ذهب ولكن لم ينس

There are many words to describe the pain and suffering many of us have had to endure since the pandemic began in March 2020 but trying to find the right words can be indescribable and simply impossible.

At the time, nobody could have imagined we’d still remain in this position nearly two years later when you read this post. Most probably felt like me and were hopeful and optimistic things would change for the better, sooner rather than later. We’ll get past this, and we’ll unite as a society, and it will bring us closer together. Most took the proper precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones (near and far). The unknown struck fear in many of us and we didn’t know what to expect or how to act.

I write to you today because my family and I have been grieving over the loss of a loved one since he passed away on March 9th, 2021. It’s been over nine months since his passing, and not one single day goes by where I don’t think about him. I hear his voice, I see him in my mind, and I can feel his presence throughout our home including the times we had together. And with each reminder, tears roll down my face. I could be sitting at home to myself, and I’ll start sobbing out of control because I’m reminded of him. I recently watched some videos I took from a wedding we attended in 2019. Prior to his passing, I would laugh hysterically and smile from ear-to-ear at the time we had together. These days, I can barely get through two seconds of the same videos without crying.

I now exhibit some of his behaviors in our home and they include sitting on the couch in the family room where he sat, furthest away from the television. I now display some of his mannerisms, some of which I didn’t realize I had until he passed. I now repeat things he often said in Arabic (our second language), which I never did when he was with us. When my in-laws were in town staying with us, they would often share a plate of fruit together prior to going to bed. Now, I find myself doing the same each night. Some of these examples may not mean anything to you, but they mean the world to me, and I just find it strange how habits\tendencies are passed down or inherited.

For me, he was and will forever remain a second father to me.

Indeed, he was a father, a father-in-law, an uncle, a grandparent, and a great-grandparent. He served in the United States Armed Forces. He was disciplined but fair. He could tell a story like no other. He enjoyed everyone’s company and vice versa, and always looked forward to being with his family and friends. If you were ever fortunate enough to meet him, you’d come away from that experience better than you came into it. Simply put, he will be forever remembered as a solid human being. These times were happy and sad, but they were together, and we got through them all with laughter and tears.

His name was Andy, and he was my father-in-law for over 26 years. He was there to celebrate the birth of my two children and was there to support them in any manner possible. This included after school activities and anything you can think of. Never once did he complain, and he ALWAYS wanted to spend every moment with his grandchildren. As I look ahead, I’m saddened because he won’t be with us to celebrate their accomplishments as young adults. He always preached education and it tears me up inside because he’s no longer with us to celebrate their experiences at the university level.

Prior to his passing, he became ill with Covid, but nobody could have ever imagined that he would leave us within two weeks of his diagnosis. I’ll never forget speaking to him on FaceTime and he remained positive throughout the conversation. He was healthy, exercised often and was more fit than me but this disease hit him very hard. So hard, it unfortunately took his life.

How could this happen to someone so kind? Why??? I continue to ask myself these questions just about every day. Why to him of all people?

Our physical limitations prevented us from seeing him before he passed away in the city of Ramallah. Unfortunately, no family members from the U.S. including my wife and I were able to attend the services abroad due travel restrictions related to the pandemic. One week prior to his passing, my wife purchased a ticket to fly back home, and we both realized there would be risks involved but we both felt like it was the right thing to do at the time. The ticket was purchased on Saturday, March 6th and she would arrive a few days later on Thursday, March 11th. Sadly, he passed away on March 9th and my wife (his only daughter) was unable to be there by his side before he passed.

For those that know me, I often refer to my daughter as “Daddy’s Little Girl”. My wife was “Daddy’s Little Girl”. Their relationship was solid, inseparable, loving, and something to cherish. All of this is very hard to share but I felt like it was necessary to do so. Why? Because many of you are like family to me.

When I reflect on his passing, I have so much pain. Most of it is mental, thoughts are often spinning through my mind and most evolve around the words WHAT and WOULD.

What if he had access to the vaccine (it was not available at the time)? If so, would things have turned out differently? What could we have done differently? What did he (and many like him, loving and kind) do to deserve this unfortunate fate?

I try to make sense of it all, but the picture remains out of sorts. I feel like I’m driving through thick fog and lose sight of where I’m going because my vision is blurred. I can turn on the high beams, but that gives me a false sense of hope because the picture only becomes worse. I can use the roadside deflectors to give me a sense of direction to act as a guide, but I somehow comeback to where I started, which is lost and confused by it all.

There are some that get past the grieving stage in a short amount of time. Some seek professional help while others like me, grieve to themselves and have a hard time seeking out support without showing signs of weakness.

Seeking professional help can be frowned upon in many cultures, including mine. Death has never been an easy subject for me, and I’ve often tried to avoid talking about it but I realize it’s inevitable. Some handle it better than others and I realize time heals all, but in this example and because of the circumstances, it’s created a huge void in my life and moving past it has served as one of the largest challenges in it.

I’ve shared this story with a few of you prior to publishing this post and each of you has provided support, kindness, and offered to help in ways I never could have imagined, and I am very thankful and blessed for it. It’s my hope with this post, I can move forward but I have a long road to recovery.

In the end, I have one ask for everyone. Treat each moment with love and respect, because there is nothing guaranteed in this gift we call life. Nothing is ever easy, but it also shouldn’t be this difficult.

Rest in Peace, Andy.

“A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again” – Maya Angelou

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