A Muslim Widow shares

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After He's Gone..

Note: Some cultures (not Islam) totally reject the idea of a widow being amongst the living. Strange isn’t it? Her husband dies and they just want her to die alongside him. They become silent victims of life. Some people just don’t want to be reminded about death and how this could be their situation just as easy.
Here is a story about one Muslim sister – and how she is dealing with her loss.
To all our sisters out there who have lost their man, there is hope and our faith insists we keep our thoughts going forward and focus on tomorrow, while we cherish our "yesterdays". The names were changed and a few things were changed to protect identity. But this is still a very real story - from the heart.
Sister Sara has experienced what many have gone through and many more will too. Here's her story...

The 'janaziyah' (Muslim funeral) is over now. Everyone is coming over and giving me their condolences. They just buried my husband in the best way, and so many people turned out for his funeral. They all said the 'salat' and 'dua' (prayers) for him. I saw some of them brushing away tears too. I tried not to show it but I was not the only one crying, Al Hamdulillah (Praise be to God).

So many sisters came over and brought food. Friends dropped off more food. Relatives insisted I eat something (the last thing I want to do right now - is eat).
Everyone is looking at me with sad eyes, telling me, "It's going to be O.K. He's in a better place now. Inna lilahi wa inna elayhi rajioon (From Allah we came and to Allah is our return)".
My husband was ill for just a short time, and the last part of his life he suffered quite a bit. He lost over 100 pounds and looked as if he were almost dead. The hospital had him drugged up so much - he didn't seem to recognize me or any of our children, much less our grand kids. I was so worried he might not say 'shahadah' - but he did whisper it. I heard him, "Laa elaha illallah, Muhammadar rasulullah" (There is none to worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger).

I prayed to Allah to make it easy for him and to take him in the best way - as the true Muslim I know him to be.
When he passed, I was right there with him. I was saying shahadah to him over and over and he started to move his lips. And then somehow knew it was happening and then all of a sudden I heard the sound of the machine, you know - when the straight line goes across the screen and it makes a screaming sound....
Anyway, I just stared at him. I couldn't cry anymore. I tried, but the tears were all gone and I just sat there like a rock. I couldn't move, I couldn't say anything. Just stared. Yaa Allah! Why can't I cry?
He was smiling! I am not joking. I could see his face finally at peace and he really looked, well you know, peaceful. His mouth was turned up at the corners just like the first time I met him and he told my father he wanted to marry me. Oh, that was so long ago and yet, it seems like only last week.
But now, he's gone. What do I do?

I guess if a sister's husband dies unexpectedly or in an accident, all of a sudden, it is different for her. Sure, that makes sense. She didn't have time to think it over and try to prepare herself. I did. I even talked it over with the imam and some of the people of knowledge I trust. They assured me of the way to deal with the whole entire situation. That is what I want to share with other sisters.
O sister, if you haven't thought about it - do it now. None of us knows how long we have to live. Our imam quoted from the Quran telling us, "kullu nafsin tha-ikatul maout" (every soul shall taste death). And none of us knows where, when or how they will die.
I thought I was pretty much prepared for what would happen after (name deleted) passed away. But little could I know what was in store for me.

Al Hamdulillah (Thanks to Allah)! My husband had written out a Will and had signed by two witnesses. This would make things much easier for me and for our children. Everyone would be treated fairly according to Islamic Law. I would not have to worry about the house, or financial matters too much. That was a big blessing. Al Hamdulillah (Thanks to Allah).

But there were many other things (he) took care of and I never even thought about it before. The car, repairs, bills, errands and even taking out the trash (what day is it again?). I just hadn't thought about all of this before. But lucky for me, at least - while he was in the last days I did have a chance to start doing some of those things and sort of getting myself prepared. Still, there was a lot more than I was really ready for.

After the funeral, my family and a few friends would call or drop by, but they soon grew tired of me just talking about him (my husband). They would tell me to think about moving on with my life and look forward to new things.

Fridays are the hardest. My husband always went to Jummah (Friday sermon and prayers for Muslims) and then he come home, flashing that famous smile and ask me, "Where ya wanna go honey? Name it! Any place you like princess. What are you hungry for today?" No question about it - "Italian Gardens Restaurant" - My number one favorite. He didn't really like it. I know that. But he would suggest it as though it was the first thing on his mind.
"Let's go Italian. We can have BIZZA and BEEBZEE" he would say, making fun of the way our Arabic speaking brothers pronouce the words "pizza" and "pepsi" with "Bs" instead of "Ps". I refused to laugh at his dumb jokes -- Oh, if I could only hear him tell one of them now... or just see that smile again...

