Struggling in bed I reached out to check my phone messages once again, went through my Instagram because I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted to the core but I couldn’t take my mind off of things. The depressing atmosphere of hospitals, the long walks to the ICU and the most unco-operative nurses, and then the weakened version of what I once saw as the bravest man in my life. It all was too much to take in such less time. It felt that with all our footsteps thudding on the ground, the clocks were ticking minutes of his life away too.
There was a knock on the door, a frantic, urging one. One in desperation, and as a cry for help and support. It was mom, and I knew things were going to change severely after that. “We need to leave, it’s urgent. Abbu isn’t doing so well today,” she said in an out-of-breath manner. I knew I had ten minutes to wear my clothes, have a glass of water and leave.
In the car, we recited each and everything that would come to our minds. Yes, we had been visiting the hospital regularly and spending time with him even though hospitals depress me to bits, we would make it a point to let him know we are there for him through thick and thin, just and absolutely as much as he had been.
We reached, driving for the first time so frantically that it scared me. Hadn’t seen Mom drive so fast and recklessly in ages. It was as if the forces were with us, all the signals we got were green and everything went smoothly till we reached. And as we wore the plastic slippers to go inside, I closed my eyes one last time and breathed in, and released air. I needed to get a grip on myself for what was about to happen. I had a strange feeling throughout that journey to his place at the Intensive Care Unit.
It was a bright, sunny day, but the birds weren’t chirping. The roads were clean, the daylight was crisp and fresh, enough to make someone smile and have a happy morning, but for some reason it all seemed to me like a deserted route, and the clean roads seemed lonely. There was no music in the car for the first time, there was no expression on my mother’s face and I didn’t know what to say to her, for the first time.
I saw him, lying there on his bed, breathing slightly lighter than before. And taking bigger gaps between his breathing. There was no look of discomfort, there was only peace and calm on the face of this great man and there were people around, attendants and doctors who were all standing in respect of this man that they all thought had extra-ordinary patience and courage at this age and stage of his life.
“We did the best we could, we don’t want him to hurt anymore, he has a few minutes of his life left. Any moment now,” said the Doctor. My mother held my nana’s hand abruptly after he finished his sentence, and lied down near his throat, where you could see him drawing his breaths slowly. “Abbu jee, uth jayein, please aap uth jayein hum apko lainay aye hain, ap bilcul theek hain (Father, wake up, we are here to take you, you are perfectly fine),” she said desperately. “Baaji, hausla kero ,” my mamu relaxed her and told her to be brave and strong, and have patience.
I just stood there, silent and unable to say or do anything. My first reflex was to hold his hand, and so I did. I loved holding his hand, always. Whenever I got the chance to. I held it, and it was always warm, and soft, just like him, inside and outside. Lovable, soft and warm. The hand was very cold, and it was very heavy. I held it in my right hand, and with my left hand on top of it, I tried to warm it up. I looked at his heart beat slowly dropping, and then coming back to normal in a while. Then it dropped a bit more. And it would keep on happening. After a few minutes, his hand got warmer, but it was still heavy and had alot of needle marks (which had been poked into them due to the regular tests that had to be taken).
I held his hand and I looked at his face, I saw him breathing, I was lucky enough to see him minutes before he passed away into the other world. I said my prayers and I went upto him to kiss his cheek, and his forehead. His stimulus was decreasing, he would respond to the kisses on his hands and his forehead, and today I saw nothing of that except the breathing.
I went back to my place and held his hand again. In a while I saw all the lines slowly going parallel and the heartbeat and bloodpressure dropping. Until it showed nil, and it all was inactive. We didn’t realize it at that moment that we had lost him, because he looked so peaceful. He looked like an angel, and truly I believe so that he always was. And that’s why he went away so peacefully, without an inch of pain or turmoil on his beautiful, glowing face.
This another man came and took out a machine, put it to his ankles and his wrists. Tested a bit, while me, my mother, and my mamu stood together, waiting for him to say something. After a good five minutes of poking, pinching and testing, he took down all his apparatus and told my mom these exact words that I will never forget till the day I die, “apke father ki death hogai hai. Time of death, 8:00 a.m.”
My mother screamed and hugged onto him, not letting go. I had and have, never ever, seen my mother so helpless, so deeply grieved. It pained me to see her like this. Mamu held onto her and told her to relax and take things with alot of patience. We all went outside and sat for a while, looking into absolutely nowhere, tears rolling down our cheeks and speechless. Ambulances, people moving around here and there. Things that they were wrapping up. His pillows, quilts, everything that smelled of him. I breathed it all in, I knew it was the last time I would be able to smell him like that. I was not exactly accepting it, maybe it was denial or maybe it was shock. And I take time to accept things, since always.
Calls were made, and people were told that Nana abbu is no more. It was a hard time on all of us, and is, going through whatever we are, because even though we know ultimately everyone is to go through this time in their lives, losing a very beautiful human being so close to your heart, full of love and only the need to love people and make them happy, hurts the most.
