Posts tagged ‘death’
April 1 is always going to be a very difficult day for me to get through. It marks the day that I held my darling Ammi in my arms for the very last time. That was the most heartbreaking day ever. How could the person at the center of our entire universe be no more? How would we ever learn to cope without her? It was impossible to accept and yet it was something we had to face – that everyone has to face at some time in their lives. This was thirteen years ago.
My mother was the most beautiful person I have ever known – both inside and out. She was full of love and warmth and was totally selfless. Everyone else’s needs took precedence over hers. Everyone’s happiness, comfort and well-being were her primary concern – especially her family’s. She could not bear to see anyone unhappy. It seemed to be her mission in life to console, comfort and reassure.
I can’t remember a time when she was not accessible to friends, neighbours, relatives, all and sundry for advice or simply to be used as a sounding board. Her mere presence was soothing.
In a family where we were never very physically demonstrative as we were growing up, Ammi was ever ready to bestow a loving smile, a warm hug and soft, reassuring words to make everything okay. I don’t know how she managed it but she did. It was magical. She was magical.
As I woke up this morning I could feel her presence. I could almost hear her laughter – she had the most amazing sense of humour. There was a calmness about her that transferred itself to everyone she came in contact with.
The first thing I did this morning was to go to the cemetery, put flowers on her grave, say a prayer for her and try to dwell on all the happy times that I had spent with her. I had already organized a meal for 40 kids at an orphanage and am donating some money in her name to a health charity. These are things she would have liked. She worried so much about orphans and about people who didn’t have access to good healthcare. She spent many an hour talking about it and trying to figure out how things could be made better.
My mother had a very good heart. She was compassionate and sensitive, caring and generous. A beautiful human being without whom this world is poorer. Rest in Peace Ammi. We love you and miss you immensely and will always try and be whom you wanted us to be.
Today is Ammi’s birthday. Because their birthdays were only one day apart, each year we would make Abbaji and Ammi cut a cake together. Both of them used to fuss about not celebrating birthdays at ‘their age’ and yet when my siblings and I bought them cards and presents and sang Happy Birthday, one could see the pleasure in their eyes and in their faces knowing that they were loved and appreciated.
As I sit here this morning, I feel extremely lonely because there is no-one to fuss over, no-one to buy flowers for, to make a special meal for, to buy lavish gifts for. But much more than that, there is no Ammi to hug. Oh God those hugs were so warm, so comforting, totally priceless.
Everyone thinks their mothers are special and I guess to them they are, but my mama was extra special. I have never met a person more down-to-earth, more loving, more selfless, more compassionate and more sensitive than she was. Despite being seriously ill for a large part of her life, I can still remember that contagious, gentle smile that was ever ready to greet anyone who came across her and that sense of humor that often had us in stitches.
Her thoughtfulness, her desire to help ease the hurt you were feeling, her empathy with anyone who was going through anything remotely painful and her ability to provide the tender loving care that was needed to reduce that pain even a little, made her the go-to person for all and sundry. She was everyone’s sounding board. She could be trusted to lock away the confidences you shared with her and not to judge you for whatever mistakes you made. How could one person be so wise, so loving and giving, not expecting anything in return? And yet she was.
Ammi left us too soon but she has left an enormous bundle of memories for us to treasure and find comfort in whenever we feel alone. I can feel her watching over us from above and smiling down on us. Happy birthday my darling Ammi. Rest in Peace. We always loved you to bits and we will continue to do so as long as we live.
He was a walking talking, real life example of integrity, simplicity, honesty, hard work, punctuality and selflessness. If anyone needed help whether they were friends, family or complete strangers, he would go out of his way to assist them. He was a good son, a wonderful husband, a great father and an amazing mentor to many. He was my father and today we would have been celebrating his birthday if he had lived. Unfortunately less than two years ago he succumbed to a prolonged illness and joined my mother in heaven.
The world has not been the same for us since. No matter how old you are, it is always too soon to lose someone who has been an anchor for you throughout your life. To miss him and to honor his memory by remembering him on the day of his birth is natural.