I did try to go back there a few months after he passed away. But it just wasn't the same. I went in and for the first time, I could really feel the people staring at me. All of a sudden my hijab made me so different. I didn't feel like that when my husband was with me there. He just made everything alright, you know? I sat there staring at the menu, munching on the breadsticks, feeling everyone looking at me and all of a sudden I just wanted to get out of there. This wasn't my place anymore. I didn't belong here. What was I doing?
Oh, yeah, and Friday night - That was our night! We used to sit together watching videos (G rated of course) and eating his favorite - Popcorn!

Oh how he loved to eat his popcorn. He could never get enough. Buttered – carmel – plain – salted – it didn't matter to him, as long as there was a lot of it. I guess I grew to love it because he did. But now - well, it just isn't the same anymore.

After spending a few weeks alone in the house, I decide to call up a sister I haven't seen in a long time. "Hi! Sister, salam alaykum (peace be unto you), how is everything? ... Me? I'm fine... what? Oh.. well, thank you for saying that.. I am sure he would be pleased with your nice prayers for him... But, you know, I was going to ask you.. ahh, could I... I mean, would you mind... is it OK if I just drop by and we... What? Oh sure. I understand. Yeah. Of course... No... no problem.. OK.. Well, I'll just call you later.. or you call me.. right? Sure... Salam alaykum.. (peace be unto you).

Well, that was awkward enough. Why didn't she invite me over? How come she just cut me off? Did she really have to take the kids out to the mall just that moment. What is the matter with me? Why am I so suspicious? Hmmm, get a grip on it girl. She has her life to live.
I just flopped down in my husband’s old chair. He loved that old chair. It had belonged to his dad. I always thought I would never sit in it, after his dad passed away. But now it just didn’t matter any more. Actually, it made me recall how he would sit there for hours and hours, talking on the phone about Islam to people or typing away at his computer in those chatrooms.

My husband used to go online all the time and talk with people. He even asked me to talk to the new sisters and help them out. But I was too shy and besides, what do I know about Islam? I feel insecure talking about Islam in today’s world. Maybe I should leave all this to the experts. You know.

Sitting there, I start thinking back.. my husband and I used to go places, visit his friends and take trips to see my family and his from time to time. But now things were different. I still got a few phone calls. A sister wants to know if I have the recipe for some India dish I made a long time ago. Muslim brother is asking if I was OK and if I needed anything. But I just couldn't ask, you know?

My husband and I were never rich, we didn’t have a lot. But Allah always gave us enough to eat and pay our bills and for that, we were always thankful, Al Hamdulillah.

I started remembering those days when my husband would be gone, traveling around with brothers visiting the Muslim families, going to mosques and helping raise funds for children to be able to go to school and get proper educations. He would come back with stories all about this community and this group and that group, and how Muslims really needed to put aside their differences and work together for the common good of our community. He mentioned several times, about the need of caring for our sisters, those who were new to Islam and those who were divorced – or widowed (like me)…
I tried to visit our local mosque, but the sisters there just didn’t seem to have time for my stories about my husband and what we used to do. I guess I am boring now. Maybe I was always boring. I don’t know.

About the only thing anyone talked to me was to ask me if I was going to move in with my kids. But they are grown and have their own kids. Besides one lives half way around the world, and the other one has enough problems without me hanging around.

I did meet some other widows. They said they experienced even worse than me. In some mosques the sisters told me, they were actually told to just stay out. It’s almost like a private club for married sisters or young sisters looking to get married. Not a place for widows without family. Especially not for converts to Islam, like me – who they fear, might be looking for a husband.

A couple of sisters offered to call me between taking care of kids, doing laundry, making sandwiches and running errands for their husbands. The thought was there, I know they have good intentions. But they don’t call.

And being all alone sometimes is OK, but is not good for extending periods of time. At least not for a gal that who had a house full of love and laughter (and some tears too) for 20 or 30 years and all of sudden, it’s empty. You just don’t go from full speed ahead to zero without a strange feeling inside.

Then of course, there is plenty of advise too. “Why not join a health club?” “You could get another husband. We’ll look around for you. I think there is a brother who needs someone to help take care of his kids and his mom while he is working. You want me to make some calls?” (NO. I don’t)

“Well, you know – LIFE GOES ON.” “Get involved in activities outside the home. Meet new people. You have to move on.”

