I can remember it as if it just happened yesterday. That Saturday started as fresh as only a Saturday morning can bring, the start of a weekend full of fun and activity. Indeed we had a full agenda that day. A Quranic session to start the day, then to an open day at a neighbouring school, lunch at the in-laws then a birthday party in the afternoon. Just your typical weekend for a busy young family.
The Quranic session went well, I think I made little error and there were illuminating discussion with my teacher as always. The open day was interesting, Laras got on well with the teachers, we liked the education concept and the actual school, then off to lunch. My husband’s family was out in full force so the house was full of little children screaming and laughing their hearts out. It’s good to be able to reconnect after a week of busy working, to catch up with the family gossip, marveling at how big our kids got. Lunch was delicious as always. Then, as we were watching the kids play while having dessert, came the call. Actually it wa an sms saying simply, “Please call home,” and so I did.
It blew my mind.
Receiving bad news is never fun. Receiving news of the passing of a loved ones especially so. Thus, I learned that my uncle passed away. My uncle, whom I affectionately called Manino, a naval officer, nay, an Admiral, finally lost his battle with the hereditary cardio vascular condition. My gentle loving uncle. I just couldn’t believe that I would no longer see his smiles, hear his laughs or listen to his stories and jokes about naval life both at sea and in land.
My uncle is such a fixture in my life. He’s there in every life celebration, birthdays, Eids, anniversaries or just general family gatherings of which there were plenty. Manino also came to visit us in all of our houses, in Jeddah and in Amsterdam, back when we were expatriates. Though it coincide with work, still, it is nice to have family coming over, to check whether you’re doing ok over there. He also send some of his kids to visit us in Amsterdam. That makes for a great summer!
Obviously he was not my only uncle but because has a daughter who’s just a little bit older than me, I spend loads of time at their house, more so than with any of my other cousins. My cousin and I, we are very close, we grew up together, we’ve holiday together, heck we even went clubbing together. It is a little known fact that my debut in the club circuit was more like a family outing. How could it not? There were 12 of us, my parents, my uncle and aunts, and all the children. Each had 4 kids so a party of 12 it was. At one point all 12 of us were on the dance floor boogeying the night away! An excellent time was had by all. By me at the very least 🙂
Manino and his wife was also responsible for picking up the groom for my wedding ceremony. A task they did wonderfully; the groom came on time with no chance of escaping 😉 So he is known not only by me, but by my husband’s family as well.
To say I was devastated to hear the news of his passing was an understatement. Our weekend plan had to be cut short. Going to the birthday party was no longer an option. I left the children with their cousins to go to my uncle’s house. I need to see the news for myself. When I got there, it felt surreal. The house still looks the same, yet preparation is clearly on the way. At a glance it looks like party prep except no one is laughing. Everyone carries a mask of sadness, traces of tears can be found on their faces. Only the very young ones continues to be merry.
Then the moment of truth. The sound of siren. A commotion. A bed set in the middle of the room. A body, laid ever so gently on it. There he was. So peaceful as if in a deep slumber. As if, any moment, those kindly eyes are going to open and say, “Hey, have you eaten? Let’s eat!”
The funeral was set for Sunday. I debated whether to attend or not since I was pregnant with my second child. I decided to go. Anyone else I might not. But this is Manino. I couldn’t not go. Besides, it was still early in the pregnancy, I will be among families, I will be just fine.
It was a full military funeral, full of officer in white uniform complete with swords. Lots of people came to pay their respect. The service ran a little long but beautiful. Though to be honest, all I can think was the last time I saw him, which was in the hospital. I didn’t talk much to him as he was rather weak then so my mom did most of the talking while I chatted with my cousin instead. When my mom called to leave, I had an inkling I may not see him again, but at that time I pushed away such thought. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and wish him speedy recovery. Before I left the room, I turned to see him one last time. As I waved goodbye, Manino looked at me, smiled and winked like only he could.
I doubt what I felt come even remotely close to what his children felt. Still, I guess the pain is real that he came to visit me in a dream some time later. In my dream Manino was wearing what look like his white short-sleeved naval uniform minus the brass and medals. He looked as tall and as handsome as ever. We were at yet another family gathering, he went round making sure everyone is attended to. Satisfied that everyone is comfortable, he smiled and left the room.
And that is the real last time I saw him.
Note: It wasn’t until I read my cousin bb messenger status that I realised that I started this note 5 years ago. I keep trying to finish it and I find I need to stop to keep myself from bawling over. After 5 years, I don’t think the pain will ever go away. I’ll just have to work through it as I promised my cousin I’ll finish it. So here it is. I hope to see you again one day. Until then, Manino.
*for Etta 140311*