“Verily, each one of you is formed in his mother’s womb forty days as a drop, then he is something suspended for a similar period, then he is a piece of flesh like a chewed piece of meat for another period of forty days, then the angel is sent to insert the soul. This angel is ordered to record four things: the sustenance which he will receive during his lifetime, the length of his life, all actions that he will do, and whether he will end up miserable (in hell) or joyous (in paradise). I swear by the One other than whom there is no deity, one of you may do the works of the people of paradise right up until there is only an arm’s length between him and paradise, but his destiny overtakes him, so he does the actions of the people of the fire and enters it. And, verily, one of you may do the works of the people of hell until there is nothing between them and hell except for one arm’s length, but his destiny overtakes him, and so he does the works of the people of paradise, and enters it.” [Muslim]
You have lung cancer.
There, I’ve said it.
I’ve been meaning to say it for sometime.
But I couldn’t.
They also say that you have pneumonia, too.
But I won’t say it.
That took my good friend’s husband away.
I’ve known for sometime that something was wrong.
You were smaller than me.
And I’m pretty small myself.
You are like a father to me.
Did you know that?
Not many people who know me know that.
I told you that the last time I saw you.
While I’d see my father only a few times a year,
I saw you nearly everyday.
And it was you who would play with me.
An only child with no friends in the neighborhood
Had an uncle as a best friend.
We called ourselves buddies.
You called me “baby girl.”
You gave me horse back rides and neighed.
I got flung off once–you were that into character.
Do you remember that?
We sure enough scraped our knees!
Imagining that we were on some grassy lands instead of the urban cement jungle of our neighborhood.
But the streets weren’t always so rough, right?
It was nice and soft when it snowed.
You took me out into the snow–blizzard, hail and all–when no one else would.
Even in the dead of the night when no one else was on the street.
Do you remember that?
And in the summer,
We’d walk to Friendly’s, the corner store, and you’d buy me treats.
When I got older, you’d take me rollerblading instead
and be there to catch me and help me up when I’d fall.
You built popsicle houses and diaramas for me and my school projects out of those very same popsicles you’d treat me to at Friendly’s.
When I needed representational portraits to send in for my art portfolio,
you were the first to sign up for the job.
The others in the family soon followed.
And later on in college, when I needed help building sculptures for class,
you’d drive two hours down to Richmond in the middle of the night
to help me finish with an A, and not fail.
And when I became Muslim,
way before college,
you’d fuss about all the water I left on the floor after making wudu
and turn right back around and let me pray in your room
when no one else would.
And in between prayers,
We’d dance to Shabaz and sing along our own version of Qawwali music.
We’d go crazy trying to moonwalk and lean off of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”, too.
You didn’t mind my crazy Moroccan music either.
Though it bothered everyone else.
You were always very open-minded, you know.
But not so much when it came to the guys who looked my way.
You took care of the boys who even dared to glance,
and once you did,
they never looked again.
You hold the secrets of the folly of my youth.
Though there wasn’t much folly to be had under your close watch.
And if I were to pick an occupation for you,
it would be something of the hands.
You were a creative force.
You could build anything you thought of in your mind,
and you didn’t need any instructions or fancy smancy tools to do so.
But not many people knew that.
You were always behind the scenes.
A sweet, playful spirit.
An only child’s best friend.
Uncle, I couldn’t tell you
but I’ve been dreaming about you.
Waking up crying until I asked Allah to not send me anymore sad dreams.
That was right before Thanksgiving.
Grandma came to me in one of those dreams.
One of the earliest ones.
A dream that shook me to my bones.
A true dream.
They were all true dreams.
A warning from my Lord.
With an angel who whispered in my ear that I should go visit you before what I feared would come true.
He sent one more.
This time with your son saying goodbye.
I knew that this would probably be the last week that I saw you.
Though I hoped for more time.
In my dream, I didn’t finish the crochet hat that I’ve been planning to give you for the holidays.
You always took such pride in my art.
In my crafts.
In the work of my hands.
You hung up every work of art I gave you.
But I wanted to make you one last more…
for this cold weather.
In case you could get better,
and take the girls out
during a blizzard or two.
Don’t worry, I’ll come with you.
I always loved our time in the snow.
When the cement is soft and comfy.
But in my dream, you didn’t make it to the New Year.
And Grandma looked at me.
And an angel came and told me to visit you.
To muster up the courage to do what I didn’t do with my Grandma.
But how do you tell your buddy that he’s going to die?
That you know deep in your heart that he’s not going to make it until the end of the year?
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.
I didn’t have the right tools.
I didn’t have the confidence.
I never asked you what you thought of Islam.
Alhamdulillah, Hassan did.
You thought that the examples of good Muslims around you were a sign.
You thought that Islam was inherently good.
And you believed in God’s Mercy and Forgiveness after hearing one hadith from Hassan.
The hadith about a man who killed a hundred people
and then looked for salvation.
He killed a priest who told him that he couldn’t be saved.
And started walking towards a town of good people after a sage told him that salvation could be found there.
