Living With The “Unimaginable”

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
Then push away the unimaginable…

These powerful words begin the song, “It’s Quiet Uptown,” in the amazing musical “Hamilton.” I must admit: at first, I was “too cool to like Hamilton.” But after seeing the musical here in Chicago, I was an instant fan…and quickly proceeded to download all of the songs.

Spoiler Alert: I can’t help but reveal some details about what happens…

The part when Hamilton’s son Philip died was extremely powerful for me, for I understand the pain: my eldest daughter past away from cancer in 2009. On December 30, she would have turned 20.

Then comes the song above, and I am instantly captivated. Losing a child is truly, truly a “suffering too terrible to name.” I also “held [my child] as tight you can” as she passed away, but I couldn’t “push away the unimaginable” because it was happening to me right then and there.

Sometimes, Lord,

I get tired of being strong.

Ever since then, I have been living with that “unimaginable.” Ever since then, the pain of her loss has continued to plague my heart. Most definitely, I have been blessed with so much goodness, so much ease, so much blessings. I truly cannot thank the Beloved enough.

And at the same time, the words of the song are so very true:

The moments when you’re in so deep
Feels easier to just swim down

Living with the pain of losing your child is indeed like constantly having to swim up. What’s more, because I don’t want my wife and kids to feel bad, I am always trying to be strong for them. Because I don’t want my wife and kids to feel sad over our daughter’s loss, I am always trying to be strong for them. Because I don’t want my daughter’s death to be a constant dark cloud over their lives, I am always trying to be strong for them.

But, you know what? Sometimes, Lord, I get tired of being strong. Sometimes, Lord, I don’t want to be strong any more.

It hurts. It hurts so much. And as the months and years since her death have passed, her memory becomes more and more distant. That hurts as well.

But when I take myself back there; when I take myself back to those hours before she died, the memory is overwhelming; the pain comes back full force, and it is suffocating. In those moments, it definitely “feels easier to just swim down.”

But, when I feel that way, I “push away the unimaginable,” because I need to be here for my wife and kids. I need to be strong.

Yet, whatever strength and value the lyrics of this song have for me, there is one thing in it for which I am so grateful did not apply to me:

And I pray
That never used to happen before

Thank God, that does not apply to me. Before she passed away and ever since, I have prayed to the Lord, and I continue to pray to Him. This is because:

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name

I have been living in that grace. If it wasn’t for that grace, I would not be here right now. If it wasn’t for that grace, I could have easily strayed away from my Beloved. If it wasn’t for that grace, I probably would have gone mad.

But, thank God, I am still standing, albeit in terrible pain. That “grace too powerful to name” has kept me breathing, kept me going, and it has kept me from choosing to “just swim down.”

And I can’t thank the Lord enough for that grace, and I pray that He never, ever takes it away from me.

And, my beautiful, beloved Booboo: Happy Birthday. What a beautiful 20-year-old you would have made. Baba loves you so very much.


I Will Never Forget, Habeebee

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Two years ago today, we lost our Angel, Bayan, to lymphoma. The pain is still there; the anguish is still raw; the unbearable burden still hangs heavily on our hearts. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. There is not a time that my heart doesn’t cry out in melancholy, longing to see her once again.

As the months have passed, it still does not cease to amaze that it has been two years since the unthinkable. The passing of time has been a true blessing. It has definitely help eased the pain of her loss.

But the pain is always there. And it will always be there. I love you so much, habeebee (my love). And I will never forget.

Even though the sun was warm and bright,
The day was dark, grim, and full of fright.
I miss you, my love, so much each day,
One day we will see each other again, I pray.

Must Always Remember

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

As I enjoyed the majority of Memorial Day off with my family (I did have to go into the hospital and see some patients in the morning), it was amazing to see how many people were out and about shopping (just like we were). Families were everywhere, walking to and fro, and carrying bags from various retailers after having scooped up some cool deals (just like we did).

As I drove back, I noticed a band of men on motorcycles carrying a large American flag; I also noticed that many of the flags (if not all) were flying at half staff, in memoriam of all those soldiers who fought and died for this country. I did not fail to remember them as well. Yet, it seemed to be in the background, in the distance somewhere, perhaps quite far from the scores of shoppers making it difficult to navigate my car around the parking lot.

Well, we should always remember.

I do not agree with every deployment that those in command may send our soldiers; I do not accept when our soldiers commit crimes of ugliness when they are deployed by those in command; yet, I honor their commitment and sacrifice nonetheless. They serve so that I, and millions upon millions like me, do not have to. And for all those families that have lost loved ones serving our country, I send you my prayers for comfort and peace.

Losing someone you love is never easy. May the Lord always bring down His comfort to ease the pain.
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Must the World End? (Part II)

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

This was published on my Beliefnet blog, “Common Word, Common Lord.”

Last time, I posed the question that – if we believe that there will be a Last Day, that the world must end so that all the injustice we see will be accounted for and judged, should we just live our lives and not do anything about the wrong we see around us?

Absolutely not. In fact, we must seek to make the world as best of a place possible, even with its inevitable End, because on that Last Day, “[on that Day] every human being will come to know what he has prepared [for himself].” Our response to the cruelty of our world will also come into play on the Last Day. I

If we had the ability to help the victims of the flood along the Mississippi river, but neglected to do so saying, we will be held to account. If we had the ability to prevent a crime against an innocent person, but neglected to do so, we will be held to account. If we had the ability to speak out against injustice, but neglected to do so, we will be held to account.