I will never forget the looks on everyone’s faces when they saw his glowing face as he lay in front of all of us, lifeless, once a great man who had so much knowledge and taught so many people around him. A man who had so much vigour and courage and strength to face all sorts of situations, lay in front of us, helpless to get up and hug those people and make them happy with his smile once again. No one, absolutely not even one person in that gathering of people had anything to say about him, which wasn’t positive or full of love for that great man. He was a blessing into everyone’s lives.
I remember the people he had helped throughout his life, people he had sheltered, slaves he had freed, kids he had educated, servants whom he had educated and paid for their kids’ education, all of those people who worked under him at his school and and at his house and all his friends, everyone expressed themselves so helplessly and painfully, deeply grieved by his beautiful, yet now lifeless presence.
Its the third day now, as I write this post. I feel I can’t go on anymore, but I need to let it out so people can know how great you actually were, and why I miss you THIS much.
My childhood hero, I love you. From the moments when you played with me and you made my life a place of happiness, a place where I could just let everything go and be myself, and pose in front of your flower beds with you in the middle was the cutest thing ever. I know nanabuu, that you loved taking pictures. And that you loved us kids so much. I remember when you got us those matching red chairs to sit on (in that house in Abbottabad) and how great and thoughtful of you to still have those even though now Anam (my sister) is married and I am 24. Wow, this shows how attached and how loving and how amazing and beautiful as a person you are. And how much you loved everyone so so much. You took care of things so amazingly. You knew when to say what, and never hurt anyone’s feelings with your words. You would always talk about Sunnah and the Hadith, and the Quran. And if we prayed together, there wasn’t a man happier than you.
There isn’t a man as pure hearted and open to love as you were. You gave even a stranger on the road a smile on his face and your love, just because you felt he needed it or it was your duty as a human being to help people who need it.
Why were you so great, nana abbu? I never quite understood. You always surprised me with your little acts of kindness. Putting fruits in bags and randomly going for a round around the poor areas, offering them to those who didn’t have anything to eat all day, or who were jobless, poor old people who couldn’t earn. Why did you do that nana abbu? Why did you have to be such a perfect blessing, an angel for people of this world?
Making us laugh so much. God, did you have a sense of humour. Making fun of nano teasingly to annoy her, and when she would get annoyed we would all laugh. Oh, how you loved her and took care of her all the time, nana abbu. You were the perfect husband. How you took care of your kids and their needs, you were always there, best father, best mentor. Who needed a friend if he had you? I don’t think anyone did. You never knew this but I want you to know wherever you are, that whenever I was sad or upset, or I needed some peace in my life, I saw you. And I talked to you, and I spent time with you, and I watch talk shows and news with you and discussed politics and education with you, because it made me see that spark in your eyes, that spark which said ‘I know about this topic, and I would love a discussion on it.’ You were so educated and so poised, and so knowledgeable nana abbu. You were so intellectual, so intelligent. All those digests and books and all that knowledge that you got, experiencing it on your own, wow, that’s a life lived fulfilled. You were amazing nana abbu, you were a traveller, a soldier, a great husband, a loving father, a mentor, a humanitarian by nature and an angel in disguise. Any words said for you would not even describe 1% of you, I cannot put into words everything you were for people around.
I hope you can hear what people say about you in this world. Because you were at an exalted rank in EVERYONES eyes. Not even joking my dearest nana abbu, to everyone you were a father figure. I’ve heard atleast 90% of people say that here and there, throughout your Qul and throughout the Janaza. How can you be this perfect, nana abbu? How did you have so much patience and tolerance, and so much self control? And so much belief and respect, and faith in religion? The world cannot fulfill this void that lies deep inside us all, those who loved you from the bottom of their hearts, and always will.
The lighting of candles and diyaahs on the 14th of August, the putting of little flags in front of the house in Abbottabad. You loved that didn’t you? You loved it, such a soldier by heart you were. Such a patriot. You loved us singing national songs on this day. I remember when we were young we would do all that, and watch national songs on television and decorate the entire house and at night we would light up the candles and look around and feel happy. Such priceless happiness comes from nothing, nothing in the world can buy me that kind of happiness. You gave me the best memories, and no one can ever match upto them.
Sitting having ‘Yakhnee’ (Soup) with you, putting pepper in to make it taste more delicious. That was the best part of the day for us. You and me, sitting, sipping on soup and a light breeze following us inside while we watch tv in the Abbottabad house. Nana abbu, you even kept our little stuff toys since childhood. Why? I just want to know why did you love us so much. We were never that good. We never gave you the love you gave us I’m sure, your love was too strong and it was beyond any boundaries and it was fulfilling. Your energies, all positive and energizing, were enough to take all the bad away from anyone and fill his life with happiness and just that.
Kids made you happy I know. At all the functions taking place at Syed Public Schools, you participated thoroughly. You loved to take care of kids and especially those from poor families, and make them feel that you’re no different, and treated everyone, poor or rich, good or bad, as equals. Judging no one. You were so great nana abbu. Playing games with the little kids and buying things and eatables from all the stalls, making the teachers and the kids happy. All well dressed, crisp shirts and dress pants, polished shoes shining, Jinnah cap on your head and a red handkerchief always folded perfectly in your front chest pocket. Your walking stick, and that black stone ring on your finger. Nana abbu you were perfectly dressed and perfect inside out, I can’t get enough of your beautiful self. I keep looking at your pictures as I have lived all those moments with you.
