Friday, July 18, 2014

The First Death


My beloved grandfather died on Wednesday. We buried him today. I saw his body beforehand, and I smiled. It held him for so long, but it was so clear, looking at the frame, that this was just a shell, and not at all the man I've loved all 29 years of my life.

I am so happy that he died in his sleep and that he died at home, surrounded by family members. I am so happy that 9 of his 10 children, 30 of his 40 grandchildren and several of his 70 great-grandchildren were able to make it to the funeral, as well as most of his daughter-in-laws, his son-in-law (my father) and several community members.

He left behind my grandmother. They knew each other as children, for 82 years, and were married for 68 years, had 10 children, 40 grandchildren, over 70 great grand children and 3 great-great grandchildren. He converted from Christianity to eventually Islam with his family of 10 and was a founding leader of the Flint, MI Muslim community. He raised three of his grandchildren. Their home was a home for any and all of us when we needed it. I lived with my grandparents for about three months during the summer of 1995 and the winter of 1996 when my mother had medical problems.

My first memories of my grandfather were of the horsey rides on his knee, the string of lollipops he seemed to have an endless supply of, and his sugary coffee. My final memories of him, before his most recent decline, was of climbing up on a step ladder much less stable than he ought have, putting corn cobs in the feeder for the squirrels.

He had a unique way of telling stories, of mimicking people's voices, of making sounds, of playing with babies and making them laugh that is not duplicated on earth right now. He, along with my grandmother, loved children infinitely. They raised children from 1947 to 1998.

And between WWII, the auto plant and the conversion, there's so many stories that I do not know about Grandfather.

At first when he died, when I heard about it, it felt like a part of me died. It felt like a part of my mother, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, it felt like a part of us all died. Like a part of my heart went away. Then, in a matter of minutes, I had a sense of peace and fullness because, even though we can't know know, I was reassured that my grandfather was in Jannah. And more than all of the Qur'an reading I've been doing this month by ajiza, I felt the mercy of God, right then.

It was one of the strongest moments of my faith, and it makes all of the tears that I shed either happy tears or tears of saudade. My grandfather was a staple in my life, like my sustenance, and life will never be the same without him here. And life is not as precious without him here. But I will strive each day towards God, may I be all that Grandfather desired of us, his legacy, his progeny, and even more than he could have imagined.

I love you, Grandfather, and that you are in Jannah makes it even more of a goal for me.


  1. inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon

    I am sorry for your family's loss. May you and your family take comfort in the fact that his funeral seems to be a celebration of the life he lived as a pillar in your family and his community.

  2. To Him we belong and to Him we shall return.
    Take Care

  3. So sorry about your grand father's death. Wish him peace.

    How is Ramadan at your end. You should use this period to pray for your grandfather.

    I'll love to know how you became a muslim. Your story are quit interesting.

  4. Thank you all for your condolences.

  5. I know its been a while, but I am sorry for your loss. May Allah grant him Jannatul Firdaus. Ameen. Al-Fatiha.