About four months before my mother passed away, and after we had come back home from her doctor’s “surgery,” as they call medical offices in England, she asked me to organize her closet. At the time, I was going by what the hospital doctor, as well as her own doctor had said, which is that she had a “chest infection” and antibiotics will take care of it. I was surprised at her request, but I proceeded to do what she asked as she watched me while lying in bed. After that day, she was in and out of hospital, emergency rooms and doctor’s office many times, her appetite was shrinking, she had lost more weight and was always fatigued. About two weeks before she passed and as we were returning from yet another two day hospital stay, we entered her very clean house and, emaciated as she was, she bent down to pick up a lint from the carpet. She then asked me: what are you going to do with all my stuff after I go? And I answered: You’re not going anywhere yet, Mama. A week later we were at the hospital again for what would be the final time. I don’t know whether I was in denial that she was fading away, or whether it was many other things that were going on in my very turbulent life at that juncture. However, I thought about all this recently, because I noticed that I was being more fastidious about cleaning my own home, keeping every closet and drawer more organized, making sure that all was as perfectly neat as I was capable of making it. Had my mother felt that she was fading away and wanted to make sure that everything was in order before she left? Am I feeling the same by my behavior lately? Am I sensing that my time has come? Or, is this Virus-cooped-up-life beginning to get to me? Am I starting to get depressed? Or, is the latest incredible novel I’m reading: “A Long Petal of the Sea” written by Isabel Allende, one of my favorite authors, with all its descriptions of fascistic Franco’s war, hunger, disease, Death & Dying depressing me as it comes on top of all the misery and wickedness going on in the world? After a good night’s sleep, I woke up determined to pull myself together and snap out of these feelings that are not going to make anything better! I imagine that there are many of us these days going through similar despondent sensations, and as a friend of my same age told me: I never imagined that I would be spending my last few years on this planet in this miserable situation! Neither, I believe, did any of us!
Anyway, as Allende’s novel, and all these thoughts and disparate images were churning about in my mind, I have no idea why I recalled what an American friend once told me with sincerity: I never knew that there are Christians in the West Bank. I was stunned that an educated woman like her would not make the connection between Jesus Christ, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Palestine and the irrefutable evidence that Christianity arose in that part of the world. What does one call that except Ignorance? This Ignorance is precisely one of the main reasons why we, human beings, misunderstand and demonize each other. Look at what’s happening in today’s world where the Hindu Modi Government is repressing the Muslim Kashmiris; in Myanmar the Buddhist Government is repressing and persecuting the Rohingya Muslims; the Chinese Government is repressing the Muslim Uighurs; and under the Trump Administration Muslims in the US, as one example, were vilified, and the list goes on! Throughout history one can find examples of this bigotry, discrimination and people killing each other because of religious, political and/or ethic differences. Quo Vadis, People?
Another friend – an Arab, no less – once asked me, again, with sincerity: How come there are Muslims in China? Ignorance, once more! Do people not study history at all? Have they not heard of the Silk Road and how merchants and traders from the Arab World travelled all the way to China bringing with them their culture, their cuisine, their languages and their religions? That Silk Road route together with the Arab conquests of Iberia contributed immensely to the civilizations of the East and the West and left an indelible imprint on all the peoples that the Arabs interacted with along the way, including leaving pockets of Muslim converts throughout that long and arduous path.
Such “facts” are overlooked as the above examples prove and, over time, they are forgotten. Truly confounding, and leave so many of us vulnerable to False Prophets!
Another “fact” occurred to me as I was sipping my coffee: Today we have Starbucks cafes on almost every corner in the United States, as well as in numerous places across the world. Many people seem to think that coffee is yet another American Exceptional Invention. Hardly anyone traces coffee back to Ethiopia where it originated and from there travelled to Yemen, after which Arab traders and merchants took it to Italy in the late 16th. Century and from there it spread into Europe. Many Catholic priests at the time had a conniption about it, because it was those ungodly “Muslims” and “Jews” who were trading the coffee beans and, so, they banned them and proclaimed that they caused people to behave in sinful ways! In other words, coffee heightened people’s senses and aroused their carnal instincts! Two centuries later, and after the Boston Tea Party revolt, Americans refused to drink any more tea and considered it a sort of patriotic duty to drink coffee instead. Hence, coffee made its entrance into the New World. (We Americans have quite a reputation for such infantile behavior as when we stopped eating French fries early during the Iraq War, poured French wine down the sewers etc. and so continued on our “patriotic” mission!)
Going back to tea, most people today are under the false impression that tea is a British invention. In fact, and for the past 5000 years, or so, it has been the foremost Chinese drink. Legend has it that while Emperor Shen Nung was encamping with his army, and as he had a pot of boiling water on the camp fire, the wind gusted and blew some leaves from the nearby trees into the pot of boiling water. Curious, the Emperor looked at the leaf, smelled the aroma it left in his pot and Voila! Tea became the national Chinese drink. Centuries later, after the British Empire conquered India, they made many attempts to invade China even by introducing the drug trade in order to corrupt Chinese officials (check out my post: Colonialism Redux 1/15/2017). The Chinese resisted strongly, so having lost the drug trade, and around 1848, the British stole – yes, actually pilfered – Chinese tea trees, transported them to their Raj (British rule in India) and from there to Britain where they became a British invention! Colonialism!
This is how “facts” became intermingled with the Politics of the moment, and why Politics and Religion lie in the same bed and have done so since time immemorial. Karl Marx said: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” And isn’t that the truth? And wasn’t Trump in his divisive efforts at taking our country back from Immigrants, Black and Brown people, Muslims, Radicals, Terrorists, Communists, Socialists et al incensing his followers and driving them into hallucinogenic frenzies? The sad thing is that he is neither the first, nor the last ego-maniacal Political Leader to do this. How does humanity continue believing False Prophets? Are we all idiots? It is so frustrating that we continue to rehash the same old scenarios again, and again, and once again! What total inanity! How utterly depressing! No wonder I was grappling with all these feelings and morbid thoughts! At the end of the day, I tell myself that even though I do not have the power to fix the world, and while, yes, it does get me down sometimes, at least I know that I am not a sheep who blindly follows False Prophets, Insane Ideas and Wicked Intentions. That, by itself, raises my spirits!
RIP my Mama, and my husband. Death & Dying are inevitable, but had you still been alive during these Virus days, and, being crotchety, you wouldn’t have accepted to put on a mask, nor abided by any safety guidelines, and that would have driven me to utter insanity!
2 thoughts on “Death & Dying?”
Well, again you have given me much to ponder. Often, when I feel helpless in the sea of global issues, this paraphrase of Edward Everett Hale’s encourages me: I am only one; bu still I AM one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Thank you, Hala, for sharing this—
you always inspire me and teach me new facts.