Almost two years ago I lost a really good friend of mine and today, November 18th, is her birthday. There are not enough words to describe just how deeply I miss her. I think sometimes we’re made to feel as if the salvaging of the self after tragedy has some sort of standard timeline; an expected end date when your internal clock will finally reset and and your soul wipes itself clean again. Grief is process that can anchor itself to the balls of your feet: there are days where you’ll have to drag your heart, heavy as it is, across the finish line of the hour. And then the next hour. And the hour after that–wounds unstitching and all, but still you made it; you have almost mastered the art of holding it together using only a rusted needle, old golden threads, and your grandmother’s dented thimbles.
You made it. You are still making it.
There are days when the healing will absolutely refuse to arrive at your doorstep and it will feel like there is broken glass lodged in the middle of your collapsing chest, slicing it open every time you try to breathe in. On such days you will not bother yourself with the attempt of picking at the shrapnel, instead you get on your knees and pray with all your might that you’ll weep yourself dry: leave nothing behind with which you could water the pain. I am yet to figure out the exact what highway lines we cross and grieving in public starts to become impolite…and unbecoming. That is a lesson I am not so sure I want to master–muffling the screams of my scars when all they want is to open up and yell at the top of their lungs,”this spot right here, this is where I’m tender the most.”
There isn’t a word nuanced enough to encompass goodbye and I love you and promise you’ll write back soon okay, wherever you are? I’ve got all these handwritten letters and no zip code to send them off to. I’m still figuring out what it means to let go. For a long time after my friend was gone I felt as if someone had put my insides through a blender and then poured them back into me.
I’m thinking about writing a poem called, “A fool’s survival guide to improper grieving”. This pain has nourished my courage and coloured me strong. Grief teaches you about the value of time spent and who you decide to discover the small wonders with– it taught me that I want to spend the rest of this life giving out all my love like its Halloween candy. I want to leave this earth knowing that I loved with intense fierceness and fearlessness.
So what I want most is to live the rest of my life/ Desperately wanting to live it/I want to give that to you/ I want to find you in the nothing at all/ And I want it to be something/ When I say, “I want to make something of my life.” /That’s what I mean- Andrea Gibson.
And then one day it was not so painful anymore. I could say her name without feeling like I was choking on lumpy rocks with each syllable. There is this video of us, we’re in Haiti and Hadil, my friend, she says to me, “Lulu, could you…” and it then cuts off right where she asks me a question. I don’t remember what exactly the question was but what I do remember is the way the sun erupted from beneath her eyelids when she smiled. I hadn’t seen the sun in a long while before then, not like that, and then I remembered the warmth in her laugh and how it made light of the dust particles on my cheeks.
The are so many things I still wish I could tell her. The most important being that three weeks ago, on Sunday, I brought home with me two beautiful kitten beans, Olive and Lima, that fall asleep on the spot right above my heart. And that I am finally learning how to drive. And that adulthood is weird. And that her hair still remains the most beautiful hair I’ve just ever seen on a human being. And that when I think of her, it doesn’t hurt so much anymore.
We are doing okay I think.
It is with much gratitude that I say thank you for loving me. Thank you for your loving me continuously and unconditionally and in spite of my flaws. Thank you for teaching me that on some days it is absolutely possible to origami your flaws into beautiful sunflower seeds that you can use to re-plant light into the aching bits. I will always be thankful to the universe for gifting me the time we spent together, no matter how short it was. Hadil, my habibi, you are the biggest and the most blessed gift of all. I love you very much my angel and happiest of birthdays to you.
Here is the letter I wrote the first time I said goodbye, out loud, to you, the moment I really realised that you were gone gone and my shaking voice buckled underneath the unbearable silence. I had a panic attack afterwards. The winter you died because you wanted to I watched an entire video that explained what exactly happens when stars run out of fuel to burn. From that I learned light can still carry even after death. Did you know that when some stars die they end their lives by exploding in a supernova? I think that must’ve been you.
Thank you immensely for our friendship and for choosing to laugh with me. Love lives here. Always and forever.
All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. -Henry Havelock Ellis
You, my love, are a person that people meet and take you with wherever they go. Not many people like that exist, people that walk in and light up an entire room with their eyes. Not many people can touch a people like that. That is an incredible and a rare gift. How lucky was I to call you a friend, to sit with you, to cry with you, to laugh with you, to discover, and most importantly to grow with you. You taught me about bravery and what it means to love with open arms without expecting anything back. You taught me what survival looks like. You taught me what kindness and unconditional love look like. Habibs we have cried together, laughed together, hurt together and lived together. You loved with all the bones in your body and laughed with all of your being. How do we say goodbye to a person like that.
No words can describe the the pain of a breaking heart. No words can explain what it feels like to lose a sister, a dear friend, and an absolutely wonderful wonderful human being. No words can explain the light in your eyes and the pain of learning how to stand again. I need something stronger than I love you because I love you just isn’t enough to say thank you letting me be a part of your life. We have survived and lived together. We have lived in the sense of human-ing. We human-ed and we always came out stronger, always. Now we are here and it hurts. It hurts so bad that I’m not there with you and that you’re not here with me and I’m not sure what to do.
Five years ago was when I first received the blessing of your friendship. And to say that I am grateful is an understatement. I thank the universe for giving me all of your hugs, all of your warmth, and all of your constant support. But most of all I am thankful for all of the moments where nothing else mattered but us by the lake just being present with another. I am honoured to have been picked to play the role of friend. Everyday is me looking for you in the spaces where your spirit and laughter still linger. I’m not sure how grieving works and I know it’s different for everyone. Nobody told me about the part where I see you everywhere; where I see you in our spaces but it’s not you, it’s just someone who wears their curly hair in the exact same way.
My dad says that the only thing that I can do is cry, pray, and stay strong but I can only do the one right now because I’m not sure how to say goodbye to someone so phenomenal. We have been through so so so much together and have always come out so strong. From the first time you stopped wearing your hijab and I held your hand while we walked together to the dining hall, to Haiti, to our froyo date, to our not so subtle library conversations during your shift about my non-existent love life. You have always been such a funny, loving, intelligent, beautiful, kind-hearted, light-giving person. And I love you for that. I love you for being brave enough to fight fearlessly for everything that you want.
I love you for your strength and resilience. I love you for your will and your laugh. I love you for comfort and for your words. I love you for your determination and you ability to just laugh about nothing with me. I love you for your ability to walk into a room and just fill it with light. I love you for your smile and your hugs and your kisses. I love how you can make everything better by saying “lulu love you are going to be okay…”. I love the way you say “lulu love”. I love when you call me Habibte and then giggle after. I love you for who you are. I miss you baby and I want you to know that you made your mark on this earth and you touched a lot hearts by just living and being all that you were meant to be. You have always been an angel and I guess God needed you back sooner than we were ready to say goodbye. But you’ll always be right here in our hearts.
Habibi you are a strong one. To the moon and back.
Love always from,
Your Habibs ❤