The Passing

Father. Mother. Grandfather Ross, the three small markers at the bottom of the image.

Muslims are gently encouraged to remember death. Do for this world and the next, always. And at the end of this dunya, this is what we become, and death, it is the ultimate truth.

Whenever I am traveling, I look for cemeteries, curious to see how different cultures sanctify their dead.

Here, there are flowerbeds, hanging plants, wreaths and angels. Plants, and both fresh and fake flowers. There are graves for those not yet deceased. Some of the headstones are seats where you’re invited to rest your weary bones with them. I always find lanterns, too. To help light the paths, I am guessing.

Couples, leaving one another years apart, are bound together in earth. The jarring ones are those who died on the same day, because it means tragedy took them.

If you look for the freshest flowers, know that usually, there’s been a recent anniversary or birthday.

Today was the first time I walked through this cemetery; among the first graves I saw was that of Mr. Assaly. He was the first man for whom my father worked, and would quickly become his VP of Finance. After saying hello, I spent nearly two hours walking, stopping at each grave I recognized. And man, I recognized so many family names.

I think, perhaps, I shouldn’t have been surprised; I am, after all, a daughter of Ottawa.

I realized that I have never visited a Muslim cemetery. My family gone, they are buried in Occupied Palestine, not here. Last I was home, my matrilineal grandparents had both passed and I could not go to their place of burial. Instead, I said hello to my family, and immediately walked past everyone to curl myself into my seedo’s bed. When I was a little girl, we would take afternoon naps listening to The Voice of Peace. I would always hold his hand when we did.

I can’t tell you if I would be able to go today. Probably not. I am not yet ready. There will be a time in my life where such visits will become routine. Today is not that day. I am just not ready. I can’t say it enough.

Instead, when visiting cemeteries, I fix flowers, and right potted plants that have fallen over.  Especially, I look at their pictures and wonder about their lives, and who remembers them still.

We are markers and gravestones, incapable of taking with us wealth amassed, but the wealth of good deeds.

Today, I am grateful for:
1. Carrying the memory of my grandparents.
2. Recognizing that after my death, I will not be remembered for long. I have no children to carry my memory forward. I think…I think this reality is a very humbling and sometimes necessary one.
3. That my brain is a remote control for the rest of my body. I hope that remains the case, always.

Ottawa | June 13, 2019

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