I once heard this epic quote in this really great movie, “Our memories never fade from the lives we touch,” and then a few weeks later I was presented with some proof of that.
Sixteen days ago, someone ridiculously close to me passed away.
My grandmother, Shairoo Khan, age 73.
Sure, some people know how my family and I felt. But not many people did, because not many people were as close to their grandmother as I was to mine. I visited my grandmother practically every single day of my life. Fifteen minutes drive from my house. Three minutes away from church catching the lights.
My day to day schedule to seeing her was something like: come home from school, eat and pray, do a tad bit of homework, and then go to grams and church.
Every single day.
Except for Fridays, but on Fridays my cousins in University spent the day with her, so she was never alone.
On the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, September 10th, 2010, my church held their celebrations at the Skating Rink, as per usual. After prayers and breakfast, my cousins and friends went outside to take some pictures and such, and a few minutes later, my grandparents and uncle came out to leave. My grandma was hot inside and my grandpa was just restless and tired.
My cousin, Shelly, stopped them and made them take pictures with the family. This was at 11.05 AM. After they took some pictures, they left.
The next few minutes were a world-wind of happiness and posing and shooting and I put down my camera, walked back inside to look for something to drink. The first thing that I saw was a coke machine – charging me 2.50 for a small bottle. I turned around and noticed my dad running to the door, holding back tears, trying to dial some number on his cell phone.
I’ll say this about my father. He’s one of the most hardcore people ever. He scares grown men away. He’s a defender, a fighter, and he’s brilliant. I’ve only ever seen him with tears in his eyes on two occasions other than this. When my grandma was in the ICU a few years back, and when he was leaving my siblings and I for two weeks and didn’t know if God would allow him to come back.
So, I rushed towards him, and in his tearfilled voice he asked me where Asiya, my sister, was. We rushed back outside and I yelled at her to come on – my dad and mom (who was behind him) where running straight out to the street where we’d parked.
My dad, on his way, seeing my cousins, yelled for them to hurry up and get to grams’ house. Less than ten minutes away. I had to give my best friend back her thing I’d been holding, I had to double back, knew the situation was urgent – just dropped it on the ground and kicked off my heels. Ran to catch up to my sister, mother, and father. Kurt yelled, driving past - “You don’t have to run, they won’t leave you.”
But he didn’t know. I did. They would have.
We jumped into the car. Drove away, and it was a procession – Aunty Sophie in the lead, Saalim behind her, Us, and whoever was behind us.
I tweeted at 11.46 AM:
the sky is so blue and beautiful with promise…. how can this be happening?
Little did I know.
Wild turn onto Peck Avenue, Aunty Sophie parked madly in the first spot she saw, Saalim just double parked, Dad pulled into his tenants parking lot. We rushed so much, I hit my door against the gate and no one cared.
We ran. Three houses down, across the street. Except everyone was on the street. Ambulance in front of us, Auntie Faz already sobbing. Auntie Sophie went immediately went to the EMT’s. Her hospital work ethic kicking in. Dad and mom couldn’t even join her, and their work’s the same.
After minutes, I approached my mom who had went up and returned.
“Ummi, what happened?”
“Her heart stopped… they can’t get a heartbeat.”
I knew more than anyone else. More ambulances came, fire squad. Over twenty people on the street. Auntie Sophie, Grandpa, Zak, Auntie Salma, Uncle Basheer and Grams. To the hospital. Zak drove.
They gave us hope.
Everyone went inside. Thirty people at the least. Filled the living room, family room, dining room, kitchen. A reading began.
“Ridwan will read us some Quraan.” Uncle Ali said. And the attention shifted to Riddy.
Clock ticked. He started, “Bis–” a sob shook his body.
He tried again. But shook his head. Uncle Ali cleared his throat, gathered the attention and recited instead. My eyes were glued to Riddy’s. I knew more than they did.
The reading went forth. My friend Britt gathered from my tweet that something was wrong, she texted me. My friends from church texted me. My best friend Shaz needed to know what was happening. She was family.
I needed air. I walked outside.
Granddad was back, Zak drove up, Auntie Salma and Auntie Sophie came out. Stoic faces.
I stared them in the face.
Tell me the result.
Auntie Salma started crying, walking up the driveway.
That still leaves me with questions.
Give me my answer.
They walked inside, Zak, beside me, nineteen years old. He leaned against the car, I turned to him.
