The beginning of it all
In Islam, a mother is given great importance. She is the centre that holds everything together. I remember as a child whether it be in the summer heat or in the bitter cold days, my mum would always be up before all of us. She would have our breakfast and clothes ready. I remember her face as she would hurry to get me out of the house and into school on time. It never bothered her if she was unwell or having a bad day, we would always be her priority first.
We saw our mum suffer from intense Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) everything would need to be clean, ironed, perfectly folded and nothing could be touched. We could not go into the kitchen and we would have to always be careful. She could occasionally very strict and would not allow us to touch anything! She suffered from intense depression and would fall into a dark pit at times. But she would always pull herself out again. She would always fulfil her responsibilities. We always knew she loved us, despite all the problems she carried.
More recently as she sat, frail and weakened by life’s tests, paralysed by a stroke she asked us if we had ever rebelled to her rules. Me and my brother looked at each other and laughed and admitted to her what we used to go around touching every single item that she forbade from being touched whilst she was not around. We would do this whenever we were upset with her. The look on her face was a brilliant reflection of her old self, but she gave in and laughed.
It is strange that when you lose someone how much you can remember them. Memories come and go of the time when she made me feel better when my tummy ached, that first instance when the switch from childhood to womanhood took place. I remember how when I was ill as a child she would sit up all night making sure my blanket was ok, that I was not doing too poorly. She would force me to eat worry herself sick that something would happen to me.
When things broke apart
A mother’s love and care is a blessing on all of us. In 2006 my mum had a stroke and was rendered paralysed on one side. It was my turn to take care of my mother. You would think that after all the years a mother takes care of you, there would be no problems returning the favour.
12 years I took care of my mum in every possible way. It was like having a baby in an adult body. I put my life on hold and took care of her. I washed, clothed and prepared food for her. Gave her medication, took her to the toilet but unlike a mother (or so I thought) I was becoming resentful from the inside as the years passed. Was I wrong to feel like this? I was told the feeling was perfectly normal. Your spending 24/7 with the person you’re caring for and your life revolves around them. At some point, you will feel resentment. But I felt guilty for feeling this way.
The resentment was never all the time, it was actually like any mother who gets frustrated by her child. When you have had a tiring day when the child was cranky or over-demanding and you were at the end of your patience. We would always end up having an argument and then I would spend the next 2 hours feeling guilt and asking for forgiveness from Allah. Oh and let’s not forget, trying to appease her! I was not always this way, but years of being isolated from the outside and constantly being made aware that my life was passing by started to change my personality.
It was hard seeing a headstrong and independent person gradually break down and become so weak and frail. You are completely stripped of dignity and you’re relying on the person taking care of you to be there for you. My mother became completely reliant on me and would not bear to be away from me. I would spend nights and days in the hospital next to her, keeping her calm but at the same time, I would think of my own life whittling away.
It was not easy for her either. She was constantly in intense pain. She was fed up of making the effort of trying to get better and being dragged back every time. If she tried to walk she would fall. She just didn’t find any joy in life. If we finally got somewhere with the medication and she was pain-free, she would end up with another illness that would put her in even more pain. We would try and get her to laugh and be happy but she just whittled away from what she once was. There were many reasons for this, her personal life was not very good, illnesses grabbed her by the throat at the age of 24, she suffered from severe depression and all this combined made for a very hard life.
When you start to see yourself change for the worst
Along with my mum, I also changed. I felt the change in me from someone that never got angry (the highest praise I would receive from every person I knew) to someone who was constantly upset and would get upset at the smallest thing. It is funny that all this change began in the months before she was to pass away.
I Remember the countless times I went in and out of hospitals. Just entering the hospital would leave me sick to the stomach, it would be like a 2 for 1 deal just in our case it was 2 patients for the price of 1! That sickness would constantly be mixed with the duty to take care of her and to remember what an important blessing it was to have a chance to take care of her.
