Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Very Essence of Life

Take a glimpse at the photograph. And then close your eyes for a minute. Meditate. What is your first thought, first association with the photograph?


Everyone has a few dates in their lives, certain milestones, associated with love, birth, celebration, loss, death, life… For me that date is 11 July. On 11 July 2001 my dad passed away. For weeks, months and years that followed, that date for me was associated with pain, heartache and mourning of the deepest kind. It was a milestone, a rite of passage, my first experience of death in the immediate family, at an age where it was no longer a vague idea shrouded by safe distance and childish apathy. Waking up to panic attacks in the middle of the night, dreading every single Father’s Day, secretly envying daughters all over the world who were lucky enough to have a father to send a card to, or take out for dinner, or to simply sit down and enjoy quiet companionship with.

Yet time is the kindest nurse – before you realise, you find that time has gently mended your deepest scars, nursed you through the darkest hours of grief and nourished you back to strength and renewed resolve to carry on. In time, I realised that any date associated strongly in my mind with my father, especially 11 July, became a day of celebration of his life – and a celebration of life.

One regret I have every year on 11 July is that, is that because of work commitments I cannot be there to visit my dad’s grave, to lay down flowers, to whisper a prayer, to sit quietly on the edge of his tomb in the sombre silence of the graveyard, just to feel his presence around me. I still do visit him though each time I go to Istanbul.

Today’s photograph was captured on one such visit. Like in any major city around world, visiting a cemetery in Istanbul is a bizarre experience, finding yourself in the sombre solitary silence, disquieting quiet of intricately designed avenues, streets, alleyways of marble tombstones, dappled in the afternoon sun streaming through the dense leaves of ancient trees in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a buzzing metropolitan alive with vigour, energy and aggression; aged willow trees towered by glitzy skyscrapers, urban high rises proudly standing tall.

Looking through the leaves shading the last resting place of another loved one, it is easy to see the twin towers and their morbid connotations. Twin Towers of Istanbul in which hundreds of office workers are going about their lives, without a shadowy thought of death, below on the streets the cars whiz past, the pedestrians purposefully pace in all directions towards their destinations. In the hurried hustle and bustle of life and the haze that clouds our minds with a daily list of things to do – urgent, important, asap – no one has the time to stop and ponder the meaning of life.

‘Life is a journey, not a destination’ flashes the magnetic picture frame on my fridge, holding a picture of my parents and a ten year old me; indeed it is. ‘Death is the best advice in life’ says a sign the cemetery across the Twin Towers of Istanbul. Life is a journey, with one single destination. All ‘gilded monuments’ and ‘lofty towers’, all inventions of mankind, and mankind too, will one day turn to ashes and dust; all life as Shakespeare says ‘is rounded with a sleep’. It is only at such milestones of life, we have a glimpse of the bigger picture, the final destination but once the moment has passed, we forget and drift along life, purposefully yet aimlessly. ‘Life is a journey’ and ‘death is the best advice’ to remind us to truly live, cherish, capture, enjoy every single moment of that journey.

Two months after my personal tragedy, the world shook with a global tragedy of two planes searing across the New York skyline, slicing through the Twin Towers of Manhattan. On the very same day, one of my father’s best friends passed away. As the people of New York City united in the face of tragedy, as people all over the world felt the overwhelming need like they had in that moment of impact, to reach for the phone and hear the soothing tone of a loved one’s voice, just to say ‘I love you’; personal tragedy united my mum and her now best friend, the widow of my father’s friend. Two women tenuously linked through their husbands’ friendship that spanned a good part of thirty years, two widows united through kindred pain, two women who built a friendship through the ruins of their hearts battered by the loss of a spouse.

These two pillars of strength are mere proof that despite the frozen moment of stunned shock and the sombre grieving that follows, life goes on. As they laugh and cry through the reminiscences of old times, travel through the ups and downs life has to offer, taking strength in their friendship; they truly live, cherish, capture, enjoy every single moment of the journey. What they have lost with their husbands’ passing, they have found in their friendship: the will to go on, the wisdom to know all that comes shall indeed pass, and a hand to hold on to in sadness, and a hand to high-five in celebration.

Towers will tumble, castles will crumble, fortresses will one day fall to ashes and dust; one day each journey will reach its ultimate destination. 11 July reminds me to make the most of the journey, to tell loved ones they are indeed loved as much and as often as I can, to truly live, cherish, capture, enjoy every single moment. On 11 July every year, as I celebrate my father’s life, I resolve to lead such a life that would make him proud, a life as much worth celebrating as his own.


Kafo said...

life is a journey not a destination

well said

when i first looked at the picture i couldn't help but contrast the tombstone with the sky scrapers reaching toward the sky to the unattainable illusive heavens

i like


AbujaBabe said...

Welcome to Blogville!

Thanks for stopping by and leavig a comment it is truly sad i tell you!..

Loving your blog so far also your playlist a girl after me own heart music wise..

Blog On!..

Ciao for now.xx

Pink-satin said...

sorry for your loss!u seem like such a strong person and you have come out of this STRONGER..

welcome to blogville girl

imoted said...

Touching post.

Parisian Cowboy said...

That photo is lovely.

Ubong Da said...

sorry about ur Dad. Nice blog.

Ugo Daniels said...

Crazysexycool woman of class and elegance

I like that, excellent combo with unbeatable reach :)

diary of a G said...

may your father's soul rest in perfect peace

I'll be back to completely read the whole story

ur words are "deep"

princess said...

Am not going to say sorry about ur Dad. We are celebrating his life, right!
Am happy u were priviledged to have him when u did.
Life is really a stage and we all will pass thru to the stage beyond when its time.
I only hope its to a better place.
Nice blog.
Thx for popping in mine.

Overwhelmed Naija Babe said...

that was incredibly touching.. God bless you and your family as you celebrate the great person your father must've been...

Onada said...

wow this is very touching.How you come across now after such a big loss is amazing.

Vickii said...

Hey sinem, I'm only just reading this but it's very profound. I'm so sorry you lost your dad (I don't think I've ever said that to you) but he would be so proud of you and all that you're great at; great teacher, amazing wife, cousin, writer, photographer ...

May he rest in peace and I really pray that we all learn to live life to the full!