In the memory of

It is, without a doubt, difficult to part ways when death takes our dear ones away

Raja Khalid Shabbir May 22, 2024
The writer is a doctor based in Islamabad. He tweets @drkhalidshab


My half a decade long specialty training in neurosurgery ended with the loss of a person who I never thought would affect me so deeply. A jolt that left me bleeding with countless memories and thoughts. I am talking about the next best thing to a father; a father-in-law.

He left this world in his unforgiving 80s when I was just 30. His eldest grandson was a little younger than me. This difference in age between me and my father-in-law was perhaps the reason why we shared a special bond; he showed those around him how a son-in-law can be closer than a son.

He contained a hospital in himself. He had cataract in one eye, used hearing aid, had dentures, his heart was stented twice, his kidneys were suboptimal, faced complications such as fluid overload in the abdomen, feet and lungs, all the while managing diabetes and hypertension. Every major organ was under some duress. Even his gallbladder, in the last days, made it into the hospital documents showing stones.

Still, his willpower was matchless. A tale of ‘will defeating odds’, I witnessed first hand. He taught by his actions, lessons which were subtly incorporated in those around him, to never give up and be grateful to the Almighty no matter the predicament and to uphold bonds united by blood. With multiple chronic ailments in his share, he managed to start every morning with a warm shower and fresh set of perfectly ironed shalwar kameez. In contrast, patients with similar diseases coming to us in hospitals are sadly unkempt and unwashed to the point that writing a prescription for them becomes an unfortunately unpleasant experience. Every afternoon, with a cane in his hand, he would slowly shuffle his way to the front yard for a sunbath and would oversee and take care of every household affair. Every night he would wait for his sons to return from work before calling it a day. He touched every life around him such that his departure left us all wounded.

It is, without a doubt, difficult to part ways when death takes our dear ones away but the tragedy becomes more so when a dwindling faith and connectivity with Divinity requiring troubleshooting comes into play. We have to nurture, in our homes, an atmosphere where religion is prioritised and teachings of our noble Islam are upheld. In today’s world where religious divide, extremism and intolerance, and misinformation is at peak, our younger generation, particularly, needs special attention so as not to cross religious boundaries. The limits and confines as defined under Islamic law should be actively taught and pursued so that people, particularly funeral attendees, do not indulge in acts and practices out of ignorance and lack of knowledge.

Interestingly, or rather amusing is that in our part of the world, the affair with the in-laws is unforgivingly tricky. Like going on a wild safari on foot. Become too cozy and you are met with scorns and scoffs by your blood family, become too distant and you get suplexed by a raging wife. Fortunately for me, and to the peace of those around, I enjoyed a wonderful relationship with my father-in-law, the proof is my tears as I write these words.

Towards the end, when old age got to him and made mobility difficult, he got himself a bell. He would sit on his recliner, press the button and his daughter would then immediately come and tend to him. Hoping that as I pen these words down, in jannah, he is ringing the bell again and this time an angel is making his way to look after him.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2024.

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