Nyla Ali Khan
Acknowledging your grief is not self-pity, nor is it a cry for help. On the contrary, it has been empowering for me to recognize that I will live with the grief of my father’s death for as long as I live. But I won’t be paralyzed or mired in depression.
His death is not devoid of meaning. And my grief will not diminish over time. The realization that grief should be honored enables me to live authentically.
Abba enriched my life and taught me so much about keeping one’s head above water, even in the most grueling situations. I see Abba’s life as a model to be emulated. I don’t pretend that life is perfect, and I don’t pretend to be perennially happy. Knowing that life is short motivates me to live it deliberately and responsibly.
I promise the retreating wraith of my father that I will commemorate and honor him in everything I do. He will not drown in oblivion. And my life will continue to be enriched by his wise counsel and unconditional affection.
We put our best foot forward in times of difficulty and adversity. My father’s unconditional love taught me to see hard times as an opportunity to grow, not as a misfortune.
The months of February and March were a whirlwind. In addition to a hectic teaching and speaking schedule, I took my U.S. citizenship test in February. The entire time a general sense of anxiety goaded me into pushing myself. After the oath ceremony in the last week of February, I had a foreboding feeling.
I instinctively knew that I couldn’t afford to wait three weeks to get my passport.
So, I chose to take the fast route and drove to the passport agency in Dallas, Texas to get my passport in one day. For some strange reason, I knew I didn’t have the luxury of doing things at leisure. I applied for the rest of my travel documents while driving back to Oklahoma.
Although my father remained encouraging and reiterated in his strong voice that I didn’t have to rush, an inner voice kept reminding me that I couldn’t let him down.
My father would tell my mother that he knew his time was nigh, but every time I spoke to him, he told me not to take any impulsive decisions and promised to wait for me.
He did not let me down. He was proud to see pictures of my oath ceremony and listened to my stories with rapt attention. That is something only an indulgent father can do. I kept him abreast of every development and every milestone in my life. I would have candid conversations with him, and every conversation healed my soul.
His mind remained strong and alert until the end.
My father did not suffer fools gladly. When I went to see him in March, he had my work cut out for me. He didn’t want me to brood or sulk, and made sure that I fulfilled every task he wanted me to. He insisted I call on my uncles who had been released from incarceration not long before I got to Srinagar.
Several of my cousins asked me if my father broke down when he bid me farewell. The truth is that he was incredibly calm and composed. He bid me farewell in his voice of steel. His demeanor was immensely dignified. He taught me to be grateful for God’s mercies.
He was a content man. I never saw my father grieve, because he looked for meaning in every situation, and never forgot to count his blessings. That is the strength I want as well.
I have learned there is strength in acceptance of the inevitable. There is greater strength in recognizing that life is never free of pain, and it is empowering to embrace that pain.
There is strength in recognizing that we held up with dignity and resilience when adversity knocked on our doors. There is greater strength in finding meaning and purpose in adversity.
There is comfort in knowing that we left no stone unturned to be with our loved ones in their last moments. There is greater comfort in knowing that even when confronted with seemingly unsurpassable challenges, we didn’t let our loved ones down.
There is comfort in knowing that some wounds never heal. They simply become an integral part of our being. There is greater comfort in knowing that’s it is fine to miss your loved ones, every step of the way, when they are gone.
And the greatest strength is in knowing that those loved ones gave us wings to fly and roots to come back to.
That is what my father did for me.
NOTE: Dr. Nyla Ali Khan writes frequently for The City Sentinel newspaper and CapitolBeatOK in Oklahoma City. Her analyses of events in her native Kashmir and India are read worldwide, including her adopted home, the United States of America.