A Sudden Death, by Mariyamme Nabbi, Morocco

As I got back from school on Tuesday evening, I ate my lunch with my beautiful family, and proceeded to take a nap. I got up after an hour and a half and I realized that I should begin to work on my homework. It was not actually homework, but I had to revise many scientific subjects, starting with math. Before beginning, I prepared myself a coffee mix with chocolate. It is one of my favorite drink concoctions. I sat down as I began to take a look at where I should start. My dad suddenly called and asked me if I needed help with something, and I wasn’t going to reject my dad’s offer. My dad doesn’t usually ask if I need help, unless he is in a fight with mom and need an escape strategy. To  evade her ramblings, he would call my name and offer his help. I find it funny because, although he is a math teacher, he remains too lazy to work with his daughter on a daily basis.

So I didn’t hesitate when he asked if I needed help. I grabbed my books right away and went to him with a big smile on my face. As he was explaining and giving me examples to try and understand, someone rang the doorbell. I went to open the door and I was excited for who it was going to be. I subconsciously thought it might be one of my brothers, since I haven’t seen them in months and people do not usually come to visit us, especially at night. It turned out to be one of my mom’s friends, who doesn’t usually comes and visits. In fact, as far as I know it was her first time.

I went back to the place my dad and I were studying, and again their was an interruption. This time the house phone rang. I answered and noticed the voice. It was my cousin, Nouhaila, who was then 14. I couldn’t tell if she was crying or laughing, because she said: “Maryam put your mom on the phone now!” I bursted out laughing and said “I can’t, she has guests”. Then I heard her saying the word “died”. I couldn’t decipher any more words. I felt a pinch in my heart, I felt scared, even though I didn’t know who died. I ran to my mom and gave her the phone shockingly. My mom started to sob, I was falling apart. I did not like seeing her in such situation, and at this point, I still didn’t know who died until she said as loud as she could: “My dear sister Zahia just died”.

It felt like the moon split in half and stars crumbled, falling like fireworks into the sea. I felt a pure darkness. My mind stopped and it was just me and my consciousness. It was somber. My moms friend tried to console her, but nobody could do that for her at that time. My eyes began to tear up, knowing that my mother’s sister just died and she was still so young. She was especially young to die in a society where people live far into their hundreds. She was just 50 years old and she had 3 kids who were only in their twenties.

I was damaged. It was the first time to see my mom in such situation. She looked vulnerable, I could have heared her sobbing kilometres away. She couldn’t believe it, even I couldn’t believe it. She was my second mother, the one we would go to every time I had something wrong going on. She had always been there for me, I felt the emptiness in my heart. She was a good person – she lived a life in the countryside and she worked as hard as she could to feed her kids, her husband and his other kids from his second wife. She was so generous. She never complained about anything and said how she was always thankful to God. She constantly prayed. In fact, she never missed a single prayer, she was a true Muslima.

The friend who was visiting left. She kept advising my mom and telling her to be patient, but my mom couldn’t hear her. It was such a grand day, who knew this was going to happen! A few days later, we made our way to where my aunt  lived, a village called Wlad Daoud, next to the Moroccan city Taounat. The village was very far away and since we didn’t have a car, the journey was 4 hours each way by bus.  All I could think about during the trip was the pain that her daughter Charafa was enduring. Her dad had two wives and she lived with her brothers and sisters in law. We got there by midnight. My mom jumped to her brother, my uncle, Abdelghafur, and kept crying on his shoulder. The news gathered people coming from all around the place, people I never knew before.

Zahia’s body was put in a room and covered with clean sheets. I entered the room, on my mum’s orders, to take a look. Immediately, I fell to my knees, unconsciously in shock. I had never seen a dead person before and my heart was shattered into a million pieces. “Look, she died smiling, to heaven, my dear sister. Inshallah (god willing). Inna lilahi wa ina ilayhi rajioun (we are from god and to him we will return).” My mother put the cover on her face as we left the room.

The next day, they brought her coffin out of the room and she was covered in white. The imam was reading Quran with all males surrounding him. God, oh God, I was staring with a frustrated heart, full red eyes, mourning the loss of my beloved aunt Zahia. Her daughter was desperately hopeless. She was devastated in every way possible and she couldn’t handle the funeral.  She was crying and holding a white tissue in her hands. I gazed at my mum crying her eyes out, and her other sister comforting her. She was following the people holding the coffin and yelling at her sister as if she was alive. I was looking in disbelief and shock. It was my first time to see these types of moments surrounding death. I was thinking what if that were my mother or my sister, how would I possibly react in this type of situation?

The funeral went on for three days, according to muslim funeral traditions. We had all sad faces for the entire three days. All I could hear was the echo of my mom’s words. “She was at the table, eating her meal with Amina, my other sister. All of a sudden, she began to cough and Amina felt that it was a deathly moment. She kept on repeating ‘Al Shahada’ with her, which is what muslims must do when death is imminent. It says “Aash hadu anna la ilaha illa lah wa ana Mohemed rasul Allah”, which means “I bear witness that god is Allah and I bear witness that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah”.

I felt as though a person stabbed me, right in the middle of my heart. I know  it’s not easy to erase a memory, to wipe away a souvenir, a good old one. I felt a deep sorrow at the time, especially given that I  was still young and seeing I was never the person who got attached easily. She was good and I know that. I realized then that only good people are the ones who die. I also knew that some day, we would all meet in the after-life, and we would be separated into good and bad. Only some of us get to enter the former. It was a moment that I could not forget, a funeral of one of the people most dear to me that I had to attend. I loved her and I couldn’t imagine life without her. She always made that smile appear on my face.

But that is what life’s all about. It can take all that you have and you can do nothing about it, but to be patient and continue your life as if nothing happened. It is called accepting things the way they are. We call it destiny. Some things are not to be controlled – they just come unexpectedly.

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