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.

I Know How They Feel

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen the Disney movie “Tangled,” then know that I reveal a few parts of the film.

The moment was one of the most powerful of the film “Tangled.” The King and Queen, as they do every year, release lanterns in memory of their daughter who was lost many years before. Just before he releases the lantern, the King has his head bowed down with tears streaming down his face. His wife, the Queen, had her hands on his face, trying to comfort his pain. When I watched this scene – with my two daughters sitting next to me – I could barely breathe, and the tears would not stop.

I know exactly how the King felt. I know the horrific pain that the King had in his heart, as he remembered his beloved daughter and faced the reality that she is not with him. I know how painful that is for the King, and watching the scene really made me cry, and I fought with everything I had in my being not to let my daughters realize that – inside – I was screaming in sheer agony.

The same goes with any scene in any film that depicts a parent who has lost a child: I know exactly how they feel, and it feels absolutelyy terrible. At the end of “Tangled,” when the Lost Princess is finally reunited with her parents, I actually had to cover my mouth to prevent myself from screaming out in the theater. It gave me a glimpse of the reunion I know I will have with my daughter in the hereafter. The sheer joy of seeing her again, being with her again, and hugging her again will cause me to scream out in joy, with tears streaming down my face.

But that reunion will not come now, and that is very difficult to come to grips with.

It has been almost two years since the darkest day of my life , but the pain is still there. The agony I have is still fresh; the sadness is still acute. Yes, we have happy moments. Yes, we laugh together in our family. Yes, we try to live our lives to the fullest. But, we are not the same. Our picture will always be incomplete. Our hearts will always be scarred and deformed.

For the loss of a child is a torture unlike any other. As I said before, I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

Ah Ya Alby (Oh…My Heart Really, Really Hurts)

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

The song has a doubly special significance for me. It is called Ah Ya Alby, which is colloquial Egyptian Arabic for “Ow, my broken heart,” by popular Egyptian singer Hakim. It is conveying the pain that the song narrator feels in his heart after being spurned by his love interest. No, thanks be to the Lord, I was not spurned by my wife.

We used to play this song often in our old house (when my late daughter was still alive). Listening to this song brings back those wonderful memories: sitting in our basement, dancing with my daughter and enjoying quality time with her. It brings back the scenes of happiness and joy that we all had as a family. When I listen to this song, I can even remember the paint color on the walls of the basement and even the smell of the carpet and wood. Thinking back to those days, it brings me so much happiness.

And that happiness, many times, quickly turns to sadness and pain.

When I hear Hakim sing “Ah ya alby,” I can hear and feel the pain in his voice, and it goes straight to my heart. Because, just as the song narrator is moaning in pain from his broken heart, my heart is frequently causing me tremendous pain. Frequently, I moan (silently) from the horrific pain in my heart from the loss of my child. Frequently, I even grab my chest, in a futile effort to try to ease the gnawing ache that this loss has left in my soul. As I listen to this song, many times I look to the sky and say, “Ah ya alby, ya rab,” which means, “My Lord, my heart really, really hurts.”

Yes, it has gotten a little easier since that black, yet sunny, day in June 2009. Yes, the Lord has blessed us with many happy times since that horrific day. Yes, I have been able to smile so many times since that day. But, the pain is always there. The loss is always near in my mind. I have never been – and will never be – the same since I watched my daughter die, and its mark will always be visible on my heart and soul.

And so, many times, I look to my Precious Beloved and say, “Ah ya alby, ya rab.” (Lord, my heart really, really hurts)

Although it pains me to hear the song, I nevertheless listen to it again, and again, and again. It brings me closer to my daughter, because, as I listen to the song, I am brought back to that basement of mine, where we would dance and laugh together. Although it hurts so very much to realize that my daughter is gone forever, the memory of those days does bring me comfort at the same time. And when I complain to my Precious that my heart hurts, it brings me even closer to Him as well, and that can never be a bad thing.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my daughter; remember her beautiful brown eyes; think back to the “happy days,” as my wife and I call them, when she was healthy, happy, and alive with us. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t remember how much I miss my daughter and how painful her death has been on my wife and me. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t say – even if I don’t actually utter the words – “my heart really hurts, my Lord.” I still cry over her, almost every single day.

