The grief has been slow mounting, percolating, seltzer-like and cool, then hot all at once. I never really knew to give it a name before, but it is teaching me.
Yesterday, the sky cracked open and I saw the edge of things. It happens. Happens not often but it does. A moment arrives and my mind can see everything.
And of course by everything, I mean nothing at all. I am so small, so tiny, so weak, so clay. But sometimes I can see everything that matters right now. Everything I need to see.
That happened yesterday, I arrived at the valley inside myself, the wet and long grassed slopes of my own desires smashed against the crust of human condition. What I mean to say is that I am wandering, and while wandering, I learned its name.
I am constantly afraid. I have had trust smashed to bits, crushed beneath the tough knuckles of people I thought were safe. I have treated the world like a rotting house, nowhere is safe to step, nothing is as it seems (the exterior is deceiving, the frailness is masked behind planks).
He is dead. Gone, and he is not coming back. I don’t think I realized it enough, or realized it truly at all, until yesterday.
I sat at the edge of my parents bed. “I need a teacher” I croaked. you can’t find a perfect person, they said. You can find many people, take from them what you need, but you cannot place people on pedestals, you cannot sew garments of expectation this large and round. Perhaps then it was devastation that kept me up at night (each night, it’s something new but still from the same mother), accompanying the realization that arrived to me yesterday.
What I have been aching for all these years, is a prophet. Divinely sanctioned, accessor of Truth, knower of what Love actually is. Prophets are balanced, sensible, level-headed and kind. Emotionally intelligent, courageous, unable to lie, to ever be untrustworthy, to harm.
This is what I have longed for, hunted for, tried to find. In the soot filled atmosphere, in the water, in a book, in a name, in a teacher. I am simple; I am human. I am girl underneath it all. I need leadership and guidance, clarity and resolve. I need a prophet. I need one so badly it burns, turns my stomach, throbs my head. I am sick with grief, the awareness that what I cannot move without is buried, gone, crossed over to another place. Here I am, shivering and alone, no body on this dismal and convulsing planet worthy of unconditional love, nor of unconditional trust.
This dunya is built to break you. I thought this meant that one must conjure up the courage required to stay the course. I did not know it meant resisting the madness that temps you when everything is blizzard and clarity is tucked beneath sheets of snow like a trail in the woods, like something unchanging that has been lost to the eye, to the hands to the body (but you know it is still there! somewhere)!
And so it builds, the mourning of a prophet, the mourning of Muhammad ﷺ, the mourning of the end of certain and sedentary leadership. What else is there to do in the middle of winter but cry? I feel like I forgot about time, about the way that the past works, that it happened already, that the future unrolls from under us without any care for our preparedness or willingness or readiness to move on. I don’t know how we are expected to survive this world alone, with no prophet, with no completely and fully trustworthy guide. No one knows what they are doing. No one has this all figured out. They make mistakes, even the people you trust the most sometimes don’t even trust themselves.
How to survive in the aftermath? In the face of this enormous loss, the heartache is overwhelming, it is everywhere, it is unquenchable. I pray to see him in a dream, to get even an hour, to ask my questions, to get answers. I plead for magic, for glasses, for frames over my eyes that melt away the frost of falsehood and lead me to something true, something safe, something right (and REAL). Nothing arrives. Nothing at all. I chew on the bones of things; their dusty, frozen spines fill my mouth. I have emerged again: here is a world where I can acutely pronounce this feeling of distance, of lostness in a turbulent and forever-reaching sea.
Everyone is just doing their best. But is that good enough? To settle with the dissonance, the diversity, the crowded bowl of ways we choose to make sense of this place and this time. How to rightly practice goodness?
I think about my deceased grandfather a lot. What would Jiddu make of me? Me, here, in this cold country, burrowed deep inside this wild and untamed mind that I must tend to (yes, even in winter, even then)? What would he say to me, panicking in the valley, a cycle of mutiny reoccurring on my own ship? Would he laugh try jokes, the bleak and sarcastic, the self depreciating, the tender. Everything is tender, sensitive, raw. I am hurting (but aren’t we all?!).
Maybe I should stop looking for a prophet and start looking for my grandfather. Maybe I should start looking for the grandfather in my Prophet ﷺ. Maybe I should try and live in the present, force myself to sit with the sharp pains and not run from them. Maybe I should learn to be more like wind, to be more agile, to recognize that if I want stability I should look to mountains and not men. Maybe then I will be able to get it. To see a path and to trust– no, to have faith in its Maker, in what is to come beyond the bend (beyond the eye, beyond the body, beyond my knowing).
And Allah knows best.