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To Him We Shall Return

I have so much to say to you, but I am hesitant. After all of these years, I struggle with the fine line between what part of a story is mine and what part of it belongs to the other people in the story.

You cannot crystallize the meaning of a life into a sentence or a group of sentences. Lives are collections of moments and emotions. Not just the emotions you feel or the moments you experience, but all of the emotions and moments that connect others to you and you to them.

This weekend, I watched my father in law breathe his last breath. This is not a metaphor. I heard the last breath leave him. I am not the person who walked into that hospital room anymore, and I can never go back to being that person, either. My heart is broken in a way that will never be mended because that day, I learned what it really means to be a human being.

If you have experienced this, as well, you know what I mean. If you have not experienced this, there is absolutely nothing I can tell you that will bring you close to understanding all of the things that this moment meant.

A human life is roughly 600 million breaths.

I googled it. What the google result didn't say was that every breath you breathe is a word spoken or a word held in. Love or anger expressed, regret swallowed.

The human heart beats an average of 2.5 billion times in a life time.

I googled that, too. Google did not mention that each of those beats is a willful intention sent out into the universe. I imagine it's your soul whispering, "Alive."




Until one day, it no longer whispers anything.

I watched him breathe his last breath and heard his pulse whisper, "Alive" for the last time on Thursday night. And right then I supplicated to my Creator and begged that I would go the way he did. I prayed that when my heart whispers it's 2.5 billionth whisper and my 600 millionth breath comes forth, that people all over the world would shed a great deal of the 16.5 gallons of tears they are allotted in their lifetime.

I said it before. If you have not experienced this, there is nothing I can tell you that will prepare you for this.

I can tell you, though, that every moment in your life is simultaneously a big deal and then will suddenly become not a big deal at all.

Everything you do, every head you pass your hand over lovingly, every cheek you touch, every penny you save for someone's education, every curry recipe you teach someone, every grandchild you play soccer with in the living room or play cards with after dinner, every son you educate, every daughter in law who you tell is your *daughter* and that the "in law" part is completely unnecessay... is extremely important and then simultaneously fleeting.

Your life is vibrant reds, blues, purples, brightening the world and making it better -- see, the brightness of the colors of your life are made vivid by all the lives connected to you. And then, one day, when you breathe for the 600 millionth time, all of the colors in the universe will instantly dim.

All of the people connected to you will realize that it was your light that made the world seem that bright. And then those people will realize that they will never see those colors again in the way they did when you were here. 

Nothing will ever be the same for them.

Reader Comments (8)

Oh, Faiqa, I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences to you and your family on your father-in-law's passing. May he be blessed with entrance into Jannat-ul-Firdaus, inshaAllah. May his memory be a blessing for you all, may all the good that he did live on forever, multiplying infinitely. Ameen. What a heartbreaking but beautiful post. I am sending love and duas for strength for all of you.

March 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterYasmine

I am not good at this so i am not sure how this will come out-- one of the best things that happened to him was to have you in his life as his daughter. He learned the joys of having a daughter, through you, and he grew as a person because of that. He loved you. He had a special place in his heart for you. There were things that he wouldn't bother discussing with anyone except you because he knew only you would appreciate them, or have an opinion he cared for, or have a solution, or whatever. Before Nuha was born, watching you and my father together, made me realize that the best thing that can happen to a man is to be blessed with a daughter (like you). All these years, i knew how much he gained by having you in his life, but this week i realized how much he truly meant to you. I am truly sorry for your loss. You are right-- we will never be the same. I love you.

March 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTariq

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before leaving this here and I pictured him taking his last. I've been there. For my step-father, my niece, my cousin...I've been there for the last breath...and I know. And, I took this last deep breath, I pictured your father-in-law, and you and Tariq, and all of those people who will never be the same. I love you. And, I know that he was better for having known you - and you, for having known him.

March 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMomo

Four times since February 5 have I experienced the dim of colors... four. I am with you my friend, praying with you, for you and for your family.

March 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Frame

My condolences to you and your family.

March 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNeil

I know the feeling of the witnessing the whisper of that last breath. It's not something that you ever forget. I am so very sorry for your loss, Tariq and Faiqa, and to all that are left behind to cherish his memory. Between your writing and Tariq's, what a beautiful tribute of sorts, to just what the two of you meant to each other. I've witnessed that 600 millionth with both of my parents, and well... I felt a piece of me go each time.

I think of you often, Faiqa, and miss seeing your beautiful smile, and that of your children's when you'd come home to visit and stop by the office... I hope our paths cross again someday, because your family has always been a very special one to me. Sending my love and prayers of strength and comfort across the miles to all of you during this most difficult time.

March 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDede Siebenaler

It is a powerful thing to be there for that last breath, to see the finite point between living and not living. It is a gift, I think, to bear witness to that moment-both to the living and the dying. You are forever linked in that.

My condolences to you, Tariq, and the kids.

And yes, your husband IS amazing and his love and respect for you is the standard to which all husbands should aspire.Love to you both.

March 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBritt

annnnnnnnnnnnnd i am sobbing for your loss. for tariq's loss. for your family's loss. for the world's loss.
i was there when my mom took her last breath. the way you phrased this piece is beautiful and poetic. thank you for breaking my heart again.
love to you.

March 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

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