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The slim, manipulative fingers of fear closed tightly around my neck. There was no air. Where was the air WHERE WAS MY AIR? I gasped and held on to the threads to let the breath enter my body. But the more I tried to grasp it, the more I missed it. The electricity that shot my left arm up and down made my whole body burn and my heart … oh, my heart was racing. It was pounding so loud, so powerful – its speed increased every moment as if it were being chased by demons, and the reality was simply no chance of survival.
"That's it. That's how I die." The words repeated over and over in my head – that thick, black cloud of dark thoughts came thick and fast and heavy; My mind is in full swing, my body is running to catch up.
I was so frightened.
I don't remember what happened next.
In the early hours of the morning I woke up on the camp bed where I slept next to my grandmother's bed, to an indigo blue velvet sky just outside the window. I looked over the side of the bed with my heavy eyes and saw her sitting in her armchair, her hands raised in perfect harmony as she prayed her early morning prayer.
"Ya Allah," I heard her whisper, her voice was almost audible. "Ya Allah, only Babu nu Jannat naseeb kardey."
As she prayed for her son, my father, who had died on a trip to Pakistan only a few months earlier, the heartbreaking pain in her voice was heard through her whisper as glassy tears rolled down her cheeks. But somehow, when her hands were raised to heaven and lost in the moment of connection between herself and the god she was praying to, there was a comforting feeling of peace all around her. It was as if she was completely accepted and trusted that things should be that way.
I did not understand it. I just couldn't understand it. The pain was just too raw and too real for me. The severe panic attack I had the night before was now a normal, regular occurrence and I could not convince my mind or heart that my father was no longer here: I would never see him or his voice again Listen. I was just 14 years old.
This was one of the most difficult phases in my life. I remember my grandmother's house, which was full of people in the days after his death, when we were waiting for my father's body to be returned to England from Pakistan. I remember people feeling sorry for my 4 siblings and me; Embrace my mother and roar with all my heart. I remember that everyone took care of the words "Allah di Marzi, Allah di Marzi" (it is God's will), but in their actions acted completely contrary to the assumption that this was the case was God's will.
Inna Lillahi wa Inna ilayhi Raji’un– We come from Allah and we will return to Allah.
The religion into which I was born taught with these words that death is the most natural and beautiful part of life. I can see that now. But all my life, and even more through my father's death, I was shown that death in my community was the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. I was taught to fear death, to fear returning to God, to fear the moment of death itself, and to fear the hellfire punishment and the grave punishment.
It was no wonder that the pain of my father's death stayed with me for so long. That I suffered from severe panic attacks for over a year. That I would wake up for a few days and the whole world would be shrouded in darkness, days when I believed that this was the day that I would also die.
It was no wonder.
(Pay attention to part 3 of this 6-part series – coming soon.)
By Sabah Ismail
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