You know what? I suddenly find myself looking forward to just going home and sitting in my husband’s chair. That is my safe place. I don’t want to go anywhere. Just me and Garfield.

Well, I guess I do need to get cat food for Garfield (my Siamese cat). And I wouldn’t mind some tuna fish salad right about now.
Maybe my family is right. I need to get out. Go somewhere. Not too far. Just go down to the mall. Maybe look at shoes (who doesn’t need a new pair of shoes and maybe a purse to go with them?). Yeah.. good idea.

So, OK – I go to the mall. I walk in, first thing I hear the music (I can’t stand mall music). Then I only walk a few more steps and then I smell it – the smell of fresh buttered popcorn.. Oh no. I can’t do this. I have to go back now – NOW.

I'm driving back home from the mall, I see blinking lights of a cop car right behind me. He wants me to pull over. I know I am going to get ticket. No left turn signal light, license plates expired and then he sees my inspection sticker is expired. Oh just great! Just what I need.
As the policeman came up to my window, I started to panic. "Yaa Allah! I think he is looking at my hijab (Muslim women's scarf) and he hates Islam or something"

I have my driver's license, insurance and car registration ready to hand him. He looks at my license (my picture even has my hijab in it).
He's looking at me, "Why hasn't this car been kept up with inspections and license plates?"

I say something like, "My husband used to do all this and.." I start to cry. I don’t want to. I have to look away and try to be calm. But it just hit me all of a sudden. I just now realize how alone I really am and now nobody here to help me.

The policeman looks at my driver's license and then he asks me, "What was your husband's name?"

I told him.

He looked kind of strange for a moment and then he asked me, "Did he wear a small white cap all the time and had a white beard and a real big smile?"

"Yes, he did" I said slowly. (How did this policeman know about my husband? Was I in some kind of trouble now?)

A smile stretched across his face, then he looked at me again and said, "Your husband was a very kind man. I knew him. He used to come by the donut shop over on Route 1 some time ago. He helped me clean up the mess when I spilled my coffee all over."
Oh yes, that was just like my husband. He never met a stranger and he was every ready to help anybody.

"So then we got to talking about life, and what our purpose is here on earth. You know what? I had never really thought about it before. But what he said made a lot of sense. Several times after that, when I would see him, he would give me a pamphlet or a small booklet about things Muslims believe. I always took time to read and think about what he was saying."

"His talks with me are still in my mind today. The way he would just simply say something about the Quran or Muhammad's teachings - it struck me - this man really knows what he believes and why he believes it. I wish I had his confidence in my faith."

"You know he even called me 'brother' and said we are all 'brothers and sisters' in humanity because we all come from Adam. Ever since I feel like we really are all one people. I like calling people my 'brother' or 'sister'. Is it OK to call you my 'sister'?

Well I was probably old enough to be his mother, but - sure - why not?

"Sister, there was one thing he told me about and he was going to get one for me. But I didn't see him again. That was back sometime last year. He said he would give me a translation of the Karein (Quran)."

- I corrected him, "QUR-AN" He moved his mouth as if saying Quran without any sound.

You know, I could almost see my husband while this man was talking about him. He was always giving dawah (explaining Islam) everywhere we went. He never minded answering questions and explaining things in simple ways to people. I have seen his stand there and talk for as long as someone would listen. He enjoyed sharing his faith with others and they seemed to enjoy it too.
Suddenly I realized the policeman was asking me about the Quran. Oh my! I don't know how to give dawah. I can't talk about all this with him. What do I say?

Then he made it easy for me, "Sister, could I ask you to help me locate a copy of the Quran?"

"Sure, no problem" I said.

Where was I going to get a Quran to give him? My husband always took care of those things, not me. Oh dear. Why did I give my promise to this policeman to give him something I didn't have? What was I to do?

Then he glanced at a sticker on the inside of the car door. "Sister, did you know your car has not been service for over 30,000 miles?"
"Ahhh, no. But I'll take care of it, inshallah (God Willing)". I hoped this was not another type of violation.

He continued as though he didn't hear me, "If you don't mind, I would like to take care of this, if you let me. Kind of help out my old friend's car. Is it OK?"

OK? I guess. Sure. Why not? OK. Yeah. That would be great. Anything you say.

He pulled out his cell phone and made a quick call. Then he smiled and said, "It's all taken care of. My brother's gas station is just down the block and he says if we bring it in now, he can have you out in about 30 minutes. How does that sound?"