Sometimes as children we didn’t understand why Abbaji forgave everyone no matter how much they hurt him or let him down. In fact he went out of his way to be extra nice to such people. When we asked him why, he said “Bayta one day they will realize their mistake. It’s okay.” We were cynical but he was right as usual.
My father had a large social circle – all nationalities, all religions. Some of his best friends were much younger than he was. It was amazing to see how well he got on with a diverse set of people. He had a special affinity to Chinese people having spent a large portion of his life working with the Chinese. His first job was with the Bank of China and the friends he made then stayed with him for the rest of his life.
He didn’t smoke, drink or gamble. In his own words, his only vice was that he loved entertaining people. So very early on, I learned to cook all kinds of cuisine especially all sorts of desserts. He always insisted that we have at least 3 different desserts on the menu. And so we did. There were times we had as many as 5 varieties of desserts.
Abbaji was someone people trusted implicitly. He was the kind of banker whose handshake was firm and you knew you could “bank” on him. A journalist once referred to him as a gentleman banker which he certainly was. We miss you Abbaji. You were the best father any child could have asked for and we hope that we will always live up to your high ideals.
As I sat on his bed this morning exactly a year after my Abbaji breathed his last, memories engulfed me of times gone past – of Ammi and Abbaji watching cricket together praying for Team Pakistan to win, of jumping with joy when the team won and forgiving them when they didn’t. Memories of them listening to mushairas, qawwalis and ghazals together or doubling up with laughter while watching Moeen Akhtar, fifty-fifty and other comedy shows on television. Or just watching the news and discussing political issues. That companionship lasted so many decades. It was no wonder then that when Ammi died in 2003, Abbaji no longer had the will to live. But he survived and lived and functioned for another 11 years – never quite the same man. It always felt like he was waiting to rejoin her in her heavenly abode.
They tell me time heals all wounds. I am not too sure that’s true. I think over time we learn to accept that our dearly departed are no longer physically present but their spirit, their values, their memories live on in us and the happy memories give us comfort as we continue with our lives without them.
Today as I pay homage to my father, I remember what a great man he was, a wonderful human being who was always there for so many people – family, friends, colleagues, even strangers. It seemed to me that it gave him joy and satisfaction to be able to help people. He never rested. He was always on the go. He worked long hours but always found time to visit friends and relatives especially when they were ailing or in need. We often wondered how he did it, where he found the energy. He just loved people and networking was an intrinsic part of who he was – connecting people, getting things done – the word ‘impossible’ did not exist in his dictionary.
Fostering community spirit was another thing my father did well. He headed many organizations during his life time – he was Chairman of the UAE Bankers Association, Chairman of the International Islamic Society in Hong Kong, President of the Pakistan Association in Hong Kong, he was on the committee for the rebuilding of the Kowloon Mosque in Hong Kong just to mention a few.
Associations tend to be very political and there are always egos at play but my father somehow managed to keep everyone happy and get them to work together for causes that benefited the community. He was also a natural at fundraising. He convinced numerous people to donate to causes that he felt strongly about – and he collected millions of dollars for the Kowloon Mosque reconstruction, for the survivors of the Iran Earthquake, for the Society for Special Children in Pakistan, and for many education and health related social causes. People so easily trusted him. Some gave him large amounts of money on a regular basis to contribute to whatever charities he thought were doing a good job. He kept a detailed account of every cent contributed by anyone and made sure they knew what their money was being given in aid of.
During his banking career, Abbaji met and interacted with a lot of high profile people all of whom were greatly impressed by him – one such person was the former British Prime Minister James Callaghan who signed this picture “Brothers-in-arms”. He treasured all these pictures and if you ever made the mistake of asking him where such-and-such a picture was taken, you would be entertained with stories of amazing encounters.
Large dinner parties and house guests in every room, were a normal occurrence in our household. I remember very few times when we didn’t have someone staying with us. The house was always full of people. Abbaji loved to entertain. It made him happy. I am sure he is throwing one grand dinner party after another in his heavenly abode. Rest in Peace Abbaji. We love you and miss you very much. Give our love to Ammi. Both of you continue to live in our hearts and in our memories.