Friday, February 29, 2008

An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love

I always enjoy book stores. Somehow, a sense of peace and serenity always wash over me with a secret hush whenever I'm surrounded by rows and rows of books. My paradise of tranquility.

Today, as usual, I stole a moment to walk into a quaint little bookshop right in the hustle and bustle of city life. The cool air-conditioning in the shop slowly dried the mild afternoon sweat off my forehead. My eyes began to wander hungrily over the many titles of magazines and books galore. My head tilted left and right, scanning the covers for topics that might peak my interest or steal my attention.

And then suddenly, there it was... a little, thin book, propped quietly on a high shelf, with a very interesting title. I couldn't resist picking it up immediately. My fingers yearning to feel the touch of its beautiful jacket. I ran them over the embossed lettering. "An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love" by Richard Carlson and Kristine Carlson.

I gasped. I quickly turned the book over to read the many reviews listed on the back cover. And then my heart stopped beating for a moment. A stillness descended upon me. I felt the nearness of truth. Of love. My eyes fell upon these words...

"On their 18th wedding anniversary, in 2003, Richard Carlson (author of the bestselling Don't Sweat the Small Stuff) presented his wife, Kristine, with a short manuscript called An Hour to Live. He imagines he has an hour to live and poses questions originally asked by spiritual guide and author Stephen Levine: whom would you call? what would you say? and why are you waiting? Uncannily, the text foreshadowed Carlson's death three years later, at age 45, of a pulmonary embolism. Though he had no chance to make that last phone call, his wife (and the reader) already knows his feelings for her and their children. We also know what was important to him, which boils down to the old chestnut: no one, on their deathbed, ever wishes they'd spent more time at the office. Included in the book is Kristine's tribute to Richard, called An Hour to Love. Both pieces (only 50 pages and padded with Richard's favorite poem and blank pages for the reader's own answer to the key question) are heartfelt—and oddly unengaging. They tell the reader how wonderful the Carlsons' marriage was, but don't show why. We are left with a lovely ideal—too ideal for readers to relate to. (Jan. 15) - by Publishers Weekly."

"Richard Carlson, so beloved to many of us, writes to his own true love from a place somewhere between life and death. The love with which he writes to her, and the love with which she answers, provide a teaching for all of us: on life, on death, and on the existence of a spirit that transcends them both. - by Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love and The Age of Miracles."

I felt my eyes well up with tears, my throat tightened and my heart crying again. The remembrance of Mad. He was so loved by many, too. A very wise old man once asked me the same question. "If you only have 24 hours left to live, what would you do?"

I couldn't afford to purchase that book just now. I forced myself to return it in its place on the high shelf whilst promising to myself that I will be returning to that quaint little shop to make that precious treasure mine. My girls have already negotiated their turns at reading it. I end this writing for now. I shall make my next entry after I have savored the deliciousness of reading "An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love".

Friday, February 15, 2008

My Bucket List

"Edward Perman Cole died in May, it was a Sunday afternoon and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It's difficult to understand the sum of a persons life, some people would tell you it's measured by the ones left behind, some believe it can be measured in faith, some say by love, other folks say life has no meaning at all......Me, I believe you measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you. What I can tell you for sure is that by any measure, Edward Cole lived more in his last days on earth than most people manage to wring out of a lifetime. I know that when he died his eyes were closed and his heart was opened......"

This was the opening line to this movie. To say that watching this flick had a profound affect on me and my attitude towards life is a great understatement.

I have one such list. Except that I didn't call it my Bucket List. I simply refer to it as "The things I wanna do before I die."
1. Perform my Haj.
2. Go to Mekkah with my family.
3. Repay all my debts.
4. See God's earth with my family.
5. See the 7 wonders of the world.
6. Learn to speak fluent Arabic and French.
7. Have a fantastic relationship with my daughters.
8. Live a simple but fulfilling life.
9. Learn psychology to the highest level.

And the list goes on. I believe more things will be added and some will be stricken out or checked off from the list.

Some may see the morbidity of it all. But I believe when we know how we want to die, we will discover how we want to live. Some people feel that this movie is simply about a list; a list of all the good things in life: places to be visited, people worth cherishing, values to which to cleave... and friendship. Well, everyone is entitled to their own interpretation of the meaning of this film. The Bucket List is about the importance of living life as if each moment might be your last.

Live everyday of your life as if it's your last and one day you'll be right.

Rose is Gold on Valentine's Day.

There are many ways of looking at the much celebrated and overrated Valentine's Day.
"It's a marketing strategy for greeting card companies."
"It's a Christian celebration. You're a muslim. You shouldn't celebrate it."
"Rose is like gold on Valentine's Day."

