When I was a child, I thought about death a lot. I kept thinking of it day and night. It became a sort of an obsession. In every conversation I had, death would always come up to my head and knock, like a landlord reminding you about your monthly rent. Ironically, I had never thought about what would happen if one of my family members died. When it did happen though, I wasn’t prepared at all. I still remember that time. That horrible time when it happened. That time when my perception of death completely changed.
I was sitting comfortably in my family friend’s house, playing video games like I usually do. Our normal house had been evacuated to cleanse it from a bug infection. My grandmother had also gone to the hospital, she wasn’t feeling very well. It wasn’t really a big deal in my eyes, she always went to a check up nearly every month. When my mother came back without my grandma, I was a little surprised.
“Hey mama, where’s dada?” I asked my mom. “Dada” was a word I used to call my grandma. Out of nowhere, she starts crying. “Mama, what’s wrong?”
“Hisham… she passed away…” she could barely make those words come out of her mouth. Naturally, I thought this was a joke. Who would believe such a blatant lie?
“Mama, stop joking around,” I was still in denial.
“Stop being stupid, she’s telling the truth,” my brother was in on it too. He was always such a prankster. I continued to be in denial for a few more hours. The longer time went by, the more I started to worry that no one was joking around. The reactions of my family weren’t fake at all. They were real, I could tell. My suspicions were confirmed when the trip to India was announced. As per tradition, my grandmother had to be buried next to my grandfather. The following days leading up to the trip were awful. None of us really talked to each other that much. For the rare times we did, it was just arbitrary idle talk, just to pass the time.
When we arrived at our house, My grandmother’s body was on a table, and I could hear the sorrow of my family members. Some just sobbing very loudly, some whispering quiet prayers for their loss. It was eerie how much the crying was akin to music, it even seemed to flow with a rhythm. While the rest of my family members were attending her funeral, I was tucked in bed, sleeping soundly. I was an eight-year old, after all. The whole time we were visiting, I hadn’t experienced grief even once. To be perfectly honest, at that time I had no idea what to feel. It was the first death of a loved one I had experienced. The days following the funeral were still quiet, but I could sense a different atmosphere than before. Instead of grief and remorse, the air was filled with acceptance. Things started to look up again. We then went back to our home in Dubai.
Upon arriving, I went to the room that had belonged to my grandmother. “Mama, is Dada ever going to come back?” I asked my mother. Her response was silence. Then and there, I realized the actuality of the situation. My grandmother had just passed away. All of the memories I had with her, both good and bad, flooded back to me. That time when she almost fell to the ground, but I caught her. That time when we argued about not playing with your food. That time when she bit into an apple and lost her tooth, we both had a laugh out of that one. Regret started to swell up inside me. Regret that I hadn’t spent enough time with her. Regret of what would have happened if our family took care of her better.
I shed a single tear.
Looking back on this six years later, I realize that my grandmother’s death was tragic, but it really cleared my head. The part of my mind that thought of death shrunk to the size of an ant. It wasn’t important to me anymore because I had now experienced the loss of a loved one first hand. My curiosity had been lost. It also made me realize that death is a natural process. Ironically, it’s part of the circle of life. Death will always be a big fear of mine, but not as big as before.