What a difference a year makes.
Today is my mother’s 64th birthday.
It’s hard to write about my mother. Over the years, some of my friends’ mothers’ have returned to the Creator. And so when I think of my time with my mother, I inadvertently think of death. It feels close, because she has survived many health challenges. She has an irregular heart beat, where it beats 180 beats per minute at moments. It feels like her heart is so full at moments, that her body cannot hold it.
She is my biggest supporter and critic. Often, we have nothing in common. She is truly a choleric in her domestic life. Things are always perfect in her domain. She does not tolerate anything less than excellence. For example, 15 years into marriage, my mother still prepares all of my husband’s favorite dishes each month when we visit.
She’s incredibly loving, and showers love on all of us.
The most important lessons in life I learned from my mother. I’ll write about those later.
Things that the sheikhs say during exclusive retreats, my mother has been saying all the time.
I stayed with my Ma after my Abbu’s surgery for four days. I marveled at the willpower she used to clean and clear clutter multiple times a day. She still cooks 2-3 dishes before she goes to work. Her first meeting of the day is with her Creator around tahajjud, around 3AM. She fasts two or three times a week. She never takes her mask off the entire school day, only to drink water. She walks a mile to work and back. I could rarely keep up with all the things in a week, let alone a single day.
As a mother, she anticipated every need. She kept us happy and safe. She was always open to talking to me about boys, friend problems, drugs, God, or school pressures. Because she worked in a school, she was highly aware of what kids did in school, and was always open to talking to us about relationships.
She’s been fiercely independent and dependent at the same time. As a child, I never aspired to be like her. I thought she was too dependent on my father to go anywhere (she preferred not to drive). Yet, she never missed a single one of my school orchestra performances — and would take the train for an hour to be at my recital. Even this year, she took an Uber to my kids’ birthday parties. She has never missed a celebration, or birthday for me or my brother, or my kids. She has a fierce determination to do what she believes is right. She doesn’t take “no” as an answer. She finds a way.
Now in middle age (or what feels like middle age), I realize I am like her in some ways. I aspire to be as awesome as she was, to give my kids what they need physically and mentally, though most days I fail. She reminds me always of God’s favors on me: being able to drive, to have my own vehicle, to have a roof over my head, to have food in the fridge, having Muslim neighbors. She is able to see things that I often miss.
Another thing: She loves work. She comes home energized by work. She cooks 2-3 dishes before she leaves for work; puts in her 7 hours, and comes home to clean and cook some more. I am in awe of the energy. People who know me think I have a lot of energy, but you don’t know my mother. Here are some of her photos.
Please do a good deed in my mother’s name: Nargis Kalam. May God have mercy on her and grant her health, happiness and success in this life and the next. Ameen.