I had a dream last night. I was missing my Baba so much that I somehow managed to get into his grave to lie down next to him. Graves in Egypt are small underground rooms. The grave door was open and sunlight was shining through. It felt nice to lie down next to him. I felt safe. As I was lying there, my Baba started to stir. He slowly opened his eyes. He was awake! I was so overjoyed. I remember feeling in the dream that the nightmare of his death was finally over. He was back as he should be. I quickly called my brothers and sister to come. Baba was awake!
In the next scene in the dream my Baba was lying outside the grave on the ground. My two brothers, my sister and I were around him talking. Baba was weak from, well, being dead for three weeks. But he was happy we were all around him. I started trying to find my cousins in the village where my Baba is buried to help us carry him to a nice bed so he could recuperate.
I woke up from that dream feeling good. It was a nice dream. I saw my Baba. He was all right. Everything would be all right.
I later started analyzing what the dream might mean.
My Baba was ill for several years before he died. He spoke about death a lot. He had been into hospital, had had operations, and he loathed the experience. I traveled to the UK for a long holiday in early August. Just before that, though, my Baba got a bit more ill than usual. My brother, sister, ex-husband and I all gathered around his bed to convince him that he needed to see a doctor so he could get the right medications for his condition. He felt that visiting a doctor meant he’d end up in a hospital. He did not want to go to the hospital. His memories of his last experience were so horrible. I told him we would not take him to the hospital even if he was dying. I told him I understood. He wanted to die on his own bed, he said. I said we understood that and promised we would not take him to the hospital if he got ill. We just wanted him to see a doctor to ease some of his pain with the right medications. About two days after that I went on holiday. I came back to Egypt three weeks later after a phone call from my siblings telling me that Baba was admitted to hospital in a coma. There was nothing they could do. There was no alternative. I know there was no alternative. But it pains me to no end that my Baba died in a hospital bed.
I think my dream is my way of trying to make amends with my dad. I wanted to get him to a nice bed. If I got him to a nice bed everything would be all right. He could even die again there. It would be all right.
After conducting my extensive self-analysis I started a new bout of sobbing. “I’m so sorry, Baba!” I cried out again and again and again. That then merged into my normal sob of just “Baba. Baba. Baba!” I can hear a five year old child in me saying that when it comes out.
I had never before experienced this kind of loss. I have lost grandparents. I have lost uncles and aunts. But none of that comes remotely close to the loss of a parent. I knew it would be hard when it happened. I just didn’t realize it would feel this… odd.
I’ve always known that a large part of my self-identity was linked to my father. He has been such a huge influence in my life. Losing him has been like having the very foundations of my identity experience a serious earthquake. Who am I without my Baba? Am I the same person? Do I need to be the same person? Is it time to figure out who I am as a separate individual?
One of my beautiful friends from India told me when my Baba died that having a parent die is like finally getting the umbilical cord cut. It’s true. The umbilical cord has been cut and it feels like I’m thrashing around in the dark, knowing that the light is near, but I just have to focus my thoughts and get over the initial panic to reach that light.
I’ve seen friends lose parents over the years. For the most part I only see the brave face they put on for us. When it happens, I realize they are going through a very difficult time. But only now can I truly comprehend how difficult it really is.
It seems irrelevant how old a parent is when they die. It seems irrelevant how old their children are when they die. We still feel horribly orphaned when our parents pass away.
I’m almost 43 years old. My Baba was 73 when he died. He was ill. He knew and we knew he’d die eventually. None of that makes any of this any easier.
For all of my adult life, my Baba was my confidante and main supporter. I could tell him almost anything. I discussed my problems with him and he gave me advice. When I did something interesting, I wanted him to be the first person to know about it. As he got into his late sixties and became ill, it became difficult for him to discuss problems with me. He couldn’t handle the stress of problems anymore. Problems worried him too much. So I had to eventually stop telling my Baba everything. I ached horribly at the loss of that part of our friendship. But I still had my Baba. We still had our special things. He was always the last person I called before my plane took off from Cairo and the first person I called just as my plane landed back home during some ten years of frequent business travel. He was usually the only person to call me when I was traveling just to make sure I was all right.
Ten days after my Baba’s death I went on a week long holiday. After the holiday ended and the second I hopped into my car to drive myself back home from the airport I broke down crying. “Baba! Baba! Baba!” I came home from a trip and I couldn’t call my Baba to tell him I was all right. Where has my Baba gone? Who ripped my heart out of my rib cage?
I still moan and sob. But the bouts of crying are gradually becoming less frequent if not less intense. They last for one or two minutes and then I snap out of it and move on until the next bout of crying hits me a day or two later. Something will remind me that I should call Baba or that Friday is coming along and I should stop by and visit. Or I’ll suddenly remember seeing him dead and wrapped up on his hospital bed. He was so beautiful. He was so peaceful. He was smiling. But he was dead.
My Baba is dead.