He broke down in silent tears. Racked his body.
You gave me my result.
I walked inside, I needed to know. For sure. Though I knew. It was too complicated. Too much, too fast.
Uncle Ali, I caught the words, “Grandma is home.”
Shoes kicked off, turned to the right, my mom is crying and I go and hug her and I comfort her. I don’t cry. Over her shoulder, I see straight into my grandmothers room. My sister crying on the floor, into her bed. In the corner of the room, to the left, Wafiyah, tear streaked face, crying into her knees.
I don’t cry.
I walk out the door. I walk in the backyard, I sit on the blacktop in my ball gown. I pick up my phone and call my best friend.
Shaz. She’s gone.
Don’t say that, Raiesah. She can’t be.
They just came back… Shaz. She’s gone.
I hear Uncle Amir having a similar conversation. Tear-filled voice. I look up, I can’t speak. My tears have clogged my throat. My best friend is crying into the phone. She lets me go.
2.00 PM tweet.
Rest In Peace.
2.13 PM we move to the front yard, I found my sister and a few older cousins sitting on the front steps. When I join them, no one looks at me. But Ace says,“This is where we used to wait for the ice cream truck.”
Time keeps passing. I still feel stuck. The house is getting filled, over a hundred people there, easy. They cook. They set up chairs. Someone tells me I need to eat. My dad already made me change out of my dress.
I’m in too much confusion to function.
Someone bought me a red bull. The sun starts to set. The ice cream truck passes twice.
We write on the sidewalk. ♥ RIP Grandma. September 10, 2010.
Some people text me. Call me. I can’t take the way they speak to me. Until he texts me and it’s the most normal and yet caring conversation I’ve had and it saves me a little bit.
People force me to eat. Hand me the red bull. I hide my face from the crowd, pull over a hood. Try to eat my food. Sit away from people. They still see me. Know I’m affected. Approach me. I have no appetite.
They don’t know how to approach me, and still do it. I appreciate their sympathy, but it just makes me know I’m supposed to be hurting so much. The most understanding thing I got was a simple look from someone that the same thing happened to just a year before. She looked me in the eye, and it portrayed so much more than words could have.
They did a short reading – and people saw me get up to listen.
Commented on me.
Said I looked like I’d been crying.
I hadn’t yet let a tear fall.
I glared and walked away.
A friend tried to comfort me.
I had to shrug it off.
I’m bad at reacting.
But anger is easier.
My dad decides we need to go home. The car ride is quiet. The silence starts to slowly kill me. And we get home. The viewing would be at ten, the family had to be there at nine. The janazah (funeral prayers) would be at one. The burial would be afterwards.
I go to sleep sometime after three AM and clutch my blanket and close my eyes tightly and play my quraan loudly to drown out my thoughts.
I wake up at six.
And I hear voices outside.
Carloads of my moms family from Canada came. They came for my grandmother. They came to pray with us. Eight hour drive, to be with us. And I let them take my room. They sleep, eat breakfast, do whatever they need.
I need something to get my face unfrozen.
I go online. I search for something funny. Something football. Something good. I find something… David Beckham, I think? And a Canadian walks up behind me,“This is what you do all day?” Scolds me. Berates me.
I get up and walk away. Attempt to eat something. Fail.
Then it’s time to get ready. My sister gives me her clothes to wear and I shower, get dressed. I’m impatient. We’re late, on my clock.
My brother drives me, Ace, my NY cousin (NYers had come, too).
Two vanloads and our car. My parents had left already.
We get there. I get my baby. Aidan – my cousins son, sixish months old.
Taahir told me, “Yeah, that’s good. Little kids are the best to be around. They’re innocent and happy.” And I knew this to be the truth. Aidan occupied my time until the guys took him and I sat down, front row. My cousins, me, my siblings, my in-laws, my aunts, uncles. Time passed too fast and too slow, too complicated.
They brought her up. Wooden box. Uncle Ali spoke. People got up to see her.
I didn’t budge. Front row. Imaan was crying, beside me. Stood up to comfort her dad. My uncle. They stood there, my sister saw her, braced against the window and cried. I stood, to pat my other Uncle on the shoulder. My dad walked past. My mom held my hand and we walked over. I leaned forward, “I love you so much, Grams. I’ll see you again soon, I promise.”
I couldn’t not tear up. I couldn’t get the words out with a straight face. And a tear never fell.
We had to drive to Church for the Janazah.