His speeches at the school, so beautiful and full of life. So many morals to the stories he told, so much of love for the beautiful kids at our school, so much respect for the teachers who taught, so much respect for the staff that worked otherwise, he conveyed his messages on humanity and education, and he was so very passionate about education. When he went on that stage to address people, people would actually listen to him. He reminded me so much of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, our Quaid, when he did that. Because of the way he was properly dressed at all times, because of the class he exuberated, because of the way he carried himself, and because of the good he did to humanity. He was a man one of his kind.
Flowers, photography, the Baluch regiment talks, stories about his travels; just a few of the things he loved to talk about, any time of the day. Oh yes, and food too. The secret to making him happy? Carry on in discussion about any of these things, and he would be more than happy to tell you about all his experiences. About the various flowers of the world, about when they come into blossoming, what weathers are best for what kinds of flowers, and petunias, one of his favourites. He would always mention them. He loved flowers, my dear nana abbu, he loved them and I loved to take pictures of his flowers for him, because it made him happy. And then on my laptop, I would show him those flowers and he would have the biggest smile on his face.
Why so cute, nana abbu 🙂 I love you. I miss you. I wish you could read all this.
His long discussions and our talks were more than enough to give me the time of my life. Nothing and no one could ever be able to match upto his vigour, intelligence, his persona, his aura, his great positive vibes, his acts of courage, anything. No one can seriously be as great as him, he was a true hero for millions out there. What did he teach me with his life? What impact did he have on me? What did I learn from him?
Be strong. Be courageous. Help those in need. Have a pure heart, with no hatred for anyone, even your enemies. Be honest to yourself, even if you may not like the after effects and the decision that has to be taken. Love your parents. Stand up for family in times of need. Always, always, always be organized. He was just too organized. No one have I ever seen who was as organized as him. And punctual. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, on time since the days at the army. Taking care of health was his priority, even at this age in his 80’s he had his own teeth, which is quite rare. Yes, he was very proper in every sense of the word. Always be polite, he could never talk to anyone in a loud manner or an angry tone, I had barely seen him outraged throughout my entire life. He would laugh and choose to ignore if someone was loud or rude. Or tell them ‘na na na, beta aisay naheen kehtay.’ So perfect you are nana abbu, and you always will be. I love you.
Never even hate your enemies, yes you taught us that too. You were too kind and forgiving. Keep your faith strong in Allah, and everything will be allright. And this is exactly the way you would tell us that. Smile, that was your secret weapon. When you smiled, everyone forgot their worries. People were made happy by your beautiful smiling face, and they couldn’t resist but be happy around your positivity and beautiful nature.
Always remember the good in people, and never say out loud the bad in them. Never backbite. Live a simple, content and happy life. Be strong. Yes, that is what your disease taught me, taught us all. How to be strong, even when you know your time has come, and you are slowly being eaten up inside. Even when you know that you have to go, and that you will be no more in this world, and you are aware that what goes on inside your body is actually, slowly and very gradually making your life shorter, day by day. How would we react to something like that. Surely not at all like this greatest of all men did.
A few months later after the disease and fractured leg. ‘Nana abbu kya hal hai apka?’ His reply, ” Allah ka shukar hai beta,” and there was a content smile on his face. Oh, you left me teary eyed alot of times like that nana abbu. Do you remember the times when everyone would go silent when you would thank God for all he’s given to you? Yes, that was the time when everyone around you was silently weeping, thinking how great of a man you have to be to have such strong faith and be thanking God for everything He’s given you and done for you, even when disease and reality of life has hit you this hard.
Why were you such an angel? Why did you tell the nurses you’re fine when you couldn’t even speak properly or get out of bed? Why didn’t you tell them the bed sores hurt you and that you wanted to walk once again? I love you nana abbu. I cannot believe that you didn’t share your pain with us, JUST BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD HURT US. Who does that nana abbu, why did you? I wanted you to tell us you were hurting, and that it was painful. But you were a soldier as always, and fought it till the very end. Bravely and courageously, like a true soldier. You did well, nana abbu, you did good in your test in this life.
I know you are probably looking down upon us and smiling. I know you know that we miss you so much. And I know you will always be around to help us in every aspect of our lives. Just never leave us, okay? That’s my only wish.
I love you, I love you so much. I wish Allah Ta’alah grants you the highest of places in Jannat. Apnein duniya mein jo kuch keeya, uska ajar apko zaroor milega. Aur apnein tau farishta ban kay dikhaaya, tau apko Jannat bhi wuhi milni chaahye. Subse oonchi wali 🙂
Nana abbu, I miss you.
And these are just a few of the things that I want to tell you. I wish I could write a book on you but I know that I don’t remember half the stories you told me, by heart. But I have so many memories and good things that you’ve taught me, that your legacy will live on forever in my heart and our hearts, forever and ever till the day we hit the ground too.
I love you.