The Passing Away of a Loved One

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Life is a mysterious cycle of ups and downs, of birth and death, of love and break ups. Today’s post is in memory and honor of my aunt Samira Karam Mady, a great woman in deed whom I loved dearly.

Some people will achieve great things and will be remembered for their great achievements. Some others, like my aunt, will achieve great things by doing small things greatly. My aunt was a resilient woman, a trait that she took after her mother. I’ve learned so much by mere example. One’s prominence is measured by the way they conduct their life. She taught me how to walk and sit like a lady. She taught me that courage, although is the harder choice, it’s the only one that matters. Most importantly, She taught me the art of resilience, because when in utter pain, resilience is an art acquired only by the bravest of hearts. Pain can break a person’s body and soul. It can weaken the strongest of hearts. There is a reason why torture is used to extract information. Yet there she was, in bed, in excruciating pain, and never once complained, welcoming us with a smile at each time, happy to share her few morphine induced painless moments with us. To live without passion, regardless of what it is, is not a life worth living and she had passion. She adored her children, and her grandchildren. She loved her family and took the role of the matriarch of the family after the death of my grandmother. She was a very passionate cook and avid about discovering Lebanon. Wise in her strength, outspoken, and although strong by nature but willing to accept criticism and laugh about it.

Yes, this post is of a more personal matter but it is relevant to all, because everyone can relate to it. In Lebanon we love, a bit more intensely, but that is because I believe that we build so close of a relationship together as our lives mesh together in a great orchestra of love, that loosing someone we love, is an agonizing experience, as they were very much part of our daily lives. There is a saying in Arabic that goes “il bi3id shafa”, meaning distance is a healer, because being part of someone’s daily life will make them an integral part of your life, a part of you. Thus our funerals are always a bit more intense then most countries. We cry for a long time. We sob. We find it hard to let go, our hearts race hard and long because we are burying a part of ourselves in this grave. This person that just left us carried us as we carry them in our hearts. Years of laughter, sharing joys and sorrows, of looking after one another, of talking weekly on the phone, of joking, of sending tupperware of food, of sharing recipes, of defending each other, years of who we are and our lives have just been buried with that person we so dearly love and miss already.

That’s why I believe in our culture, we put such importance on condolences. One to three days, directly after the funeral, are termed for condolences. They are long and tedious, but it’s how we all collectively say our final farewell in respect to the person who just passed away. Family, friends, close friends, acquaintances, friends of family members, neighbors, distant family, people from the same village, all come. Some come to pay their final respect, some come because of “wejeib”, meaning what has to be done, some to be there in support of the family. A long day of shaking hands and kissing people you know and people you’ve never met before, as coffee is being passed around, passes quickly without a minute of thought to anything. And like this great theatre of life, each and everyone plays the same important role; to make the first day without that person pass by quickly, without the family realizing the tragic truth that today is the first day without them in our lives.

At the end when everyone has returned to the comfort of their own homes, the few family members that are left will embrace and sob and hug and love each other, maybe on that day a little harder, trying to replace that emptiness that is roaming above their heads in the silence of that space. What makes Lebanon so great is the family and that human connection that binds us together in life’s humane passing.

As I left and walked with my husband back home, not many words were exchanged. I looked at the sky open with grayish-blue clouds that say the heavens are open without a doubt. I thought of her and how selfishly I will miss her. I thought of my friends who showed up just to tell me that they care and that we are together for good times and bad times. It was a long day but having so many people there is the final respect before the final curtain of her life on earth ends as another opens above those grayish-blue skies.

To Lebanese funerals, despite some of their mediocrity, but in majority it’s a code of honor to the dead; to honor, to respect, to love, to say the final farewell…

To my aunt whom I adored.

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