death

Betrayed

My 18-year-old daughter, Somaya Abulfetouh, wrote this poem in light of last night’s horrible events in Cairo. She has given me permission to publish it on my blog.

Betrayed

By Somaya Abulfetouh

A boy of sixteen leaving his home

Once in the street, he kicks a stone

His mother sleeps, her door open a crack

She has no doubt her son will be back

A man and his wife go out to root

He wears a jacket, she wears her favorite boot

They’re happy and giddy; it’s their favorite team!

For a long time that’s been their dream

A girl of fourteen bids her father farewell

He tells her not to be late; she tells him she’ll be well

She checks behind her back out of habit

She’s so innocent, like a little rabbit

The boy of sixteen never got home

The man and the wife didn’t die alone

The girl of fourteen was not well

Who calls their families, who’s the one to tell?

Children and men, what did they do?

They had no ticket; they couldn’t get through

Is that why they died? Is that your excuse?

They shouldn’t be punished, not even a bruise!

“You should be protecting us, you should be our safety!”

“If you’re the ones who kill us, what should our fates be?”

Everyone wants to know what this is!

They all shed tears for all the injustice

If a mother worries when her child leaves to school

And a husband can’t let his wife out the door

If every time a man leaves so he can provide

He isn’t sure he’ll be home that night

How can they call this their home?

How can they live if they’re that death prone?

No one should have to go through this much pain

If this is a drought, when will come the rain?

Advertisements

Never Not Thinking About Egypt

I’m struggling to make sense of Egypt and Egyptians. I’m really really struggling. I’ve reached a point

I took this picture during the January 25 revolution in 2011.

I took this picture during the January 25 revolution in 2011.

where I bury memories so deep inside of me that most recent events in Egypt are a mere blur in my head. People talk about the various huge post-January 25, 2011 demonstrations in which hundreds have been killed and all I can find in my memories is a hazy image of me sitting in front of a laptop or a television set in a complete state of incomprehension. I hear the names of people in jail or of people who have been killed and all I can say is, “Wait. Which one is that?”

Being away from Egypt for just over a year now has been a small blessing. I needed to break away from it all. I was suffocating. But just when I think I’m pushing through what I’m sure is post-traumatic stress disorder from the hundreds of events that have happened since the revolution, something new happens in Egypt and I feel like someone has a huge, hairy hand on my head, shoving my whole body into a crouch in a small, dirty, smelly sack.

I can’t breathe.

Why is Egypt the way it is? Why are so many Egyptians the way they are? Why can’t we have normal problems? And a normal life? Why has it become so commonplace for Egyptians to be killed by the police, the army, thugs, and neglect? How is it that there is no justice for the innocent while the guilty get away with their crimes scot-free? What is wrong with us?  (more…)

The Commonplaceness of Brutal Death

Yesterday morning I woke up to the news of yet another man, a Brit this time, being brutally beheaded by IS militants somewhere in Syria. On the face of it, my reaction was, “Oh my! That is absolutely horrible!” Then I went on with my daily activities. Underneath, however, my mind was in a whirlwind, partially because of my apparent reaction.

Brutal, violent deaths have become so commonplace now in the Middle East. There are so many innocent victims regardless of who is doing the killing. I am someone living in a safe environment who receives this news, feels horrified by it, but is able to continue with my life as normal afterwards. So many people like me are in the same position.

I try to put myself in the shoes of all those people who are under constant threat of a horrific death. I think what it must feel like to believe that my life is so transient, so worthless in the grand scale of things, that beyond a few of my close friends and relatives, the heinous crime that will be enacted against me in the next few minutes will have such an insignificant impact on the rest of the world that the most they will do is utter words of disgust and then they will go on with their lives. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 55: I See Dead People

“What were you thinking about today while you were cycling?” my husband asked me while we were waiting for our lunch in a Lithuanian palace, as one does.

“The dead people,” I responded.

“Which dead people?” he asked rather incredulously.

“All the dead people,” I responded rather matter-of-factly.

“So we’re worrying about all the dead people in the world now, are we?” Colin always says that if I have nothing to worry about I find something to worry about.

Today while cycling I was thinking about and praying for family and friends I know who have passed away. Over the past 55 days, I have cycled by many cemeteries and countless roadside memorials for people who must have died in road accidents. Every time I see a roadside memorial, a cemetery, or even a dead animal by the side of the road, I whisper the Muslim prayer, “We belong to God and to Him we return.”

I’ve often thought about all the people who have ever walked this earth who are now long gone and buried within the soil. My grandfather died when I was in university. My father and uncles went and visited him in his grave when they could. My father is now gone as well. My siblings and I will visit him when we can. I will die one day and my children will visit me when they can. But it’s only one or possibly two generations of people who ever really remember a person after they have gone. When those generations pass away as well, the dead in the ground are remembered no more. (more…)

The Meaning of Life

I’ve been thinking about life a lot lately. I look at my own life and wonder if it has much meaning. It has meaning to me, of course. But does it have meaning beyond me? Will my brief existence on Earth have any meaningful short-term or long-term impact? Is it important that it does?