Yet, I am hopeful that the Lord will give me many, many more days of happiness and joy in the years to come. I know He will always show me His Beautiful Face throughout my life. And I pray that my Precious Beloved’s soothing comfort and mercy will pour all over me every time I tell Him, “Ah ya alby, ya rab”; “Lord, my heart really, really hurts.” For, with His mercy and comfort, I will truly be lost for the rest of my days.

I Am In Misery

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

I didn’t think I could find God in a Maroon 5 song. The beauty of our Precious Beloved, however, is that He is everywhere, and all we have to do is look and find Him there. I first heard this song in a Radio Shack store, and it really got me moving. The tone of the song is quite upbeat, and it is hard (for me, at least) not to dance to this song. Yet, the narrator of the song is in quite bit of pain, based on the lyrics.

On the surface, the song is about the pain of someone who has gone through – or is currently going through – a break up in a relationship:

So scared of breaking it
But you won’t let it bend
And I wrote two hundred letters
I won’t ever send
Somehow these cuts are so much
Deeper then they seem
You’d rather cover up
I’d rather let them be
So let me be
And I’ll set you free

The comes to chorus:

I am in misery
There ain’t nobody
Who can comfort me
Why won’t you answer me?
Your silence is slowly killing me
Girl you really got me bad
You really got me bad
I’m gonna get you back
Gonna get you back

The falsetto that Adam Levine brings to the song adds to the melancholy of the narrator’s lament. And it really strikes a nerve with  me. For, so many times, I am in misery over the loss of my daughter to lymphoma 18 months ago. Yes, time has passed, and yes, the Lord has brought us much happiness in the interim.

But the pain has not subsided, not in the least.

It is deep, unreachable ache that permeates my entire soul. It is a void that can never be filled again. Part of me died with her on that hot June morning in 2009, and I will never be the same again. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and mourn over her loss; mourn that I can’t be with her again (on this earth); mourn that I can’t share a laugh with her again; mourn that I can’t get her a “concoction” (mix of Sprite and Root Beer) that she always loved to drink; mourn that I can’t have the honor of carrying her everywhere we went ever again (she could not walk).

Every day I mourn, and it sometimes brings me so much misery.

And when the Narrator of the song asks, “Why won’t you answer me?” I think of how my daughter can never answer me again on this earth because she is gone. The silence of her absence, and the absence of the love and joy she brought us, does sometimes slowly kill me. I know how the narrator feels when he says, “Girl, you really got me bad, really got me bad.” That’s because, from the very first moment I laid eyes on my baby, my first-born child, I was in total love.

It was – at that point in my life – the happiest day of my life. I didn’t know I could love another human being that much, especially since my heart was already overflowing with love for my beautiful wife. But our daughter brought us so much joy and happiness. Her smile would light the room and warm the heart. Anyone she would ever meet would be instantly in love with her. She had such a beautiful presence, and I truly feel she was as close as angelic as any human being could ever be. She was, in fact, a piece of God’s Light on this earth, and it was so wonderful to have her in our lives.

As she became more ill, it pained me to see her suffer. But, at least, we were together. People would frequently look at me with eyes of sympathy and pity (I could feel it) whenever I would carry her inside someone’s house. But, I was the happiest man on earth. I never minded any of the hardship I may have had with her. Never. I was the happiest man on earth.

As I recount all the wonderful memories of our life with our daughter – the “happy days,” my wife and I call them – the pain of her loss always becomes more acute, and thus the Narrator’s words, “I am in misery/There ain’t nobody/Who can comfort me,” are all the more meaningful to me.

And if you were to look at me listening to this song, it would be odd. I may very well be dancing or moving my body to this song, but my heart, if you could see it, would be crying out in sheer miserable pain.

Sometimes, truly, I am “desperate and confused” because I am “So far away from” my daughter here on earth. But, you know, it is as the Narrator says, “I’m getting here/I don’t care where I have to run.” As I continue to live my life, and I pray that it is a righteous one, I am slowly moving towards my reunion with the Lord God on High.

And I hope – and desperately pray – that my daughter’s smiling face with be there to greet me in His Garden.

So, where is God in all of this?

He is right there when I hear the Narrator lament, “There ain’t nobody/Who can comfort me.” On one level, that is so true. There is no human being that can bring me comfort for the loss of my child. There is nothing one can say that can make me feel better.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiments of friends and family and their attempt to comfort me. But, it is such a devastating loss that only other parents who have lost children truly understand. It is an elite club into which I pray none of you reading this ever get initiated.

