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We just moved to Toronto a month back. I left home after living in Karachi, Pakistan for 20 years. I left my family, friends and comfort behind. But the hardest thing to say goodbye to was my son’s grave.
Azlan would have been 7 this year. He was born after a grueling 22 hours of labor which ended in an emergency C-section. I never got a chance to hold him because I was too exhausted. But I remember his first cry – it’s what woke me up after I passed out. I remember his second cry because the doctor woke me up again and said “Don’t you want to see your beautiful baby boy?” And then I remember kissing his forehead right before they took him away to be buried.
Three times. That’s how many times I saw him in his short 14 hours of life. And by the third time he already had his angel wings.
I tried to see him before he died. But because of my emergency C-section, I needed to get a wheelchair. And by the time they brought it, it was too late.
All night I was in and out of sleep. At some point the doctor said, “His lungs have collapsed, be prepared for the worst.” But the worst didn’t happen to people like me – I didn’t even understand what the worst meant. I should have gotten up then, I should have gone into the NICU and held his hand, I should have been there to physically comfort him. I shouldn’t have stayed in bed.
In the morning, I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back, I told everyone to just give me a few minutes – my legs were shaking and I needed to rest. I just needed to rest a few minutes and then I’d go see him. Turns out those few minutes were just too long.
Back to the present – I have a beautiful 4-year-old daughter. She’s a handful, and boy was she a difficult pregnancy. Completely the opposite of Azlan, whose 9 months were a breeze. And because of this gorgeous 4-year-old creature I get to call my daughter, we decided it was time to leave Pakistan. Things had become too turbulent, too violent. She deserved to grow up in a developed country where going to museums and zoos and playing on the streets were viable everyday options.
We wrapped everything up – my husband and I. And then it was time to say the most difficult goodbye in the world. Say goodbye to our son, to his grave.
I never went to see him very often while we were there. In all honesty, for the first couple years of my daughter’s life, I always made excuses. I made excuses that she need to see me confident and stable. Because let’s face it, every time I went to his grave I broke down. Broke down bad. For my husband, visiting our son was solace; it was where he found peace. For me, it was a tsunami of regrets.
So, a few days before we left for Canada, we went to say goodbye to him together – with tears and regrets. We said them silently, side by side. Standing at the grave of your child lets you see into the soul of your partner, probably more than any other moment in life. The silent strength that flows between two people after they’ve come to terms with this hand that life dealt them simply cannot be broken.
We left the responsibility of taking care of his grave with two of our closest people. With many more tears of course – the tears never really stop flowing when it comes to the grave of your baby.
Today the sun shines. Our daughter is off to school and I’m counting down the hours until she comes back. And sometimes while we’re walking to the library or going down to the subway my mind wanders and drifts to an alternate life. One where my son is still with us. And instead of holding one hand I’m holding two, one on each side. Wouldn’t life be different and grand?
So I said goodbye to his grave, but I’ll never say goodbye to him in my heart. No mother can. 0 hours, 1, 14, 100 or a million. It doesn’t matter how long our children were with us when they grew their wings. In their time on Earth, they carved a place in our hearts that goes deeper than the universe.
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