goodbye grandma

goodbye grandma


saadia toto ali

The death of a loved one is often a moment that reminds us of ourselves, our fragility, our uniqueness, and our humanity.

On the fifth of last February, the death of my 93-year-old grandmother, may she rest in peace, compelled us to ponder over ourselves, my family and I. Her passing away was a hallmark that characterized the passing away of a living memory. Her memory is what characterized her personality the most, her strong memory. In it, she carried the family novel, that story that makes a family what it is, one that accurately describes it. My grandmother could neither read nor write, but she knew how to think logically and reasonably. One cannot imagine how it feels to live without not being able neither to read nor to write, maybe it reinforces one’s sense of thinking, fortifying one’s memory in the process. Anyway, why would she have needed to be literate? Her children and grandchildren wrote and read enough that she did not have to. And Intriguing enough, one of them even became a celebrated writer.

Yes, she didn’t need to read nor write, God probably had planed another destiny for her. We understood that she did not have to that day when, sitting next to each other, uncles, antes, brothers and sisters, cousins, we celebrated her life in the wake of her funeral. We were there to thank her for what she was, a woman with an iron-made determination, one who raised 7 children with the same watchword: rigor. And her rigor, let it be spiritual or academic has paid off.

We had become what she struggled all her life for, the best of ourselves. She was not mistaken, persistence and thoroughness paid off. She was proud of us, her siblings. She never forgot to remind us how proud she was. Take as an example the famous writer I mentioned before, my father. She was a living proof that always reminded me of where I got that respect I had for him. Imagine a 90-year-old woman, with a sound memory, harkening back to the day when she took my father, back when he was a mere 6-year-old boy,  to register him in a Quranic recitation competition, one to that was broadcast on the national television and radio. My father was back-then under the age limit to take part in the competition, but my grandmother did not want to hear anything, she went to the highest official and persuaded him to give my father a chance to participate. And in the end, her efforts were not in vain as it was my father who won the competition. My grandmother knew how to harken back to those nostalgic stories. She went from story to story, always with that touch of kindness, even when it came to giving an account of moments of hardship, those ones that leave an indelible mark on one’s soul and mind.

Whenever I sat down with her to relate me from the family novel, I always lingered a little longer to be able to sip the delicious tea she used to prepare, including the tasty bread she prepared, sometimes with jam and other times with honey, but in all truthfulness, it was better to taste it plain. That bread, she made it herself, kneaded it herself, baked it herself, it was her bread, it carried her trademark. It was the same with her children, they were her trademark. She made them herself, and the love they bear for her shows this recognition.

The day of her funeral, looking at our family more united and unified than ever, I told myself that she had given herself the best gift, since that is what she wanted, to see us bound like a solid structure.

That day, thanks to her, I told myself:  now I know who I am, now I know where I come from.