the twelfth cup of tea

During the past month of Ramadan, the notion of death was something that I found to be all too real. A lot of people say that if a person is to die during the holy month, they would go straight to Paradise. There were a few people back home in Pakistan that recently passed away, a few friends had relatives that left us, and then Nabra, a Muslim teen that was murdered in cold blood right here in the suburbs outside of Washington D.C.

I wanted to share a story that deals with death, and the grief that ensues.

We were almost packed and ready to go. We had extra blankets, gloves, and some granola bars to keep our stomachs at bay. We were just missing one thing, the tea. Hamza brought some chai for us from his house, and after taking a sip we were all set. It was me, Hamza, and Zayn on a trip to Shenandoah National Park.

It wasn’t a normal trip in the least. We left Hamza’s house at roughly 3 o’clock in the morning, hoping to get there before the sun began its daily ascent into the sky. The plan was to make it to this mountain trail in the middle of the park, and then hike up to the top of this mountain just before sunrise. That way we would all be able to catch the sunrise together and have a nice, warm cup of tea to enjoy the view with.

Everything was going according to plan, and once we entered the park we began to lose cell phone signal, as per usual. We weren’t really worried because once we got onto Skyline Drive, it  would lead us straight to the trail. However, I guess we didn’t take into account how far down into the park the trail was, because the sun began to rise before we even reached the start of it.

Once we got there, we parked the car and then Zayn’s phone started to ring. This was weird because none of us had service up in the mountains. He got out of the car and began talking on the phone with his sister. As me and Hamza watched him talk, we knew something was wrong.

Zayn’s aunt had passed away just as we were on the way to the park. Zayn fell to his knees and began to tear up. I had no idea what to do, but I began to follow Hamza’s lead. We stood there in the forest hugging for a few minutes, then prayed Fajr and Hamza hopped in the driver’s seat and we drove straight to the hospital where Zayn’s aunt and the rest of his family was.

The drive was pretty much silent. Neither Hamza or me had any idea what to say. We got to the hospital and dropped Zayn off before looking for parking. Hamza and I walked in a few minutes later and I was a little shocked at what I saw. At the lobby of the hospital there were what seemed to be over a hundred people, all waiting to hear the news of Zayn’s aunt. Children, cousins, aunts, uncles, I had never seen a larger family gather together before. I was so worried about Zayn on the drive there on how he was going to be able to deal with this tragedy, but once I saw all that family there for each other, I knew Zayn was going to be able to make it through such a tough time.

As time passed, Zayn seemed to get better day by day. Soon, things seemed to be back to normal. Though there were still remnants of the tragedy in the air. It was this elephant sitting in the house at all the family gatherings, making sure we all noticed it but refusing to say a word. I don’t think it is something that anyone can forget, and that’s a good thing.

A month after her death, Zayn shared something that really made me think. “We made the trip to Shenandoah to sit and watch the wonderment of God’s creation, but we ended up being witness to the power of God’s destruction.” Death should be constantly on our minds. Having it there keeps us humble, keeps us close to our loved ones, keeps us from causing another person harm. In the end we do only live once, but why does that phrase breed the idea of doing reckless things that only lead to negative consequences?

Make the most out of life, because we’re all going to end up in the dirt someday. Whether that day be tomorrow or 20 years from now.

“Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Raji’oon.”

“We belong to God and to Him we shall return.”

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