But it is never as simple as that. Most days I was happy and I would take care of her and feel blessed. But it was the dark days that would be the worst when you can’t help but think the darkest thoughts and Shaitan get it kicks from pushing you to think like that. Subhanallah I think I was still lucky that my love for my mum always overrode everything I might be thinking!
When everything started to end
I remember a few days before my mum went into the hospital for the last time. We had a huge argument over me working and having a life and in anger, I uttered the words that I wish I had not. I didn’t mean it at the time, but tiredness, the stress of constantly being asked not to move on with my life just triggered off anger. She had been refusing to go into hospital for days and thought I wanted her out of the way so that I could get on with my life. I replied, “I wish it was over so that I could”. They often say that you should think before you say anything, you never know when it will be the last time.
She had become so fussy about her meals, I would be making 3-4 dishes in a day and still, she would not be happy with the food. I only later found out that for some people, as death nears their taste for food diminishes. A few days before she went into hospital her spectacles broke. You’re probably wondering why that’s strange. She had the same glasses for 15 years, every time I would try and get them changed she would refuse. The day they broke was the day of the argument and at that moment I had a flicker of unease. Putting it down to a suspicion I let it go.
She went into to hospital and I watched her struggle to breathe but I was so damn calm. That calmness held a fear that I didn’t acknowledge at the time. She was in for 3 days and I stayed with her. She was getting better so insisted I needed to go home and rest. She didn’t want me to go home at night, but it was the same every time and I would end up drained. Eventually, I did go home. The next day as I made food for her I got a phone call. They told me to come quickly. My heart was pounding and my head spinning. Getting in the car was the most difficult thing I have ever faced. I am a very clumsy person, driving from home to the hospital I had to talk to myself all the way there. My brother got there a little after me and we were told that she didn’t have long to go, she was cold to touch and that she wouldn’t make it this time. I refused to believe the doctors, they had to be lying. She came back every time, stroke, heart attack, no matter what they always said she would not make it. But she did.
They said they would stop all her medications. Give her pain relief to make her comfortable. But still, I wouldn’t believe it. I got angry and I thought how dare they stop her medications. My older brother said I was in denial. I just thought they were wrong like every other time. They took her off the monitors, gave her pain medication to ease her pain and stopped all her medication including Insulin to control her medication.
But I didn’t.
I continued to give her all her medication, closing the curtains I would wake her and beg her to take the medication. I continued to give her insulin, but her sugar levels would not come down. They were sky high and somewhere within me, I knew that she wouldn’t make it but didn’t want to believe it. I sat holding her hand all through the nights during the 3 nights. She would wake up suddenly and beg for food or orange juice. Orange juice was her solution to any problem. If we were sick or if she was unwell, even if it was a panic attack she would drink orange juice.
So we lined up the hospital fridge with orange juice. And every time she would ask I would help her drink it. On the last night, I sat next to her crying, I couldn’t stop the pain. I tried so hard not to let her know. But she was a mother. I remember being told by a friend it was best I had someone with me. I knew at that time it was better if it was just me there. As I cried silently she sensed it and whispered out my name. when I looked at her she asked why I was crying and shook her head. Her indication for me not to cry. I prayed and I read Surah Yaseen and prayed she would be ok. But how do you pray for someone to be ok when you know how much pain they are going through every day? She begged to have Weetabix 2 am in the morning and I remember asking her to relax. But she was in a hurry, everything was just hurried. so I got it and fed her. She begged for orange juice after having Weetabix. I tried explaining it was not a good idea over the Weetabix. But she wasn’t with me, her eyes were locked somewhere far away as if she were at home in her chair. She complained out loud that I wasn’t listening and she didn’t know who to ask to get her the orange juice. So I finally crept to the hospital kitchen and took it out of the fridge. She made me help her drink the whole bottle.
