Words: Zein Al Maha Oweis (Zee) (she/her)
Content Warning: death
No one ever prepares you for that frightful knock on your door from Death. Death does not book a meeting with you. Death does not schedule a time or send you an invitation for afternoon tea. No, Death just knocks on your door and the rest is a hazy scramble of memories trying to piece themselves together like a pixelated puzzle.
I have heard about others’ elaborate and detailed encounters with Death. She comes to everyone in different forms. A person might see Death as the Grim Reaper, dressed in a long black cloak holding his scythe. Others may see Death as a train conductor, guiding them to their train compartment ready to board the train of souls. Who knows where it would lead them next?
Death chose to visit me three times in the span of 10 years, each time in a different form. Why, I wondered? Was it a test? If so, why me? Why choose me as her destination of choice?
Death first visited me when I was 16. She came to me one sunny day in June. I remember the day so vividly that it will always be etched in my memory. Death came in the form of an angel. She reminded me of one of the Greek Oracles. Wise and knowing, yet devious enough that at any moment she would cut the tether connecting a soul to this world. One minute you are laughing, smiling, running around playing tag in your grandparent’s garden with your high school friends, and the next, the tears begin to fall down your cheek. The tears are for the souls that have become untethered. Death leaves a hole in your heart that can never be filled. Only time can heal all wounds, or so the saying goes.
Death changed her tactics the second time she came to visit me. At the age of 25, Death arrived as a phone call during the first week of November. I have never felt so numb as when I picked up the phone at that moment. If meeting Death in person was painful, this was excruciating. Death was a trickster, toying with my emotions. Sorrow, pain, grief – all swirling around my heart and my mind.
On Death’s final visit, I was 27. She once again came in the form of a phone call, but this time a missed call. A missed call disguised as an ordinary call from a parent. However, this time, when seeing the name on my screen, it came with dread attached to it. I knew that this dread meant that something bad had occurred yet, this time, I was prepared for Death’s visit. I had built a thick shield to defend myself from these unwelcome feelings and emotions, yet Death still managed to find a slither of weakness. Nothing could stop the tears from falling.
Looking back at these moments, as painful and sad as they were, I learned something about myself; I learned how to deal and process what I have gone through. Losing someone you love is never easy, but the journey towards healing becomes one you can bear. It only makes you stronger, and that strength helps you to move forward.
I have learned to deal with Death by keeping loved ones alive through remembering the joyous memories spent with them, surrounded by wise family and friends. Never closing the door on their memory. The only way to move forward is to keep them alive, sharing their stories with others. That is the way I dealt with the loss.
However, one of the ways I felt safe to release my emotions and show my vulnerability was through my writing. Putting pen to paper was my way of grieving. It was a solace I found that eased the pain. Through a pen, I was able to write how I was feeling, how I missed those that I lost, and how much I loved them. Like tears falling down my cheeks, the words dripped onto the paper. It was my special way of grieving, of dealing with the loss, sadness, and being able to smile again.
While these ways worked for me, they may not work for others. Everyone deals with losing a loved one in a different way. Some prefer having the company of others to help them get through these moments in their lives, while others prefer solitude. Writing and remembering the ones I lost, keeping their memory alive, is what helped me move on because I know they would want me to be happy and live my life to the fullest, just as they lived theirs.
Through these experiences, I have learned not to fear Death, but to instead acknowledge that it can happen to anyone at any given moment. There will come a time when someone you know will get off the train of life, step onto another platform, and get onto a train moving in a different direction, towards another destination.