When the angels cried

Somehow until now, Ma’s house has remained so intact. Over the years, elders around us have slowly slipped away, so that our streets seem so much quieter without their footsteps or requests for paan and yet Ma’s house stayed the same, untouched by the marks of time. Saturdays came and went, we all fought playfully over portions of coke and fruit cream and rarely thought of a future where Ma’s voice didn’t sound out, telling us to save some for the others.

For one week she fought for the right to die peacefully against life support machines. We prayed and prayed for her pain to go away and so we finally lay Ma to rest in peace last night. So my grandmothers soul goes on to the next world, leaving this one that little bit less special.

I have never experienced such a puzzling and acute pain. At times it leaves me whispering, nothing more than a lump trapped in my throat that I try to force down. At other times it takes me by surprise leaving me devastated as I stare at the Tupperware in the fridge filled with copra pahk. Then there is the slow blinding headache and tears that just fall, beckoning from a place so deep inside me, I don’t think I will ever see the end of them.

I always imagined you at our nikkah, trying to give Ahmed the almond milk you make, me sneaking some chocolate flavour into it, so he will drink it. Now I am angry at the hollow hole which will be left where these memories should have been, a truth I am forced to face but cannot bear to.

Anger is just one of the things I turn to, sadness in its stride. All the times I wish I’d stayed longer, all the times I wish I’d cherished a little more, all the things I didn’t think would puncture and stab me now as I remember them fondly. I don’t know how I will face any of these things without hearing your love and prayers anymore, I just know I have to. Somehow they are inside me now and I remember them, rather than hear you say them.

But how? How to accept walking out of those airport doors, knowing your face won’t be the first one we see. You would always push to the front and wait in anxious anticipation with boxes of Frooto and Milo. Living all these years in Pakistan we grew closer still and I don’t know who to gift rose hand cream to anymore. The softness of your face and voice whenever you said our names, the way you would sing and stroke our hair. The strength of all these beautiful memories fill my heart with such a dear and savage ache.

I am not alone in this pain, I am not just speaking for myself. From all over the world, family, extended family, friends: all the lives our grandmother touched reached out to us. So many people were devastated last night, shocked, left speechless in the face of this loss even though we knew it was coming. As we all sat there, last night, I am certain all anyone talked about was the fact that Ma was everyone’s Ma. The hospital where she lay in her final days, had to put guards and put them around her room as people flooded in to pay their last respects to this remarkable strong woman.

Everyone keeps saying, Ma will be at your nikkah, that she will always be with us, of course, her spirit will always be there, but the woman who sat with me, has gone to join her friends, my Dadi Jaan and Rabia Phopi where they will watch down on us. You will always be missed and always be remembered, we love you so very much and will always wish you could have stayed with us here on earth that little bit longer. It rained, it rained a lot last night, I think it was the angels crying for us.

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