Since we came all I have done is to watch and try to learn about the customs and traditions that the people of Libya share. As you can read from my other posts I haven't had much for explanations of them and had to feel my way through many things here. Yesterday was no exception.
Sitting here its 2:30 in the morning and like yesterday I didn't sleep very long. Its normal under the circumstances and I know I should go back to bed but instead I'm writing down my thoughts so that one day I can look back and see the words that I have written and it will be a way to heal over some event. Until I came to Libya I could count the number of funerals I had been too in my life on one hand. Ones that I was somehow involved in the preparation or planning of or closely connected to the one now deceased.
I don't care what anyone says there is no way to prepare yourself for the burial of your child. Over the past two years I have seen so much and heard so much about women losing their sons and daughters not knowing where they are or what happened to them or seeing images of horribly disfigured or disturbing images of people torn asunder.
If someone told me even last week that I would be sitting here now a week later with my first born son now laying in the ground just a few miles from a home we took a lifetime to come to and wondering if I made the mistake in thinking things were better somewhere else, I would have laughed them off and told them only God knows these things.
So now I guess like other women here i'm versed in Burial 101 crash course.
Two days ago I was sitting at a hospital waiting to find out if we were getting a needed surgery for my daughter and chatting away with a cousin of my husbands who offered to help us with the task of talking to medical persons if we needed someone to translate for us. Had I known what that day entailed, I would NEVER have let my son out of my eyes. I would have taken the keys away from him, called his work and said today he is not coming. But as I said yesterday, no one lets us read that book. I have read a million books in my life but this is one that is never published, never made into a movie, never rewritten and never can be returned or exchanged for full refund.
I woke after a short sleep, it didn't take long before we were being asked when where we coming down to join the family in mourning to sit and wait to greet guests and be the grieving mother or daughter or sister or wife. Seems as if they take the role of mother and women lightly here. No one has asked me what I wanted to do, there is no song that was his favorite to be played at a eulogy or list of people to invite, no request for clothes to be worn to be laid to rest in. No we are much more simple than that here and in all Muslim Countries. Here there is the shroud and that is all. Although I have been close to some of the people who I have attended funerals for until now none have been much concern of mine.
I was told shortly around noon that they would bury my son by the afternoon. What where is my say in this? Your telling me that your insisting that my husband and son come to be here with me while I mourn but for the logic of a country and a culture that says for every day a body is out of the ground it cannot be cast into the next world and it will soon have the ravages of the heat and humidity to decay the people we love.
I was angry why are you telling me you are burying him today when if you wait a day or so his father will be here and his brother and they need to say goodbye. I know I know there are many women and parents out there who don't even know where their son is buried or if he is even dead for sure. Just a few days ago they buried two men found in a freezer in the compound of G with many others who had been dead for over 30 years. They were finally identified and laid to rest in a funeral fitting of the community that now seeks to bring them closure.
Anyway, they told me that my husband had said go ahead when they can release the body and bury him regardless if I am there or not. NO I had to say good bye. I had to have closure. I wanted to see my son one last time before they laid him in the ground according to Islamic Customs wrapped in a white linen and lay on his side to face Mecca and the face of Allah in the day of Judgement.
All day long I shook hands of women many new faces and many I knew to be family but still learning how they are connected to my husband. They were watching me. Was I going to go berserk and make a fool of myself? Was his sisters going to faint with loss and sorrow and cry and pull out their hair in agony? NO, I taught my kids better. I at least hoped I could be half of the woman I had seen examples of over the past two years. Mothers gently kissing the head of their children or spouses and saying a last goodbye.
My girls i'm proud of them they held up. And they begged others to stop crying and hold onto memories of a young life cut short. Half the day odd thoughts ran through my mind, I need his last paycheck, where is this or that that was in the car? I'm cleaning up his room even though he did a great job the day before I have to make sure if people come to pay respect that my house is tidy. I gathered up his laundry, made his bed, put all the things by his bedside in a suitcase to deal with later. I grabbed up his blanket, there was no smell of my son on it and I sat for a moment crying into it wishing it was him I was holding not the blanket. I gathered his clothes what do I do with them? That lovely Thobe we just bought for him hangs on the wall hook, pants are somewhere, there lies the box it came in. I will ask someone to have it cleaned and pressed an put it back in the box and take it and put it away, maybe his brother can wear it....He can't wear it again. His shoes are by the doorway downstairs where he always leaves them upon entering the house, now i gather them up and take them to the shoe rack up on our level. His half a bag of Cheetos chips that he begged me to remember to get out of the car the night before lying on the couch, do I throw them away or hand them to someone to eat. No, I put them on his bed with his glasses....where is the other pair? He should have been wearing them. Somewhere in the car or on the road ran over by many other cars..I don't know I will have to ask.
I have yet to see the car they don't want me to see it. But last night I was talking to a young man online about accidents and how we need to begin to educate others on the risks of driving here. Do I offer my car as testament to a lost life in a moment of rush? I don't know I will talk to others.
So when will you take my son on his final journey? They haven't released his body yet I am told. So much is being kept from me I'm uncomfortable being left out but I know they are doing what they feel is in my best interest. You could not help me shop for food or get a bottle of water but you can take over and bury my son without a comment to how I feel...
The day is moving slowly, we ate some breakfast, I know I have to keep doing what must be done, for my health and the welfare of my other kids I have to take care of myself and them. I know I have helpers but I have to keep functioning. Breathe deeply meditate it will help me settle my mind.
They are washing his body. What I'm his mother should I not be doing that? Guess not there are men for that but not one is his father or his brother. I know they loved him too. Come here Faiszah, Sit here Faiszah, Shake another hand, listen to words I have no idea what they are saying to me. I know its words of kindness and faith. But its not in my language, this is all foreign to me, why today do you tell me what it means help me say the words.... I wish I had learned them before I ever needed them..now I stumble over them. It doesn't matter if I say it correctly. They understand I'm a grieving mother. Its natural.
Where are the girls is anyone sitting with them. Come on girls we have to go downstairs now your brother is coming soon and prayer is soon and they want us downstairs. Sit here go here say this say that....hug, cry say its ok I will get past this day. The wails begin...women sitting outside see his body being brought in. Men are trying to be gentle and place him down where I can say goodbye. Where is his mother there are ladies all around the coffin. I'm here, is this his head here? My Brother in Law is pulling back the cover. There is a cloth mummy inside. NO that is my son...my baby. I can't do this. Where is my moment alone with my son? Where are his sisters among all these people? I look up I see someone holding Aieysha, another holding Fatimah. Where is Khadijah....she is there. His aunts, his grandmother all are there among all these women who came to say goodbye to a young man they have only known for a brief time.
I want to see my son's face. Why can't you let me see his face. I don't want to see the cotton stuffed in the mouth and nostrils. I don't want to only see his chin. This cold skin is not my sons. His beard is sharp in my hand. He was saying the other day how he was trying to grow it out. I told him all the cutting you want it will not get better. This is what my baby face boy got. It will never be shaved again. I look into this covered bundle I can't see his face. I want to see his eyes. 24 years ago you gave him to me and he looked at me with those eyes and now they will never look at me again. NO where are you going? I;m not done yet, I don't care about anyone else now this is my last time I will see my son on this earth. Why are you taking him so soon. His face is cold, I love you baby...I'm sorry OH GOD IM SORRY....he is gone they have taken him away. People are telling me its ok..'NO its not ok. I didn;t get to say goodbye/ How was that long enough??? A minute! You give me a minute in a room full of people to say goodbye to my son. He is gone....this is death here...It is over in a minute. It took longer to have him than it did for you to take him from me.