He died on his journey to the town.
And the angels were fighting over his soul.
He was closer to the town of bad people,
but Allah, in His Infinite Mercy, brought the town of the good people closer to Him.
Because the angels were measuring the distances between the towns.
And were going to group him with the people he was closest to.
You did not read Qur’an.
You did not read a hadith.
You did not study Islam.
You studied the Muslims.
You studied your life.
You studied me, as you always have.
That protective, watching father’s eye.
And you decided to believe.
You decided to believe that God is One.
That Jesus was his prophet and messenger, rather than his son (peace be upon him).
That Muhammad (saws) was his final prophet and messenger.
You became Muslim
when no one else would
You told me that you couldn’t make all the changes immediately,
that it would take some time to change,
but that you intended to do your best with Islam
and that that’s what you wanted to do
and it seemed like the right thing to do.
It took me half a year to accept Islam after studying it and being around it.
It took you one kalima.
For much less than one hour.
With one man.
In one day.
To submit to the Everlasting One.
Truth stands out clear from error.
What Purity of Faith!
I came in to make sure that there was no compulsion in religion.
I know how convincing my husband can be.
But you were already convinced that Islam was what you wanted for yourself.
I started to talk and chit chat after that.
But you had difficulty breathing.
The doctors asked me to leave.
But I wouldn’t.
You had to ask me to leave.
To give you quiet time so you could rest.
I hate when sick people ask to rest.
It’s the sign.
But I obeyed your wishes.
And left the SICU.
But I only went into the hallway.
I remembered the Muslim I studied for half a year, inspiring me to learn more about Islam.
She works in the same hospital.
I called her and I haven’t spoken to her in months. Before that, years.
We have one of those friendships where we can leave off for months and years at a time
and then call and move on as if we only spoke yesterday.
Kinda like me and you.
I told her about you and where you were.
She promised she would look after you
when I couldn’t.
I went back to the SICU to tell you that she’d be checking in on you.
And that I love you.
And that you are like a father to me.
You told me not to do that with your look,
and with the smack of your lips.
you knew I was saying goodbye.
I called you the next day repeating “As-salaamu alaikum” like a lunatic.
And telling you that I loved you incessantly.
You were about to have surgery
and in the newness of your Islam,
I forgot to wish you peace
and greet you as the Muslim that you are yesterday.
But you asked me to get off the phone
so the doctors could operate.
On your broken shell.
For your very whole soul.
Your son came today.
He was too late.
It’s not the New Year.
It’s not Christmas.
And I didn’t finish your hat.
I didn’t tell your son about the dreams.
I didn’t tell you.
I didn’t want to be the harbinger of death.
But I think you already knew.
Because everyday there was something new.
Some new organ that had broken down in accordance with the Will of our Lord.
We didn’t tell you this hadith:
The Prophet Muhammad (saws) said “The reaping of my nation is between sixty and seventy.”
You were born on June 10, 1953.
And you left the world today, December 20, 2012 at 9:30am.
You didn’t make it to Christmas.
You didn’t make it to Eid as I’ve been fantasizing about for two days.
You didn’t make it to the New Year.
You didn’t get to wear the hat.
But you did make it to Islam
And for two whole days, there was another Brown family member
who was Muslim.
I wasn’t alone.
I was with my buddy, not only in blood and friendship, but in faith.
True to your sunnah, you do what no one else does…yet.
The man with the heart of a child
returned to his Lord as clean as a child first born.
A two-day child.
And Allah sent another dream.
The fifth dream to be exact.
In it, we were paddling on a boat to a forest
To bury you and visit your grave
Near the Ka’aba.
May Allah shower his blessings and mercy upon you! May you reach Jannahtul Firdous and may you always be in proximity to Allah, near the Baitul Mamour in heaven. May you hold our hands on the Day of Judgment and help us enter Heaven, where the ground is nice, soft, and comfy, and everyone is pure and white as snow, just like you. I love you, my buddy, my friend, my father, my uncle. And don’t worry–we have your back. I will practice the art of doing the sunnah of what no one else does–I will take the girls outside in the snow at night, we will moonwalk…to nasheeds, of course!, and I’ll try my very best to build them houses out of popsicle sticks. We will work on the urbanite version of horse back riding as well, inshAllah.
I WILL LOVE YOU ALWAYS.
As-salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
your Baby Girl
If everyone reading this would please pray for my uncle, Theydon Armond Brown, and send Surah Al Fatiha, YaS in, Surah Rahman, Surah Mulk, Surah Waqia, Surah Baqarah, Surah Al Asr, Surah Al Ikhlas, or whatever surah you desire to read his way, we’d all appreciate it. And he surely would, too.
“Whoever witnesses that there is no god worthy of worship but Allah alone and He has no partner, and that Muhammad is Allah’s slave and His Messenger, and that Jesus is Allah’s slave and His Messenger, and His Word which He breathed into Mary, and a spirit created by Him, and that Paradise is true and Hell is true, Allah will admit him into Paradise regardless of what he has done.” (Bukhari and Muslim)