DEATH is such a strange thing. Maybe strange isn’t the right word. It is as present in our lives as birth, it is as definitive. And yet it is unfamiliar.
My uncle passed away from COVID-19 on August 13, 2020. A week before his death, he was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, and while my family worried as he was diabetic; I clung with hope to the 98-99% survival rate for his 50-60 year-old age bracket. His death left my family breathless. Words and clichés feel too static to describe the fullness of who he was or the emptiness he has left behind.
My Uncle was one of those people you meet and never forget. Not because of any effort on his part, but because of his kindness, his gentleness and the often mischievous spark that lit up his eyes when he smiled, which was often. He was a phenomenal father, grandfather, husband, and loyal friend to many. He had a dry sense of humor, a hearty laugh, boundless compassion and an uncanny ability to fix anything around the house. He was a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, always quick to lend a hand in a practical way, always staying out of the spotlight, always helping someone. He could be everyone’s electrician, handyman, mechanic and plumber too. Whatever needed fixing, he was the guy. He was a person with a soft heart, always willing to help the needful, that’s why he will always be remembered by all, nears and dears. Mostly, though, he was known for his emotional generosity.
His faith was quiet, yet bold. His warmth, his humor, his compassion are an inspiration to anyone who knew him and also to those who didn’t. I am deeply thankful to have known him, to have called him ‘Daddy’. While my father taught me cycling, it was my uncle who taught me how to drive. Looking back, I realize he wasn’t just teaching me about cars. He taught me about life. Be it focus, consistency, responsibility, adaptability; he taught me all.
An outdoorsman to his core, he was happiest in nature – in the mountains, by a lake or river. He was an avid gardener too. He often showed me how to plan gardens and grow vegetables and how to harvest them. Turning a complete gardener, from tilling to planting seeds, he used to do everything to fill the garden with blossom of flowers. He inherited this fanatical love of gardening from my wonderfully charming late grandfather. I remember when we were kids; we used to pick juicy, fresh apricots from trees in the back yard. I’ve often tried to figure out where my passion for gardening came from but I truly believe my love of gardening was inherited from my grandfather.
I could never imagine my life without my uncle. But here I am, writing a eulogy for my uncle today. Life inevitably goes on. However, it can never be the same as it was before the loss. During such times, it is essential to remind ourselves why we need to be living our lives again.
If there is one major thing that I learned from my uncle’s death, it is to be grateful. Only when I lost him did I realize how crucial he was in my life. The thought of his absence had not struck me before, and I had forgotten to be grateful while he was here. So, be thankful for all the love and all the people who matter to you. Hold them close and appreciate their presence in your life. Do not wait to realize the value of something until it is gone. Seize every moment and every experience as a precious asset. Be grateful to the ones you’ve lost and the ones who are living with you. Make time for those you love, and don’t take things for granted.
Another thing that haunted me after the loss were the words left unsaid. So if you have something that has to be said, do it while you can. Never miss an opportunity to tell people how you feel about them. Do not hold onto anger, grudges or apologies for a long time. It is always better to say things when you have the chance, than regret it later.
While it is tough to cope with grief, it is crucial that we don’t succumb to it. Everybody has different ways to heal, and they take their own time too – you don’t need to rush. Remember that hard times may test you and reveal your weaknesses, but if you can cope with them, you are already stronger than you were yesterday, and you are always emerging stronger than you thought you could be.
So many families are feeling what I am feeling right now, helpless. Nobody deserves to die alone, and this is what COVID-19 does. So please take social distancing and the stay at home order in your states seriously. Go out only if you absolutely need to and if you have respiratory symptoms or fevers, please contact your doctor and stay home. My message to anyone who is reading this is that make sure you visit your family (whenever you can once it is deemed safe again, of course) no matter how far, or how busy you are because so many things are out of your control and life can be unpredictable.
I want to wish goodbye to my uncle. I want him to know how much I love him and appreciate him and wish I was able to be by his side and that he will always be missed and never forgotten. I hope to see you on the other side again one day, Daddy. In sha Allah.
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