It’s not the first time that I lost someone I know. I remember when I was young, my uncle Salvador whom we usually call “Kuya Bading” died after suffering from lung sickness. I was there when he had his last breath. Being young, I still didn’t realize the pain of losing someone. I watched my mom cried. I watched members of my family grieved over him. I was young. I didn’t know how to react.
I am 40 now. I have loved. I knew pain. That evening, when my sister called me that my father was in critical condition, I broke down to tears. He will not recover from the heart surgery. My dad was still fine just a few days ago. He was still making faces in his selfies. Dawn came, his blood pressure was dropping. I know that he will not make it in the morning. I am not there with him at the hospital. I am living abroad. I have to prepare myself for what’s to come inevitably- death.
I felt helpless. Wanting to be beside him. I called my sister again, my mom, my aunt..no answer. Finally, my call got through my uncle. His voice was trembling. He couldn’t find the words to say. I asked if he can put the phone on speaker near my dad. He’s a Catholic. As a Muslim, I was taught that a person who is near death must be able to say “La Ilaha Ilalah” (There is no God but Allah). I wanted him to be saved. I wished that God will forgive him. With my voice trembling as I tried to stop myself from crying, I told him that I love him. I told him not worry that God will be there for him. I repeatedly asked if he can say “La Ilaha Ilalah” even with his mind. I hoped he heard me. Please God have mercy on him.
My sister said he passed away after hearing the voices of my mom and my siblings. Three of us were not there. We were on mobile speaker. That early morning, I really knew pain. There was no pain greater than that of losing someone you loved. Deep inside I know that God is fair. That He will pass judgement with fairness, kindness and justice. I was only human. I cried for my dad. I know I will truly miss him.
Qadr Allah. God had a plan for me. He laid out my way. He had helped me to find Islam last April. He had helped me to fast during the month of Ramadan. He used people to guide me. The Zayed House of Islamic Culture taught me the basics of Islam. In the Islamic course, I was taught that life is temporary and short compared to the afterlife. I was taught that all of us will taste death. Then after death, angels will come to ask us three questions: What is your religion? Who is your God? Who is your prophet? This is the trial of the grave. Then the soul will be brought to barzaa- a place where all souls await the Day of Judgement. The dead cannot come back to the land of the living. But of course, in the end, only God has the knowledge of the unseen. He do what He wills.
I came to realize that God prepared me for death- the death of my beloved father. God also gave me a chance to say goodbye to him last May after my vacation. I had never seen my dad cried so much when I bid him goodbye. I run back to him and hugged him and assured him that I will come back so don’t be sad. I didn’t know that it was the last hug and kiss that his eldest child will give to him. God really gave me this mercy.
I am strong. I will not cry knowing what I know about death. Always, when I came back home for vacation, I will often see my dad at our living room or at the dining area prepping up ingredients of what he wants to cook. Now, there I was walking with heavy feet. As I approached his casket set up at my aunt’s house, my strength left me. I burst to tears. I lost him. He’s gone. It’s a painful realization that I will not see him smiling, joking around or cooking up a feast. I love my dad so much.
Being a Muslim in a Catholic funeral is quite a challenge. A lot of staring and asking why there’s a Muslim there really amazes me. I am the first Muslim in our family. I explained to our guests what to do when a Muslim dies. In Islam, the dead must be buried before sunset or immediately if he dies in the evening. He is washed and wrapped in several layers of white cloth. No fancy clothing. No material things to put with the dead like money, jewelry or the favorite stuff of the dead person. The prayer is also simple. There are no expensive coffins and funeral services. The burial ground is free. During the 3-day mourning period after the burial, the family is comforted by other people as well as relatives. There is no drinking alcohol or gambling. In Islam, any Muslim can take care of the burial of his fellow Muslim. Honestly, Muslims have more respect for the dead. It was something that I wanted for myself when I die even before I became a Muslim.
I didn’t join the prayers and ceremonies done by the Catholics, Christians and people from the El Shaddai, another Christian sect. I prayed for my father as a Muslim would pray. I read to him some chapters of the Quran- Al Faatiha, Al Ikhlaas, Al Falaq and An Naas. When your parents die, you should not stop praying for them. Candles and flowers will not help them. Only your prayers will. Ask for their forgiveness that they might be saved from the punishment of hell. Ask for God’s mercy on their souls, so that He may lead them to heaven. Continue their charitable activities on their behalf. God bless their souls even in the afterlife.
There are a lot of things that I will remember about my dad. He usually wakes me up tickling my feet or pulling my nose while calling me “panget” (ugly). He also called his grandchildren the same. He always asked me what I want to eat when I come back there for vacation. He was quite an adventurous cook. He’s also travelled most of the Philippine and brought back home the recipes which he happily cooks for us. Food was our family’s bond. My dad was also generous especially to his kin. At the funeral, I was surprised to see a lot of people visiting him. Even some of our neighbors cried for him. He was loved and he will be truly missed.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that Muslims should visit the graves. He wanted us to realize that death was unavoidable and that the believers should prepare for death. There’s no repentance for the soul after it leaves the body.
As a final note, I want to share with you these realities:
- All of us will die and we will not know when. Death is like thief.
- Do not wait for the dead person’s eulogy to tell them how great they are or how important they are in your life. Tell them now. Time is not in your hand.
- Your parents spent their lives giving you what you need. It’s your turn to give them what they need. Treat them generously.
- If you have a long time grudge against your loved ones, end it quickly. Swallow your pride. It does not matter who was wrong when you can make it right.
- Love your family. Show them you care. Give each other respect.
There is no goodbye even with death. It is the beginning of eternity. Dad, I will see you again soon. Until we meet again.