Loving after lossPosted: April 10, 2012
My mother died the same day I submitted the final version of my story “Punk-Drunk Love” for Love, Inshallah.
It was sudden and unexpected. I sent my manuscript in at 3 pm, and my little sister called me at 9 pm to say that Mom was being taken to the hospital after having been sick for three days. At 1:35 am I got the agonizing call that she was no longer with us.
By 6 am, I was on a flight back home to Los Angeles. By 11 am the next morning, I was tying a white hijab around my mother’s hair, and by 3 pm we had laid her to rest. Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un.
In 48 hours, my life had completely changed.
I couldn’t stop crying. The grief was overwhelming. I panicked over how my blue-collar family would survive. I felt terrible for being a bad Muslim daughter, not knowing how to wash my mother’s body in the Islamic way, how to tie the white cloth over her face, or what to recite as we placed her into the ground.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how I hadn’t told her I loved her the last time we talked on the phone, even though every time we talked prior to that we always ended with, “Love you.” I kept replaying the dream I had about her and the rattlesnake in the desert. I didn’t realize it was an ominous dream until it was too late. She was only 55 and I was only 32. Now, she would never see me in love, tie my wedding sari, or play with my children.
As a writer, I find comfort in words. I find refuge in solitude, in the words tumbling from my fingertips. It’s how I make sense of the world, of my life. It’s how I sort the chaos around me. But after Mom died, I lost the ability to write. The very thought filled me with panic and dread. I thought I’d never be able to write again.
Without writing, the world stopped making sense. The words I’d written for Love, Inshallah no longer made sense. I couldn’t even read my chapter anymore. Though I’d lived the experience, I stopped believing in my words. I stopped believing in and trusting in love. After my mother died, I lost faith in the universe.
“Have your parents been supportive of your participation in this book?” It’s a question that comes up at every book reading. Based on the tone, I can tell if they’ve read my chapter or not. If they have, their tone is hushed and secretive, like they know my dirty little secret.
I choke every time I’m asked this question, tears welling in my eyes instantaneously. One of my last memories of my mother is of her telling me that I needed to overcome my writer’s block. My mother was often a character in the stories I’d tell – I frequently shaped my narrative through her eyes. But I couldn’t share this secret, non-fiction love story with her and I was genuinely scared about how she would react if she read it.
She loved to read and it was when I started sharing desi-themed novels with her in my early 20s that we started to connect at a deeper, narrative level. These stories were hers as well as mine. As a pious Muslim woman, she would have loved Love, Inshallah. But as my mother, she may have been disappointed in the intimate words I chose to share.
I don’t know how supportive my mother would have been had she read my story.
It breaks my heart that I’ll never know.
My sister said it was kismet, the way he entered my life. I said it was as if Carrie Bradshaw met The Secret. I’d thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to be at a book signing for this anthology on love and meet someone who’d fallen in love with my words? I’d sign his book and it’d be love at first sight.”
Little did I expect it would actually come true.
He was a tall, attractive and dapper San Francisco Bay Area writer. He came to the reading because he followed my Twitter. I signed his book generically, even misspelling his name. The universe drew us together twice again that very week. He found me online, and we flirted via texts. We had our first adventurous date on Valentine’s Day.
I took our meeting as a sign from the universe. Ten days after we met, I picked up his copy of Love, Inshallah from his bookshelf. When he wasn’t looking, I re-signed his book: Finding you makes me believe in my words again.
Through Love InshAllah, the universe connected me to the man who made me believe in words again. She helped me trust in the magic of love again, when I most desperately needed it. The word inshallah manifested into life.
It’s been ten months since I lost my mother. I still miss her desperately and cry sometimes, but I finally feel like things will be okay. I know she’s watching expectantly from wherever she is, waiting for me to write again.
Inshallah, the words will flow soon.
Read Part 2 to Loving After Loss, here.
Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), has been a long time writer for SepiaMutiny.com, curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar