ABIDJAN – Sunday, July 21, 2019, marked exactly 40 days since my rare, super cheerful mother left us. But guess what? It still feels like seconds ago. How I wish this was just another horror dream that would be over soon, allowing me a chance to: (a) see my mom again, (b) hear the soft, sweet sound of her voice, (c) touch her silky smooth skin, and (d) feel the softness of her palm against mine.
Indeed, a mother’s death is such an excruciatingly painful experience—the pain of being un-mothered is so stubborn and knows no bounds. No wonder home feels so gloomy; a critical piece of the family puzzle is missing—never to be seen, felt, hugged, or spoken to in this life.
For six years my mom and I longed for each other but never had the chance to quench this insatiable thirst. In April 2019, we made plans—I would visit Abidjan in mid June. Together, we drafted an itinerary to guide and spice up my sojourn in the Ivorian capital. She knew my departure date and time and was gearing up to be at the airport to receive me. But the Almighty had even better plans: my mom made her peaceful transition just two weeks shy of my arrival in Abidjan—Alhamdulillah. May Allah forgive her gentle soul and grant her the highest level of al Jannat. Ameen!
Though Teeyah (as she was affectionately called) is no more, I am certain that The Most Gracious and Most Merciful will comfort me. I know that He will give me inner peace and help me live again. I am positive that He will help me smile and shine again.
So, in observance of my mom’s 40th day, a traditional memorial service and lunch honoring her was held. This event brought together scores of friends, families, well-wishers and sympathizers.
The day began as early as 4:00AM when multiple women gathered in mini circles of eight to slice, chop and blend mixed veggies, while dicing fresh cow meat. Soon, five extra-large pots were mounted on gas-fueled stoves. Fresh, organic ingredients made their rounds in each pot as they boiled leisurely, oozing pleasurable aroma that instantly invaded the entire neighborhood.
By 6:00AM, several workstations were up and running. Troops of women focused on dishing out multiple 50-pound sacks of brown long grain rice into tones of retail bags for easy distribution. Boxes of stuffed waffle biscuits, sacks of mildly ripe dates, mini packs of powdered milk, among many other provisions, were also stacked up into mini goodies bags.
By 7:00AM, a large pot of steamed beans, perfectly decorated with sumptuously made meat + veggies stew was ready to be devoured by the 300+ mourners who had actually started gathering the night before to offer prayers and give out charity in honor of my amazingly superb mom.
But most importantly, my mom’s prayer service was graced by seven imams who offered du’aa’ (supplications) comforting and reminding the living of the brevity of life. “What are you taking along [with you to your grave]?” one imam asked, rather rhetorically. Death, he said, instantly strips us of everything save our deeds (good or bad). That’s the only thing that we take with us to our newest haven—the grave—upon death. May our good deeds always overshadow our shortcomings. Ameen.
Sleep on, Teeyah. I miss you more and more—everyday <you are always in my heart> Your legacy lives on….