
You’re ‘depressed’ sporadically for no reason– the only people allowed to do this are those clinically diagnosed with Depression, or those who are dying, or those who have witnessed death. Being annoyed at the weather doesn’t count in this category.
You have a bad day just because – see a family member being buried and then talk to me about your bad day
Your temper flares unexpectedly– people die suddenly, don’t get mad and do/say something you might regret if you do too
You whine about food and your family – the two things are what sustain your existence, be grateful you still have them.
You’re ‘sick’ of life – you’re ALIVE. Do you know how many people would like to trade you in for people they have lost? Shut up.
These are just a few examples of the things that DON’T bother me any more. It’s like an imperturbable shield has formed around me, and it prevents bullshit from getting to me. Not only do little issues no longer get me down, I also can’t sympathize with people who moan about them constantly. I’m glad that my best friend has realized this, even she’s changed in small ways regarding this which is phenomenal. As for everyone else, I would never wish them to go through what I have to come to this realization, but I do really wanna kick their faces in sometimes, shake them, and scream at them to wake up.

3) BEING ALIVE IS IMPORTANT
I’m not saying I wake up every single day with a sense of ‘carpe diem’ raging through my blood, but I do have a greater respect for life. We don’t get multiple chances to be alive, just one, and people waste it so willingly and happily. I no longer understand that. My brother died at 30, he had family, friends, a foreign passport with many stamps in it, and a passion for music. But he wanted to do so much more. That’s the thought which crosses my mind every time I think of settling for less. It’s no longer an option. I want to juice out everything I can from this existence of mine, and if that requires me to push myself to greater limits than I ever thought, so be it. At the same time, I want to enjoy life more. I don’t want to stay serious and sad, I want to laugh ALL THE TIME, and eat the things I crave when I crave them, rather than only on ‘cheat’ days. I want to take care of myself better, so I can live longer. There’s no guarantee that I will, but at least I’ll know I’m doing everything I can. I wish everyone could do the same. People have asked me how I’ve lost weight or why I’m so obsessed with exercise, it’s because I actually care about myself, it’s because I don’t wanna die of ill-health and leave my loved ones struggling to come to terms with it.

4) PRIORITIES EXIST
If I could do anything I wanted, I’d travel for a year after graduation, and enroll in a high-flying MFA. But I can’t. And normally, I’d be resentful about this, but I’ve learned not to be. I have priorities that come first, I have to be with my family after not being with them for 4 years. In one year, I’ve watched my parents age 10 years, I’ve to be there to provide some sort of comfort for them. I have to stick around to watch Ayana grow up to be a smarty pants, and her mother become more independent and confident. But it’s not just that I have to, I actually want to.
I also don’t want to waste time playing games. If I know what I want, I will aim for it, without any hesitation and confusion. I can no longer be one of those people who say ‘Screw it, I’ll do it later’. There might not even be a later. I want to make my present count. That doesn’t mean I won’t sleep more than I should or miss appointments, it just means there will always be a bigger picture to keep in mind. Isn’t that what we should all be thinking about anyways? My faith is stronger now, it doesn’t mean I pray 5 times a day, but I don’t just ask God for help when only I need it. I realize He’s there, because He has to be, otherwise death would be futile. A death means something to me, thus that which caused it has a meaning too.

I know that these words won’t change the world. It’s not my intention to radicalize anyways. I hate that I no longer have a big brother who’s gonna boss me around, or tell on me. But now that he’s gone, I know what I’ve been missing in my life. I only want people to be aware of what they have in their lives, and be grateful for it. I don’t like that he’s dead, but I’m glad he lived.

I miss him more than I can bear, but this is a longing that won’t ever disappear. In this one year, I’ve become used to it. And that’s what happens, you don’t get over things, you simply get used to them. Tragedy has happened to me sooner than I expected, but in a inexplicable way, I’m glad for it, because it’s made me more determined about the rest of my life. My brother did not get to live out his to its full potential, but he did the big things, achieved the main landmarks: good job, good wife, a kid, a nice car, vacations abroad, a comfortable life. I’ll always be happy he had those things to soothe him when he made the passage to Heaven. I only wish the rest of us do too. His death may seem senseless, but at least, it has not been futile. It’s impact has changed me for the better.

Why You Should Still Be Alive

I try not to let myself miss you so much these days, I make an effort to stop myself from thinking about you too often. Because I know that once I start, it’s like being sucked into an endless whirlpool which doesn’t ever stop spinning and leaves me disoriented and unable to cope with what’s around me. I’ve been avoiding writing about you as well, because even though it’s like my therapy, it’s still a trigger for the whirlpool.

It’s been almost 9 months since you died. That’s a lot of days, it’s almost a year. In my mind there is this idea that once a year passes, it’s officially going to be REAL that you’re gone, even though I know I am just foolish myself and your death has been real the moment your heart stopped beating. I look at pictures of you, watch videos of you singing, and my biggest regret is always that I wished we’d bee able to spend more time together the past few years. And now, more than ever, I wish that you were still alive because…

1) I’m doing better and you need to see it. I don’t cringe every time my literature professor talks about death, I don’t hurry off to my dorm room early to sulk and mope and inevitably cry. I don’t keep away from my noisy, crazy but well-meaning group of friends. I don’t spend hours turning over in bed, wondering why you’re not still with us. I don’t skip classes or lose sight of priorities. I no longer want to be self-destructive. I started my own clothing brand and it’s doing well, I’m writing a novel this year, I’m making plans for grad school and throughout it all, I really miss your advice.

2) Tim Hortons is opening in Dubai. We all loved the Canadian coffee-joint back in Toronto, but you always seemed to love it more than the rest of us. You would order boxes of it’s French Vanilla blend every time someone would come to Dubai from Canada, and you even wrote about it in a few pieces of writing. I remember how every car wash or gas re-fill with you was incomplete if we didn’t pick up an Iced Cap or a box of Timbits first. And now that Tim Horton’s is finally opening up in Dubai, we all wish you were alive to see it.

3) Ayana started school today. Can you believe it? Two-and-a-half years old, and she talks like a chatterbox about anything and everything. Her favourite question is ‘Why?’ and her favorite answer to the question is ‘Because the sky is high’, and I wonder if you taught her that because I only remember you saying something as cheeky as that. She’s extraordinarily smart for her age, and she looks more and more like you the older she gets. Do you remember how well you did in school, with the debating competitions, Quran recitation, prefect duties, and straight A’s? So many of your old friends and acquaintances remember you now because they can so easily recall how well-liked you were at school. We all hope Ayana does even better, and I think she will, she has your smart genes.

Ayana and her Baba

I know these seem like really silly reasons for why you should still be alive. I mean, most people would wonder why there need to be any reasons at all in the first place and just you being alive should be the main concern. But I know you can’t be alive again, I know that death is ultimate and final. All I’m trying to do with words like these is chronicle things you’d always wanted to see but now no longer can, I’m doing it to keep the flame of your life burning bright. You may be gone, but that doesn’t mean you’ll ever be dead in our hearts or minds.