My best friend, Lee, was helping set chairs up. Taahir, Salma, Mana, Safi. My sister went inside, I followed. I didn’t know where to go. I made wudu in the basement again. Made it again. Checked myself. Scratched at my eyes.
Forgot to bring sunglasses.
Waffy never took hers off.
We sat outside. They served snacks. I doled out.
I couldn’t eat. Salma sat next to me. I eased up.
My best friends sat near me. It helped me breath easier.
We had to go inside to pray, listen to some words. Someone rubbed my leg, Brother Ashraf came on the loudspeaker, spoke. I barely heard. Sheik Dawud spoke, called my grandmother everyone’s grandmother. Let it be known that she was the matriarch of the community. A pillar. Was.
Line began. I had teared up again.
Too crowded. So many people. We had to take a tarp and pray outside on the ground.
Basement full, upstairs full, barely space. Barely space outside.
I prayed in the front row. Dhur salaah. Done. Shoes on. People poured outside for ages. Waffy clutched the pole for some support. Virginia, Grams close friend looked for Waffy. Waffy saw and immediately hugged her so tightly. Wafiyah had the closest relationship with grams.
I stood by the hearse. They took the wooden box out, set it on wheels, wheeled it to the front. Told us to make lines to pray. Less than an arms length apart inbetween. Shoulder to shoulder. There was barely any space to fit.
That was proof.
Our fingerprints never fade from the lives we touch.
She’d touched so many people, they couldn’t fit in the span of four houses. Three parking lots. There was so much people.
I have never seen that many people at any funeral in my entire life. And I have been to so many.
We prayed. I put more heart into that than I have in anything else. I hope to God my prayers… everyone’s prayers were accepted. And then it was time to go again. Dad led us to the car. So much traffic. Ace asked if anyone was with my brother, Sid, who was also driving.
I didn’t reply except to run to his car. Got in shotgun. Sat through traffic to get out of the lot. Silence. Eating me up.
He was fidgeting, I was staring at two people leading normal lives on my left. They were waiting their turn to get out. Moe waved at me. I swallowed back. We got out. Four cars behind dad.
The ride there was one of the longest, quietest rides of my life. And if you know my brother, that’s odd. You know when you’re sitting peacefully and then someone drives by blasting music so loud it vibrates the world around them? That’s Sid.
We cut cars, kept the hazard lights on, drove slow, fast, took illegal turns, turned without breaking.
Got to the burial ground.
Packed. I stood a distance away. I’m a girl. Deemed too emotional to be allowed to be close as they lowered my grandmother into the ground. My best friend, Shaz, beside me. She had sunglasses on. My mom’s beside me, still crying. Waffy is in front of me.
I look up, through the trees. The sun winks at me. So peaceful.
A prayer at the site, I put my hands up. Mechanics. Shift my feet.
Time passes. Too fast, too slow.
I get back in the car with Sid. Can’t sit shotgun. Nyron, Sids friend, takes that. My brother eases and tenses at the same time.
We drive fast, getting out. Sid speeds, needs to take his feelings out on the road, wheels grinding the pavement. Gets on the highway, switches lanes, speeds away.
I’ve never, ever heard my brother portray so much emotion in so little words. The best my brother gets at portraying emotion is yelling when he’s angry. But the two words he spoke were so quiet, it almost escaped out the window.
We stopped at Church, picked up the tents. Drove to grams house, took them to the back. Stacked them in the garage. Cousins gathered in the front yard again.
My grandmother had been planning to barbeque that saturday. She’d told us all, excitedly. All her children were together again. And that saturday, her entire family was present.
All eight kids, all twenty grandkids, all eight greatgrandkids.
Everyone was there.
People from Florida, Canada, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. So many people.
All I can say is, if I even needed proof of that statement. I got it on September 11, 2010. Ironic, to say the least. If any other day stood at the same level as that day, September 11, I certainly know not of it.
My grandmother was frustrating at times, but I loved her for it. I loved the way she said my name, a slow drawl. I loved the way she chastised me because she cared. I know that every time she got angry at me was because she knew I could better. I know that any time I think about her, I’ll be sad, but I’ll also be happy.
Because so many people were there.
So many people cared.
And she deserved it.
And when my time comes. I hope I can have at least a fraction of the reception she did.
I love you so much, Grams. I miss you more than simple words can declare. But you already know that. I miss you. And I will see you again, one day. That I promise you.