However, I choose to look at Valentine's Day in another way. To understand my point of view, consider this:
How often do you tell the ones you love how much you love them?

We go about our everyday life, busy with commitments, things we have to do and haven't done, planning things to do over the next few days, weeks and many other normal distractions dished out by life and daily living. Our minds are often not in the present, the here and now. Most often, we are thinking about the past or considering our future. And then we wonder how time flies by sonic speed. And most of us go about feeling lonely in a crowd and unloved by those near and dear to us.

A wise old man once told me that if the ones you love do not feel loved by you, then the love you feel for them in your heart is redundant. It means nothing to those we love because that love is not relayed to them.

We need to learn to express the love we feel for people we love. We need to learn to live in the here and now. We need to seize every opportunity to give and receive love whenever and wherever we can. Because love is important in our lives.

There was this one Iraqi professor in my faculty who, as a response to my saying that Islam is about loving Allah, had said that my way of thinking is very Christian like. This was my reply, "Before we begin any form of prayer, we recite 'Bismillahhir rahmaannir rahiim.' which means 'In the name of Allah the Most Loving and the Most Forgiving.' Allah is Love. We, as human beings, simply cannot flourish or sustain ourselves without love. Many clinical research has been done that has proven this fact. A newborn baby that is simply fed with milk but not nourished with loving care will simply wither away and die."

Funny how most people like to look for differences between themselves and others simply to satisfy their inner desire to be different and unique. We are all unique and special. But looking for differences in mankind is not healthy for society as a whole. It's a fertile ground for social bigotry.

Embracing the spirit of Valentine's Day is not harmful to muslims. In fact, I believe we can learn something from this. If we are indeed always too busy to give and show love to those we feel love for, then why not allow this one day in the whole of the calendar year to give you the opportunity to do just that? I don't see any harm in that at all. After all, Valentine's Day is NOT about roses, chocolates or even a romantic dinner. It is also NOT about whether you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife to celebrate it with. Its about appreciating the love you feel for those you do and showing it in the most memorable way.

Bottom line: If you don't wanna celebrate Valentine's Day, then show your love to those you love everyday. That's the muslim way of living and loving.

Peace be upon us all...

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Birthday Gift

With Fairoz and Hanim.

Two families merge.

A birthday wish for my soul brother. May Allah forgive all his sins.

Zubair a.k.a Bear. The nearest person I have next to Mad.

I was dreading my birthday. Everyone knew that. But no one could really fathom the degree of dread I was feeling. Although consciously I know I will no longer be receiving any birthday calls from Mad, deep inside I was hoping that I would wake up from this nightmare and Mad would call, warbling a birthday song with Jee, his wife, laughing happily in the background.

My much loved and very understanding husband, Jasmene, to my agreement, made plans to hold a small gathering of people who knew and loved Mad. We wanted to hold a Tahlil for Mad and a Doa Selamat for me on the eve of my birthday. My loving Mom and brother plus his beautiful family obliged us to hold this gathering in their home.

We were sharing wonderful memories of Mad and the funny things he use to say and do. Bear did a fantastic job at distracting my attention from looking at the clock. My most feared time was 12 midnight. On the dot, the lights in the house went out and everyone broke into singing Happy Birthday, while my sweet sister-in-law, Fazlina, brought out the cake. I was so shocked that I was trembling. Just before I blew the candle, everyone urged me to make a wish. I whispered to God's ears, "Ya Allah, ampunkanlah semua dosa-dosa sahabatku Mohammad. Amiin."

Mad, you have given me more than what you did while you were alive. I now have your family to call my own too. When I embrace them, I feel you in their hearts. I can still feel your friendship and love for me, Mad. I hope my prayers and love reaches you, wherever you are.

The next morning, a steady flow of calls and smses came in from your siblings and families. Your sweet wife, Jee, called me and we spoke for almost an hour. We all miss you, Mad. And we always will.

Today, is the fourth Friday since your return to The Most Loving. Although I know you're in a much better place than here, I still miss you, soul brother. I hope you felt loved by me while you were here. I hope you still feel loved now. Because I still love you.

Rest in peace, Mad. I will always hold your love and friendship in my heart. But for your sake, I have to let you go.

"When you see my funeral, don't say, 'What a separation!'
It is time for me to visit and meet the Beloved,
Since you have seen my descent, then do see my rising.
Why complain about the setting of the moon and the sun?
Which seed that went under the earth failed to grow up again?"

- by Rumi from Essential Sufism.