Doing nothing and saying: “Well, there is going to be a Last Day” is not an excuse, and we will be held to account because of it.

No, we cannot control when a hurricaine, or tornado, or earthquake, or flood will strike a certain place. And such occurrences are not “punishment” for this deed or that. But, we can control our response to such disasters, and our response will be judged by the Most Just King on the Last Day, which will inevitably come one day (and it was not May 21, 2011).

The terrible injustice that abounds our world has caused many to lose faith, and indeed, it is a difficult test. I myself have suffered through the loss of my child to cancer, and it was – and still is – the worst thing I have ever, ever experienced. I struggle through the pain every single day of my life.

But, I know that I will see her again – and hold her again in my arms – on that Last Day that will definitely come one day. And in that thought, I find some comfort and solace. Some may see this as delusion, but it does not affect my belief in the least. In the end, we will see who is the one that is ultimately right, and I believe it will be me

Read more:

How Did You Do It?

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

How did you do it, My Beloved King?
How did you manage to hear the birds sing?
When the pain of their loss would always ring,
In the evening, and in the morning, first thing?

How did you do it, my Knighted Captain?
How did you hide the grief you were in?
How did you manage to bring laughter and grin,
And not allow the torture push you into sin?

How did you do it, my Saintly Master?
How did you let the grief take you faster
Back to the Precious Beloved Master,
And not let anyone in on the pain to infer?

Did you think about Al Qasim as you entered the City?
Did you marvel at the color of his eyes, so pretty?
Did you clutch at your chest and resist the self-pity?
Or let a tear flow down your face in the midst of felicity?

Did the image of Abdullah oft enter your mind?
Could you almost see him when you would look behind?
Was his face and smile ever so kind?
Did the grief of his loss almost make you blind?

What was it like to bury Ruqiyyah, your daughter?
How was the pain in your heart as you held her?
How was it that you did not ever falter?
And let the torture change your faith or alter?

And then, you had to bury another ever so quickly.
Yet, warmth and light still came from you freely.
Did you think of her often, when the silence fell so slowly,
And there was none but you alone, thinking of her dearly?

I think of my heart, all torn without a seam.
And sometimes, I think I am in a dream.
But then I am awed by your amazing gleam,
For you buried Zainab without ever a scream.

How badly did it hurt to hold Ibrahim, so lifeless?
And clutch him in your arms, hold and caress?
How badly was was the torture of his egress?
How many more days did his loss bring distress?

How did you do it, my Beloved King?
How did you manage to hear the birds sing?
When the pain of their loss would always ring,
In the evening, and in the morning, first thing?

Happy Birthday, Habeebee…

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

I wasn’t keen on having children at first. I was a newly wedded man and a newly matriculated medical student. I was afraid of having children. But, thanks be to God, my feelings changed. I thought to myself, What is the purpose of getting married if not starting a family? What am I afraid of?

And then she came…December 30, 1996. It was one of the happiest days of my entire life. I never knew I could love another human being like that. It was as if the love I had for my new daughter Bayan came from God Himself (which it did).

Bayan brought my wife and I untold joy and happiness. Her face was angelic; her smile was infectious; her laugh was uplifting. She was a piece of Heaven that came down and graced our lives.

When she was first-born, I passed out chocolates to my medical school classmates (I was in my second year), and it was still appreciated many years later. Yet, if they only knew the sweetness that she brought to the lives of my wife and me…

My wife and I, obviously, have been thinking about our Angel a lot lately. This year, for some reason, has been particularly difficult for us. May the Lord help us cope…

What strikes me most about our daughter is the purity of her heart. She could not be malicious or mean-spirited, even if she had the physical ability to do so. Her soul was sweet, kind, pure, and sincere.

I remember one night at the hospital, we were able to be discharged early, and we kept it a secret from my wife to surprise her. My wife was at home with the kids, and so my sister came to help me take her home. Bayan wanted to ride home with her, but she was so scared it would make me sad. I told her that if that made her happy, then I could not have been more happier to drive home alone that night. She was just that beautiful, and everyone who ever knew her would attest to that very same beauty.

My heart is broken into so many pieces, and yes, it has been mended, but I will never be the same. Both my wife and I will never be the same. Sometimes, I  sit in front of a picture of her and stare for minutes. It could be hours if I didn’t have to continue to live my life. I am trying to reach out into that picture and try to taste the experience of having her be with me again. It’s a grieving parent’s desperate attempt, I know, but it is all I have left: pictures, videos (which are too hard to watch), feelings, and special belongings that she left behind.

Today, she would have been 14. The Lord called her back to His Garden when she was 12. It really hurts to know that she will not be coming back, that we can’t take in the warmth of her smile, the beauty of her face, the purity of her soul. I just I really, really miss her, my Lord. I really, really want to just be with her once more; to see her face; to share a laugh like we used to.

So, Happy Birthday Habeebee (my love in Arabic). I know they are throwing you a huge, beautiful, pink-themed birthday party in His Garden right now. I pray that our well wishes reach you as well.

Happy Birthday, Habeebee. Happy Birthday from a grieving father who misses you so very much.