two deaths and a birthday

Beirut, June 14 2016

Today, my dad would have been sixty-four years old. Alas, he died twenty-three years before he could reach that age and life is what it is. So, happy birthday dad, wherever you are.

But I shall not linger on the memory of my dad for now. I have done that a great many times in the past. And though it never truly gets old, talking about it does. (Which is what I am currently doing so I will stop.)

Speaking of this little papa of mine-- his sister, my elderly aunt passed away ten days ago. Mum picked me up at the airport dressed in black, and I jokingly asked if someone had died because she hardly wore that colour. To my surprise, she said yes. I can't quite describe what I thought at that moment. Whenever you find out that someone dear to you has passed away, you heart falls into your stomach and you choke, you swallow tears, you try to ask about how it happened, or you remain silent to digest the news. But all news of death are different. Sometimes it's predictable, sometimes it's not. Each death deserves its own reaction, because each death is unique. But why am I talking about death being unique? I sense my explanations going awry. I don't mean to flatter death, but I am just reflecting on the reactions we have to it, very pragmatically. And all of it, perhaps to justify my reaction, or lack thereof. Dragging my suitcases across the street, I asked mum: "What?" to which mum proceeded to explaining exactly what had happened, how my aunt had suffered before being intubated, and how she ultimately passed away by means of illness, fatigue and pain, a dangerous combo that lasted nearly twenty years of her life. Old age had put its hand in the hand of her sickness and as they plucked her off, the three of them twirled to the macabre dance of death, freeing her, at last, from the shackles of the life that tortured her so.

And I recall saying: "Well, it's a good thing I'm wearing black too." Which I was.

But I had no tears to cry. What I had instead, was deep sorrow, for a life she did not live, for a life that witnessed her withering away in the confines of her home, lonely and helpless and sick. So upon learning of her death, I was relieved to think that her pain was finally over. I grieved her death, but I somehow was thankful for it, for her sake. For she was free at last. And maybe, just maybe, she has now somehow managed to cross paths with her youngest brother, my dad, with her sister, her mother, her father. She must have missed them so.

I promised, in my previous post, to write about my time in Paris. Instead, I have once again, written a pathetic account of a death in my family. But in a way, this is a good thing. Words are my only art. They are the only true friends of my soul. They know it so well and are very faithful to it. If there was a need for me to express my grief or my joy, words, I know, would always do it best. And writing this short little commentary on finding out about my aunt's death is a way for me to commemorate her life. I dedicate this post, these words to her. She was always so scared about not being loved enough, and in the final phase of her life, she was always very angry, at everybody. The anger betrayed her frustration, I feel, at never having been able to become independent. She was angry at us, too. Thinking we did not love her. Well we all did. Every single one of us. And this, I hope she finally understands.

Goodbye, "amto". 


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