Well, it sounds fine. But how much is all of this going to cost? I guess I should be glad he is not going to give me any tickets. But still, I only have a little cash on me and I hate to use my card for anything like this. Still, he is being nice and he wants to know about Islam, even asked for a Quran - Yeah, sure. Let's go to his brother's place and see what it will cost, I guess...

It was just down the street and his brother really did come right out and give my car immediate attention. He began with a full inspection, replaced a burned out tail-light, check the emissions (what are emissions anyway?). He changed the oil, filters, fan belts and even put air in all the tires. The he started writing up the bill.
Oh boy. Here we go. I knew it was coming. But I guess I just have to start taking care of things like this.

The man at the gas station gave the bill to the policeman, who just smiled and stuck it in his pocket. He turned around and came toward me, and asked me if there was anything else I would like for the car...
Huh? What's going on here?
"Don't worry about it, my sister. This is for your husband. I know he would have done it for my wife."

I tried not to cry. Really, he was right - my husband would do anything for people. But now the tears were burning in my eyes and I had to look down quickly. This was just too much. Here I thought this man was drumming up business for his brother and all along he was trying to help me. This was just like when my husband was still alive. People were always doing things for us without even us asking.
The officer wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me. It was a phone number and address.

"Sister, here is my phone number if you need anything. If anyone bothers you or if you have any problems or you just need to talk to someone, my wife Mary and I are both ready to do anything you ask. And if you get a chance or find someone who could help me find a Quran (he said it correctly this time) I would really appreciate a chance to learn more about the religion of you and your husband. I really do believe there is only One God, and from what I can see in you and your husband, I would sure like to learn more about the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

A few days later, I found that piece of paper in my purse and thought about calling. But what would I say? I didn't have a Quran to give him and I didn't even know his wife, except her name is Mary. What am I going to do if his wife answers? "Hi, you don't know me, but your husband just fixed my car and told me to call?"

NO WAY. I am not that stupid. I put the phone number down by the phone and dropped down in my husband’s old chair.

OK, what do I do now?

Should I try to phone some of my husband’s old friends who used to go with him for dawah?

Maybe go to the Halal book store and look for a Quran to give to this man? But what would his wife think?

And then how about the chatroom where my husband used to help out?www.ChatIslam.com But what would I do there?
I thought about joining up and doing some things onwww.ShareIslam.com/help But again, what am I really qualified to do?

I did visit the website for sisters that my husband used to recommend for women: www.IslamsWomen.com/extras

There is so much to read and see. They have videos, audios and even a question/answer forum that helped me a lot.

Here is what I figured out – I feel it takes as long as it takes before you even get to a point of feeling normal – whatever that means – again. I don’t think you ever get over a great loss – but you somehow re-invent yourself as you go along.

Don’t let anyone rush you. Things will get better. But in your own time frame.Keep up your salat (prayers), keep making dua (supplications) and remember to call the kids once in a while (don’t make them crazy with calls every few hours). Take some pictures of the cat (get a cat), and email them to your kids.

Be sure to listen to Quran every morning and every night. This is one of the best things anyone can do, anywhere.

And be sure to watch some videos with Baba Ali, Abdur Raheem Green and Yusuf Estes. Those guys really make you think. O yeah, and listen to Zain Bhikha’s latest nasheeds. That always helps me. Don’t you love “Allah Knows” when Zaid sings it? This really makes me feel like Allah is taking care of the whole thing.

Can I add a small word of advice from someone who has been there and done that?

Dear sister in Islam, make the most out of what you have while you still have it. You might think you don’t need that old guy, maybe even think you could get by a lot better without him. But it’s just not true. You will come to know – O yeah, real fast – just how much you meant to each other and how badly you need to hear him call you with his latest idea or to complain about something, just one more time. But now it’s too late. He’s gone.

One last little piece of advice I want to add here. There is a rumor that it takes you a year to get over a death. Where does this nonsense come from? I have no idea. But it is not true.

Actually, the fact is, I don’t want to “get over” him. I just want to be next to him again, just one more time. I'll even laugh at his dumb jokes - I promise.

I know - I’ll have to wait. Wait until the Next Life. And maybe, just maybe with Allah’s Mercy, and His forgiveness, we’ll be reunited, together again – in Allah’s Paradise.

Oh Allah, forgive me for not taking better care of that old guy. I miss him. Take good care of him, please Allah, until I can be with him again...

I really do miss him...

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