Those final hours
My cousin came in the morning. I really did not want to go home at the time. I just wanted to stay next to her. My mum’s biggest fear used to be I would not be by her side and that she would die alone. I had not had food for over 24 hours. My sister in law forced me home for a break. But coming home in the afternoon, I just could not sleep. I kept calling to make sure she was ok. She was always asking for me, even if I went away for a minute. She always feared she would die alone. I was panicking that I wouldn’t be there when she needed me most. My brother said she was in discomfort and that he had asked for an increase in painkillers. so I finally returned back to the hospital with my dad. When I got there my sister in law forced me to get something to eat. She wanted me to eat in the café but I wanted to go back so we went back.
It was nearing Maghrib time and I tried to eat but I felt this heaviness in me, pressing down and clogging my throat. My heartbeat hastened to catch up with my breath as I watched. I finally asked my brother to draw the curtains. I remember the look of surprise, and his instant “how do you know?”. I shrugged my should and I went to hold her against my chest, whilst I prayed. I asked my brother to hold her hand. I read somewhere you should be touching and holding them because they are scared as they pass from this world to the next. I told her I loved her, I asked for her forgiveness. We asked her if she was in pain. She said no, she just felt agitated. My younger brother at the time was away on holiday he had tried so hard to get there, the flight had been due for the following day. I knew he was heartbroken, he had been there every single time by her side and at this crucial time, he would miss it. It was in the last few moments that it occurred to me to call him and tell him that she was about to leave the dunya. You could see his pain as he said sorry to her for any hurt he had caused her and his eyes filled. It was hard to see my brother like that, I had never really seen him tearful.
Every noise, smell and sound failed to exist in that moment, the best way to describe it would be it was the most beautiful and heart-wrenching moment at the same time. Experiencing death for the first time, I had thought I would be scared or at least We asked if she wanted water. She nodded. We wet her lips and gave her a sip. She said her Kalimah La ilaha ill Allah Muhammadur-Rasul Allah and took two long breaths. She took her third final deep breath and for the first time in 12 years, I finally saw my mum at peace as she made her way to Allah (swt). Alhumdolillah, it was right at maghrib time, her eyes closed by them selves, her heels were touch and she had left for her journey to Allah (swt).
Sometimes I feel I pay a priceless fee for my selfishness, I lost the one blessing that was mine. If I had to do it all over again, I know I would. Because she was my mum and she did everything for me. She nurtured and nourished me in her womb for which I am forever indebted. She helped me to grow into the woman I am today.
Paradise is under a mother’s feet, but I will always will undeserving of this. I was inadequate in my appreciation respect and honour of her. If she were before me now I would ask her to please forgive me for every time I hurt her with my words and actions. I would ask for forgiveness for disobeying her, for putting myself first at times because she deserved to be first. No one was more worthy of my care and love than my mum. I tried to be the daughter God guided me to be, but I failed, and I lacked in the patience she had as a mother. I wish I could have provided her with a lot more joy and made her troubles fly away. I pray Allah forgives me for my mistakes and my harsh words and that you forgive me for them as well. I remember your words when I asked for forgiveness you replied that I had done so much more than any daughter would. Those words will stay with me and I will always know there was so much more I could have done. But as humans, we are prone to failure and no matter how well we mean things to be we will make mistakes.
People will often say that I did enough, but if you think about it that’s not really true. Allah gave guidelines on how to treat parents. Yes, I can say I tried my best, but did I do my best by her? I would say no. In the first few days after she passed away, she did come into my dreams. It was strange to be told that the plant was dying and that it should be watered. I walked through the gardens twice until finally, I saw the exact same plant as in my dream and I watered it. It is now bright in its lushness in our garden.
I am sorry mum for everything I did not do, for everything I might have said that hurt you. I am sorry for being frustrated with you, for wanting it all to go away. Finally, I am sorry for not saying I love you enough. May Allah forgive all my your sins and grant you a place in the highest ranking of Jannah.