Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Saturday November 8th, 2014; 12 pm-ish: She had just taken a bath and while I combed her hair and wrapped her scarf around her head, I made a mental note to tell my mom Dadi needs a haircut. Then I hugged her because she looked so cute, however slightly annoyed that I redid her scarf four times and kept her from drifting back off into her nap. That was the last time I'd ever do her hair. That was the last morning my dad would hold a glass of ensure to her lips and the last time my mom would dress her. That night, she sat with us on her wheelchair in her reserved parking spot next to the long couch while we laughed and talked and yelled at my brother for being himself. Then I went to bed, as per usual night rituals.

Sunday November 9th: I woke up to my dad calling to my mom from my grandma's room. His tone told me everything I needed to know. I walked in, felt Dadi's faint heart beat while my mom tried anything to ease whatever we thought might help her breathe normally or check-in with us. We didn't know. Then somehow I mustered some courage to call the paramedics...glimmer of hope, she's fine I thought, she's just having trouble breathing she's fine, it's going to be okay... Then my mom screaming further confirmed my greatest fear in life. It all happened so fast and whirlwindy.

To be honest, I'm a bit nervous and scared to keep typing because I'm so emotionally worn out and I don't know how I feel about feeling all the feelings from the last two days again. I don't have very many blog posts and the fact that I now have two about my grandmothers leaving us forever, makes me so sick to my stomach. But words (like tears) are remedial. You just have to explode to be put back together. (comparison between medicinal stuff and explosion off but bear with me)

Confession: I'm typing this semi-secretively while I'm not surrounded because I think my face will tell more than I want it to. But right now, there's a large box of pictures spread out over my parents bed. Actual, tangible pictures to hold, touch and smell. Mummy aunty just said, Gori khala used to say, "dedo na tasveer, mein rakhtiuyun hifazath se" to anyone (seriously anyone) who had pictures to share. Translation: Our grandma used to go around collecting pictures of people to keep safe in her albums. She loved people-- no matter how small no matter how distant. Half of the pictures we're holding are because Dadi taught us how.

Is there a phrase that coneys the missing of someone so much but like, 7218921 times more? Everything in my house reminds me of her. She lived with us my entire life, and even though I knew
that day was bound to come some day... I just never thought it would come one day. Tazeen bhabi and I were talking about how no one lives forever and we accept that. But why then, is death received
with so much pain and confusion? Why can't we have a warning so we know not to sleep at night and sit with her until the time comes? Why do tears run out...why can't they just keep coming down?
Also, how long do you feel hollow for ? It's kind of frustrating.

And the truth of the matter is, we aren't crying for her. We're crying for us because we're terrified of what living without her feels like. She looked so beautiful when we saw her face for one last time. The peace and serenity that had been snatched away by Alzheimer's found it self back. That moment was the most surreal moment of our lives. Through all the tears, there was just this look on every ones face that screamed, 'did this really happen? really, is she actually gone?' So so so hard to

As Seema baji held me tightly, I knew I'd never be whole again. I'd be okay, I'd recover and I 'd be happy again ... but I'd never be me. One of the biggest parts of me is gone, you know? The biggest part of us all is gone. She's with Allah now, we told Shiza.

To our relatives outside of Chicago, we're the 'chicago family' or the Bartlett basement or something. To us, we are Dadi and Nanni Ammi. Since the day our parents came to America from India, she made every effort (and succeeded) to keep her three sons and four daughters together. Then we were born, one by one... and then too, Dadi made every effort (and succeeded) to raise us to be as close and good as possible. To be humans worth knowing, and to put family in front of every single thing ever
in life. To live with so much passion and love openly and pray so intently. Gah, it's such a cliche fest isn't it?

I'm so plooop. We're all so plooooop. All I know is that our grandma was the most generous, charming, humble, infectious person we knew and probably every will. All the phone calls, all the visitors, all the texts made us realize that there are very few people in life that leave such a gaping hole when they leave. Dadi made everyone feel wanted and important. Everyone she met, she shared some connection with. And to everyone else out there who misses her smile too, hope you're holding
 up okay. We'll make it, I promise.

Since she got diagnosed with Alzheimer's back in 2007, there were various phases that we dealt with. Some cute ones like the time I showed her a picture of Dada and asked her who it was. She said she didn't know and when I said, "it's your husband!" she got soooo adorably giddy and shy and convinced me that she's much too young to be married. Oh how silly of me! Also she thought I was her sister, which I never corrected because if I did have a sister, I'd want her to be just like Dadi anyway. She thought all of us youngsters were her girlfriends. Nausheen baji even made up a song inspired by Dadi's signature black specks and serenaded her countless times.

Then there were times that really tested our patience, and also the toughest stage when she forgot us completely, and then when she never remembered us again.

She didn't joke around so much or laugh or pat us to sleep; but she held our hands and returned our hugs. Tightest grip for someone so small, just ask Naushad bhaya. She would not let go! We loved that though, yes sometimes it made us late to work but work seems so trivial in retrospect.

For a long long time, that was enough. Today, that IS enough. I just want her to hold our hands again and refuse to let go, (and then get angry and ask where we are going like the inquisitive child she had become :) )

I've missed her bright eyes of surma and ginormous spirit since forever ago, but she was still the same to me even Saturday, as she sat on her wheelchair for the last time. ("last time" is so demoralizing, every time I type it I want to throw up but anyway)

She simply passed a piece of her personality torch to each of us.

