11/03/14: I recieive a phone call from my sister. My grandfather Jiddee was in hospital. I was to leave immediately.
Jiddee had stopped breathing. I asked if I should get a taxi. In other words, is he dying? “No, it’s not that bad.” So I left, jumped on the 11 and prayed to God to give me strength. But I wasn’t scared. My mum said I didn’t need to get a taxi. My mum is always right.
35 minutes later, my sister messaged the family whatsApp group.
20.18: They just told me he’s in a really bad condition.
20.47: Come on guys
20.47: He’s in resus
Wait, what? Resus as in he’s unconscious?
20.52: yes. come on guys. move.
And that’s when my heart dropped. I got off the bus, ran to the cash machine and jumped in a taxi. My chest held the weight of rocks. I was terrified but I knew if I wanted to cry I had better do it in that taxi because the second I leave it, I walk into a room of terrified lambs. Much more terrified than me. I have something they don’t, and for that I was grateful. Grateful. The word seems too hollow, too cliched for here but I was exactly that.
The taxi driver was amazing, he didn’t say a word the whole journey, I could see he tried to get me there fast. I thanked him, and I only hope that he knew how genuine I was.
I walked into the family room composed. My family was spread out across two small sofas whilst my sister stood in the cupboard that was meant to fit a grieving family. I held her as our bodies shook against each other’s. As I let her go, the most beautiful words came to my lips.
Allahuma sali ‘ala Muhammad
I will tell you this, these 4 words saved me that day. In turn, they saved my family. I stood like a rock among sheep. I did not cry after they came to me. I was what they needed. I became a different person depending on the face in front of me.
The doctor came in for an update. All eyes on her, like she held the key to the dominion. She became powerful. Almost worshiped, but her news wasn’t going to satisfy our gaping eyes. Jiddee was in bad shape. “He does’t have long to go. The senior doctors are in now but so far we’ve had no response. Expect the worst.”
The family broke.
about 4 minutes later, my brother came in. He slowly looked around us then left, his fear, protected by a coat of anger. I followed him. “He’s not dead. He’s not dead” he said searching my eyes for a clue. Like a cub backing away from a lion, he would not allow me to touch him. “Yahya, he’s not dead, come here.” “So why’s everyone crying?” He stopped moving away. I hugged him, and whispered “Jiddee is still alive, but not by his own will. It’s not looking good. I need you to be patient.”
Anas arrived soon after. My aunt after that. Family friends. People were flooding in from all over; with each movement of the handle, my gran would start sobbing, the bodies froze. Allahuma sali ‘ala Muhammad.
The doctor sat on the floor and told us we had 15 minutes before they turned off his breathing. 15 minutes to say good bye. He had a big heart attack. His lungs had collapsed. His heart was just too weak. Allahuma sali ‘ala Muhammad. At 84 years old, and a smoker for the majority of his life, this was not difficult for me to swallow. I was expecting it. As for his brain? It had been starved of oxygen for a long time, she was not sure if he was entirely brain dead. Allahuma sali ‘ala Muhammad.
We went in to see him in twos. I held my gran and we walked in together. It was an unbearable sight. His head hung back, his eyes void. His mouth was open, the start of a tube expanding into his gut. My gran stood strong. Allahuma sali ‘ala Muhammad. She cried but did not wail. Allahuma sali ‘ala Muhammad
she placed a hand on his bare shoulder, rubbing him as she spoke, begged him to breathe again. She told him how sorry she was for any short comings, asking his forgiveness for everything. She forgave him for everything “in this world and the next”. Allahuma sali ‘ala Muhammad.
Then, this 84 year old man, with 15 minuted until they pull the air, with collapsed lungs, a nonbeating heart and potential brain damage, moved his eyebrows. His Adam’s apple began moving. . All in time to my gran’s rubbing.
We left. My brothers went in. I waited for them, “did you see anything?” I asked. They did see.
They saw him lifting his right wrist and pointing his index finger beyond his other fingers. The Shahadah.