Remember that 7th day of September. The dry sentence of the white clad doctor in the morning after the last test results came in. Carcinoma in the liver with metastasis growth in the lungs. Like this. No more. Doctors seem to be cowards. No information about what will happen, how much time will we have left to love each other. Only – he will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow, no further treatment.
Looking at each other. Tears in both our eyes. Nothing left to do. One thing, only. One last trip. No, not home, not yet. A pilgrimage. Last hope? Maybe. Last comfort, for sure.
I plan, buy tickets, pack, keep busy, hide my tears. Ten days pass like this.
We travel. No one sees us off. We share a cup of coffee on the airport-train. My love, who never drinks coffee because of his high blood pressure, has cold hands and needs this sip of caffeine today.
Heat receives us at the end of the flight, glaring sun but relative cool in the shade of the big white mosque that houses three graves under a green dome. I have to let him go to the other door and use the women’s entrance. I sit on the red carpet, listen to some ladies‘ soft recitation and smell the distinct scent of rose oil. In the quiet my heart twists and turns. The happiness I should feel in this place is buried under a thick cover of saltwater. I can hardly breathe, I anticipate the pain of a life without him.
Wherever we go, these thoughts linger in my brain. I look at his sleeping face in the evening, trying to imprint it in my memory. I listen to his soft breathing in the night – he used to snore heavily, but no more. The sudden silence sometimes wakes me up, I miss that sound that like a lullaby used to make me sleep.
Back home golden days of autumn see him get weaker too fast. Only the two of us at home, daily, nightly fight overshadowing the time we might use to take leave from each other. Come one morning, raindrops weep over the hospital’s windows like the tears on my face. He went to sleep forever without waking up again. No last word to say. Only a silent kiss on a cooling forehead.
Prayer for the dead in the yard of our small mosque. Rows and rows of friends and strangers. The women right and left give me strength. One hour more, then the flight will leave with his coffin aboard – but without me.
Remember that 7th September. One year later and I stand in a far country under high green trees. White marble in different forms – graves. Thousands of it, all ages, some just a mound of earth fixed with fist-sized stones. No date, no name. Like the one pointed out to me. I know who put the stones, one by one, with love and a heart full of tears and regrets. I can see his hands that look so much like his father’s weeding out some plants so they will not destroy the mount.
The heat makes drops of sweat run into my eyes, they mix with my tears. I want to sit down here in the shade of the trees and never again leave.
(This text was first published in the fall edition 2013 of “When Women Waken”. According to their policy I can republish it here. )