The longest year of my life…and other reflections
Posted by Yacoob on July 28, 2010
They say that time flies. And while that may be true for many – and even myself in years gone by – at this time, I strongly disagree with the idea.
The phrase came up recently, when I was asked how old my daughter is now. My reply, that she’s almost a year old, elicited the aforementioned sentiment: “time flies.”
But for me, time most certainly has not flown. It’s felt like the longest year of my life. That’s not to say time has dragged on and life has been boring. Far from it. It’s probably been the second most eventful year of my life (after 2007 – which I still hope to write about someday).
It feels like ages since that memorable night when our baby was born. And I still remember the intensity of feeling in those first days and nights when they came home: the constant worry about whether she was drinking properly; the difficulty in getting her to burp; the insane schedule of feed – burp – short sleep – feed – burp – short sleep etc, which was obviously much harder for my wife than it was for me. The freedom we felt the first time we left her with a grandparent and had time ‘off’ – even if it was only a short meal after a doctor’s appointment.
And there was Ramadan – which came soon after her birth; and I barely remember it now – other than, perhaps, the knowledge that last Ramadan was so different – in terms of spiritual exertion – than the one before.
And the time when my wife and baby moved back home (after spending some time with her mother after the birth – as is customary in our community) – how we first let the baby sleep in our room; but then realised this almost totally deprived us of having a room altogether. Then how we moved our bed into her room – which was a tight squeeze, given the fact that the rooms aren’t too big here.
And the absolutely magical moments of feeding her before bed – when she’d collapse and fall asleep sprawled out across me; so small that I could easily carry her with one arm.
And I remember the mornings when she would get into bed with us – after spending most of the night in her own cot. (A practice still persists). And the times she would wake me up with her noises and arm-flapping – almost as if she was trying to get me up.
And when she started crawling – moving more like a worm than a mini-human. And the few week phase she went through where she’d scrunch her face up at everyone – almost as if she knew she was amusing us, and played along for her audience. And the time she bit her own toe, then started bawling in pain because she didn’t know it was actually a part of her own body.
And…and…and…just so, so, so many memories. So much time. It’s felt more like ten years – yet it’s only been one.
The thought of that brings to mind another gripe I have with a time-related cliché: “Life’s too short.”
Years ago, when confronted with that idea, I’d think about what a long life I’d had up to that point: close to 25 years of ups and downs; personal insecurities and fears; pleasures and sadness; companionship and overwhelming stretches of utter alone-ness; the peace and goodness of solitude, along with its negative effects; and life-changing moments that will forever remain un-erasable milestones on my journey to become who I’m going to be.
It’s said that, compared to eternity – which awaits us in the Hereafter – this life is like the blink of an eye. And while that may well be true, I guess I just have absolutely no way to feel what eternity is. There’s nothing that I can measure it against – nothing in my experience; and because perceptions shape our reality, for me, my reality is that my life has been very long already – even though I’m approaching 30, which some would say is still young.
I sometimes wonder if I’m weird to feel that way. If I’m different because everyone talks about how short life is – while I totally disagree. I wonder if I’m an old soul trapped in a young(ish) body – because I feel that I can relate to those old people who are just tired of life, and waiting to move on.
That’s not to say that I want to die soon. I’m certainly nowhere near the condition that I want to be in by the time that Angel comes knocking. But the truth is that he (the angel) doesn’t wait for us to be ‘ready.’ When it’s your time, it’s your time. No one and nothing can delay it – even for a split second. And, many times, there is no warning. It comes just like that: one moment you’re here, and the next you’re gone.
Many, many years ago – in my childhood – I had a dream that I was being buried alive. I mean, I think I was ‘dead’ – but I was still ‘awake’. I could see the people at my burial. I was probably frantically trying to call to them; to ask them why they were leaving me when I was still alive.
From what I now know of death (the Islamic teachings on the subject), that is pretty much a reflection of the reality: your body dies, but your soul does not. And when you’re put in your grave, you’re aware of the people that are there – and you know when they’re leaving. (I forget the exact Hadith – but it’s something along those lines).
When I think of dying, I recall the very vague image of my grandfather’s death bed. How he was in bed, on the brink of death, and the family were there with him. I was 7 years old at the time – so I don’t remember much at all.
And I think of what I’ve learnt about those moments – the ‘pangs’ of death; the moments when a person is between this world and the next – in and out of consciousness. The time when a person will know the truth about life – about the existence of God. And I feel sorry for those who disbelieve – because when they reach that point – and they realise the truth, it’ll be too late for them to change their minds. Like the Pharaoh – just before he was drowned. He admitted the truth too late; and now he’ll face the eternal consequences of his refusal to believe.
So many people don’t know the truth about death. Among the world’s people, there are so many different beliefs about death and an afterlife (or lack of one). So much confusion, so much argument.
And for all the arguments and theories that people of different faiths (including atheists) may have – in the end, there’s one simple event that resolves everyone’s differences: when humans die, they come to know what the truth is. They come to find out – by experience – whether their beliefs about death and life after death were true or not. And at that time, if they find that they were wrong – it’s too late to change direction. To late to believe something else.
I feel tremendously fortunate to be Muslim. To be part of a religious tradition that knows – with certainty – so much about death, the grave, and what comes after. We have all of this knowledge as a result of Divine Revelation (both in the Quran and the Hadith) – and, under the protection of Almighty God, all of this knowledge has been pristinely preserved like no other book, no other information, in the history of humankind.
And I don’t say that with any arrogance – because I hope I don’t ‘look down’ on people who don’t believe what I do. I hope I don’t judge those who have other faiths. There’s no guarantee I’ll live the rest of my life as a Muslim. I can only hope and pray that I do remain one, right to the very end.
Anyway, this post has meandered a bit – but these are just thoughts I’m having at the moment. If you have something to say about them, go ahead and comment. But I know the latter part is a sensitive subject – so some may have been offended by it. Please know that I meant no offence at all. These were just reflections in my mind, which are now on this page. You’re welcome to disagree and share your thoughts – but please keep it clean and respectful.