The past year and a half, she's been either on her wheelchair or her bed. She's drank only ensure or Boost and got thinner and thinner. But we loved and cared for her like she like loved and cared for us. The past few months, she barely spoke and replaced her hand holding with deep sleep. Every morning my mom would help Dadi's caretaker get her ready and changed. My dad would sit beside her wheelchair every night at 9:15 and feed her "chai." (Really it was Ensure but the first time she drank it we said chai so she would like it) Depending on what day of the week it was, each of my aunts would come by at 2:30 and stay until dadi was tucked in bed.

Routine is going to slap us all in the face. It already has because her medicine bag hasn't been opened and it feels very strange.

Every little thing becomes this giant trigger. The small glasses that used to hold her milk, her wooden foot rest, her shelf of belongings and diapers and Mucinex, her baby powder and Bio Amla hair oil; the time of day and the lack of her tiny ankles peeking out of her shalwar.

Most of all though, the worst trigger is strangely the best. We are triggers. Mansoor bhaya, Muj, Mudd, Zeeshan, Sanya, Nagma, Amir, Safura, Me, Ruqiya, Far, Saher, Zoha, Shizu, Mona baji, Ahmy bhaya  and Kubra bhabi, Tazeen bhabi and Akmal bhaya (her dedicated dua's for her grand kids to find excellent spouses clearly worked out)  ... our parents and our family.  It's the best because we still have us. For our parents too, us kids are the biggest reminder of Dadi.

My house is always filled with the cousins and the family because Dadi made it that way (and back in the day if they couldn't make it, oh man would she call the heck out of you :)).

Tonight, she's not here. But I know she's happy to see that we are and always will be.

The emptiness is not going to fade any time soon, probably not ever. Me and Nagma call the current mood, "superficial okay." All of us have been under one roof since Sunday. Even more than our entire lives, we're depending on each other to keep the volume up so it doesn't get eerie quiet and even more depressing. Soon, we're going to have to go back to school and work. We're going to have to pick up and face life; continue growing without Dadi for the first time ever. It's going to suck, oh my goodness it already sucks so bad. I hate it.

I hate looking in her room and not seeing her, I hate thinking that when everyone goes back home and gets back in routine... "Dadi, hug!" won't be the first things I say when I come home from school and one of my aunts won't be in the kitchen stirring milk. When I sit on the arm of the long couch, I will no longer be dangling my legs in her wheelchair while she hugs them tightly. That after-dinner time used to be ours.. now it's just me and my legs.

Obviously everyone will be around always, but now Dadi won't be the center of it. That part gets me.

Honestly speaking and all philosophical banter aside, I don't know when we're going to be okay on the inside. I'm not sure when things start hurting less and when people stop telling you to be strong. I can't tell if I'm still numb or if I'm all cried out. I wonder what my dad will feel when 9:15 p.m rolls around everyday from now forth, and what Choti pupu, Anni and Ajji will do when they aren't changing their mom. Will my mom habitually walk into Dadi's room with new sheets because she
 forgot she isn't there anymore? I want to know if my cousins have closure, and I have this silly urge to make them take an oath that says they can't leave my house. You know that saying, when silence is so super loud? That's what I'm scared of. Dadi was my human diary, even her silence was conversational. At least my secrets are safe with her, yes?

Right now though, pictures are still being passed around and Nausheen baji just interrupted me to show me an old photo. I like the sounds of our parents reliving their past and telling us how and where they grew up and who they knew and what they did. Pictures of our childhood are so hopeful, which is weird because they're from a life already lived. We went through the piles and collected pictures of Dadi... weird how her pictures are suddenly everything to us. When there's a physical reminder that someone is there, you don't realize that they are here. Until they're gone...when they're gone is when you hold onto them most.

I'm still nervous about letting my thoughts run wild and exposed, but I don't know how to cope unless I can come to terms with it through a keyboard or a pen. I always say that you are entitled to feel whatever feeling you want to feel. I want to be sad. I want to sulk in my misery because I lost my favorite person in the whole entire world and I'm scared. I feel like my stomach is broken. I also feel like I've never loved my cousins more.

Ugh, don't feel too special guys I'm just being vulnerable.

May Allah grant our grandma the highest level of Jannat.

Gonna miss you forever, Dadi. Forever and ever. On the firsts of many things especially...like this picture, on the first day of 3rd grade.



  1. Zareen, I feel like I'm not aloud to write here anything because this is a family matter and it has nothing to do with me - and I can't do anything to make you feel better. But I also feel that if I don't write here anything it won't be fair because you should know. How sorry I am. Really, really sorry. Even though we don't know each other, this article almost made me cry. I've never read anything this sad, but in a weird sense - beautiful, too. Your Dadi was a lucky person to have all of you as a family and from all you have written about her it seems that you are her legacy and I bet she is very proud of you. In my country we say "upřímnou soustrast" in moments like this, so... upřímnou soustrast, Zareen.

    1. Lucie, if only you knew just how much that meant to me. I'm speechless because for someone I don't know personally, you make me feel like I do and I wish I did. I hope one day. Thank you so much for your beautiful thoughts and condolences. Lots and lots of love X

  2. No matter how many times I read this, I go numb...all over again.