Yesterday I travelled with my mother to the Veteran's Cemetery in Maryland where my paternal grandfather is buried, himself a World War II Veteran. I cannot say that I am necessarily proud of my grandfather's participation in World War II, but I am not ashamed of him. Having never met him, I am more proud, for example, of knowing that my grandfather, himself a recovered alcoholic, led Alcoholics Anonymous groups that successfully sobered up many former alcoholics. Knowing the distress that alcohol has caused my nuclear and extended family made the Islamic prohibition of alcohol quite easy for me to incorporate into my life. I've never been drunk, never really wanted to be drunk. The instruction to abstain from alcohol is one of the few Islamic commands with an explanation. Allah says that there is "some benefit for people" in wine and gambling. But in this case, "their sin is greater than their benefit." Al-Baqarah 2:219)
Under a thick layer of gray clouds, in the cool wind of fall, we buried my grandmother with her husband. She was 82 years old. We share precisely the same name: first, middle and last. We buried my grandmother yesterday, on the same date that my father passed away seven years ago.
Thus, I reflect on loss. I reflect on the pain of losing people we love, the people who show us who we are, and where we come from. I reflect on the sense of connectedness I felt to history, the history of my family, the country, and the earth, when I gazed at the headstone of my grandfather and grandmother. I reflect on what it means to determine, based on our losses, where we are going next. I contemplate how easily life begins and ends, how easily we can return to dust.
Today I face yet another loss, one that is private, and cannot be named here. Today I lose love, a dream. I don't know what to do with the photographs, and warm memories that still stir up happiness in my heart. I see myself in the photos and in my memories, as a genuinely happy young woman, who could not have asked for much more. I see a sincere young woman, who gave her heart fully and loyally. Sometimes these efforts are not rewarded. Sadly, sometimes something that appears to be good for us in our limited vision, may also be bad for us. In reference to the struggle to which Allah calls us, we are told
But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah knows, while you know not. (Al-Baqarah 2:216)
Patsy Cline sings, "I've loved and lost again. Oh what a crazy world we're living in." That much I can say as well. But perhaps the most important part of this loss for me is the realisation that I have lost much, and also gained much. I have been inspired to pray. I have been inspired to love and care for my mother more, to give without inhibition. At this moment, I cannot comprehend how someone who has taught me so much about love and care, could at the same time be a source of pain.
When I was a child, and even a teenager, I would cry. Not even my mother could console me. She would say, "You are crying like you lost your best friend." Today I have to hold back tears. If they start, they won't stop. I know that. I must be strong, in the face of the loss of yet another September. Hope in Allah for the best, trust that Allah knows best, and joy that my faith is not wavering as a result of the deepest of losses holds me together.