Yet, when I hear the Narrator say, “There ain’t nobody/Who can comfort me,” I say: “That’s not true. Lord, You were there to comfort me, and You have done so much for me.”

The pain and torture of watching my child die was (and continues to be) unmitigated Hell. But, the Lord sent me comfort. He sent me hundreds of family members, friends, colleagues, and well-wishers who prayed for my healing and comfort. When they were putting dirt over my daughter’s pink and white casket, and I completely lost it, He sent me someone to hold my hand and tell me, without saying any words at all, “It’s OK. It’s gonna be OK.”

That person knows who he is, and I will never, ever forget what he did for me. It was the Precious Beloved who sent him to me at that moment.

And since that horrific day, the Precious Beloved has sent my wife and me many days of happiness and joy, even though they are always intermixed with the indelible pain of our loss. Still, while the song’s Narrator has “nobody/Who can comfort me,” I know, and am forever grateful for, the fact that I have the Lord our God who can and has comforted me. Lord, thank You so much for that comfort.

I know that I will have many more days of misery ahead of me, for the loss of a child is truly an unnatural event. But, I pray for the fortune of having the Precious Beloved comfort me during those days, as He has done so marvelously thus far. The challenge for me is to try to live a life of righteousness, worthy of the Precious Beloved’s Grace, Blessings, Mercy, and Love. I know I will never achieve such a feat, but I will, God willing, live the rest of my life trying.

Taking John Mayer’s Advice

In the Name of God, the Beautiful, the Kind

Yet another one of John Mayer’s songs really hit me in the heart, and I try to take his “advice” to “Say what you need to say”:

Take out of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all your so called problems
Better put them in quotations

He then says, “Say what you need to say.” To me, I must say everything to the Precious Beloved Lord. To me, the best One to whom I should say everything that is in my heart is the Precious Beloved. His next passage frequently brings tears to my eyes:

Walkin’ like a one man army
Fightin’ with the shadows in your head
Livin’ up the same old moment
Knowin’ you’d be better off instead
If you would only
Say what you need to say

For over a year now, I have been “fightin with the shadows” in my head as a “one man army.” Almost every day, I have been “livin’ up the same old moment”: the dark day that my daughter died. Almost every single day, my thoughts dwell on my late daughter: the joy she brought to my life; her beautiful, warm smile that would light up the room on the darkest of nights; the happiness of her eyes that would pierce the very depth of my soul. Although she was frequently sick, and her illnesses brought me frequent anxiety, my life was utterly complete with her in it.

Now, I am haunted by the shadows of her death. I am haunted by the ravages of the disease that took her life in less than 24 hours. I am haunted by the fact that she can never peer at me with her beautiful smile in my rear-view mirror when her favorite song comes on. I fight those shadows every single day, and there are times when I can’t take it, and I want to scream out in agony and pain.

And so, I try to take John Mayer’s advice and “say what [I] need to say” and talk to my Precious Beloved. I try to talk to Him and tell Him how much pain I feel. I try to talk to Him and tell Him how much I miss her. I try to talk to Him and share with Him the anguish my heart feels knowing that she is no longer with me. I know He knows, but it still helps to talk to Him and “say what [I} need to say.”
And John encourages me even further:

Have no fear for givin’ in
Have no fear for givin’ over
You better know that in the end
It’s better to say too much
Than never to say what you need to say again

Thankfully, I have tried to strengthen and deepen my relationship and love affair with the Precious Beloved, and so I find it easier to bear my all the Lord. Yet, for many, it can be very hard. Some may have never talked to the Lord before. But it is never too late. The door to His Love is always open, and all you have to do is walk up to it, and it will open wide to His smiling Face.

Amazingly, John also knows that saying what we need to say can be hard, so he continues his advice and encouragement:

Even if your hands are shakin’
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closin’
Do it with a heart wide open

No matter how frail you are; no matter how weak you may be; no matter how difficult it may be to peer into His Beautiful Face, we must always try to talk to Him, deepen that relationship, foment that bond. When we open our hearts, the Light of His love will flow in like a soothing breeze and fill the heart with a happiness never known heretofore. And we will then have true peace and tranquility.

It’s been rough losing a child, and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. But, as I have fought “the shadows in [my] head,” I have tried to take John Mayer’s advice and “say what [I] need to say.” It has really, really helped.