Life is such a strange thing.

There are points in every one of our lives where it just simply takes our breath away. These are different for each of us. They could be in the ecstasy of passing a difficult exam at school, or in the miraculous moments of giving birth to a child, or while standing on a mountain top, or while sitting with a dear friend, drinking tea on a long cold night, and laughing from the bottom of your hearts while remembering days gone by.

There are other points in every one of our lives when we are enveloped by a darkness we may think will never end: the death of a loved one, being unemployed, losing everything in a natural disaster, or, for some, simply failing an important exam at school.

And there are all the ups and downs in between: (more…)

When I Die…

When the day comes and I am lying on my deathbed or breathing my last breath, it is important to me that I can look quickly back on my life and feel that I lived it to the fullest.

I thought I was doing well until recently.

I can say with a certain degree of confidence that throughout the various phases of my life I have lived in a way that the Nadia of that phase wanted to live. I don’t have any regrets I can think of. Even when I have made horrible horrible mistakes I know that I made them consciously and decisively. I am aware they were mistakes. And in the process of making those mistakes and in their aftermath I have learned much about myself and the world around me.

I periodically ask myself, “Nadia, if you die now, will you feel content with the way you have lived your life?” And the answer has almost always been, “Yes.” Sometimes it has even been, “Hell, yes!” (more…)

Dream Diary: Ghostly Nightmares

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted something in my online dream diary. I ALWAYS dream (almost always they are nightmares) but I haven’t been remembering enough of my dreams to have something coherent to write.

Last night I dreamt something and I actually remember part of that dream because it was so odd. I woke up in the middle of the night, my heart beating rapidly, and when I recalled the dream I thought, “How odd.”

I was walking down a darkened corridor. Light was emanating from the last room on the left. I didn’t want to go into that room because I knew that’s where the dead man lay. But for some reason, a reason my awake self cannot remember, I had to. I timidly looked into the room from the corner of the door. A fancy, dark wood coffin lay on a table. The top half was open to reveal the dead man’s face. It was covered everywhere with long hair. It was the face of a wolfman. His arms protruded from holes in the sides of the coffin, his fingers tapping endlessly on the table.

I rushed out of the room. I was frightened. But as I walked back down the corridor I bumped into Henry the Ghost. Henry was a tall, skinny chap of middle age. He was cheerful and I was pleased to see him. “Where have you been all this time,” I asked him. We were old friends.

When Hard Times Hit: Pain, Shame, and Dissociation

Over the years and indeed recently as well, I’ve come across people who have directly or indirectly expressed a need to dissociate themselves almost completely from their pasts. These are people who have gone through what are sometimes extremely difficult circumstances at some point in their lives. Deaths, divorces, abuse, abductions…the list goes on. We all deal with adversity differently. So many people I know deal with it by suppressing it; pretending it doesn’t exist. Or they acknowledge it but do not want to be defined by it. And to avoid being defined by it, they separate themselves from anyone who knows anything about it. In the process, new lives are created and so many friends and family from the past become all but non-existent.

Although I’ve attempted, quite sincerely, to show empathy to this state of dissociation from one’s past, I’ve always found it difficult to comprehend. I’ve gone through some difficult times in my life. (more…)

A Father’s Passing: One Year Later

It’s been a year now since my Baba departed this world into the next. Since his death, I wrote several blog posts about him or with significant mention of him:

Writing about my feelings over the past year has helped me. The simple act of getting what’s on the inside to the outside is helpful, of course. But more importantly, the comments I’ve received on my posts either directly on the blog or through discussions with family and friends has helped me learn that what I’m going through is normal. I had never really seen people in mourning. Mourning is such a private thing. Too many people don’t share it, including me. I share it through my writing. But I find it extremely difficult to share it by visibly displaying it. I suppose we don’t want to burden others with our pain. Or maybe we don’t want to appear weak. Or perhaps we know that life is already hard enough for everyone; we might as well deal with our own issues internally so others can get on with their own lives and issues.

Whatever the reason, we tend not to share our mourning with others. And the result for many of us is that we don’t understand the process and we find it difficult to deal with it. This is why I’m going to continue to write about this until I feel I don’t want to anymore. Many people have arrived at my blog by doing a simple Internet search using keywords such as “father”, “death”, “passing away”, etc. This means that there are people out there that need to understand their own mourning process through learning from the experiences of others. I know that I’ve learned much from my readers’ comments. I thank them dearly.

This past year has been very difficult for me. It doesn’t seem to be getting easier. (more…)

A Daughter Losing Her Father: Six Months Later

This blog post is not about me being morbid nor is it about me feeling sorry for myself. Over the past six months since my father died, I received a few comments on the two posts I made about my father’s passing. These were mainly comments from other women who experienced something similar and who were wondering how other women were dealing with it. More importantly, I noticed on my blog statistics page that almost every day people were using search engines with key words like “losing a father” and “daughter losing father” and thus getting referred to my blog.

Losing a parent is one of the most difficult things in the world and people want to know how to deal with it. It’s strange that I have seen family and friends lose parents but haven’t heard much from them about what it’s been like. (more…)