By Tamanna Roashan
[On the Anniversary - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - of his passing on August 24, 200; reproduced from the original written
three years back.]
I wrote this when I got back home from my
emergency trip to Seattle a few years ago to be with my grandfather on his last days before leaving this world. May his soul
rest in peace and may we continue to make him proud of us each day.
is our family's second death in 53 days. First it was Bibi Jaan (Grandma) who left our world, and now my Grandpa has joined
her. From never experiencing the tragedy of death, I have now gone through two of them... back to back.
The death of Bibi Jaan took a huge toll on my family... especially my parents who
were taking care of her- and me. After finally starting to move on once the chill had passed, we were struck with terrible
news once again: My grandpa in Seattle was seriously ill- suffering from Hepatitis, Cirrhosis (chronic liver disease) and
liver failure, multiple strokes, and heart disease, and after a terrible fall in his apartment, bleeding in his brain.
Dad and my Kaka (Uncle) Murtaza from Chicago took turns during separate trips to
be with their father while he was in the hospital in Seattle. My Mom took over before Dad came back home so Grandpa would
not be alone in the hospital, and she was then truly able to witness the degree of his illness. He had asked for me, but because
of my hectic schedules at work and school, I was unable to go see him at that time.
When my Mom returned home from Seattle, she told me how bad he was.... he barely recognized his own family. She looked
at me straight in the eyes and said it was urgent that I go see him. That might be the last time I'd see him alive.
That very moment, I booked my flight to Seattle and went up Thursday morning, expecting
to return home the next evening. Grandma Elizabeth (his wife for almost three decades) picked me up from the airport and we
went straight to his nursing home. I was hesitant to walk in, but relieved when I heard his voice behind the curtain, talking
to my cousin Husai from Chicago and the nurses. I walked to him, and he looked at me for several seconds with his eyebrows
raised. "Oh my God," he said.
I still do not know
if he recognized me completely, but he seemed to know what I was saying to him. "It's me, Grandpa... It's Tamanna....
I am here just for you." And then, he looked at Grandma and said to me, "That is my beautiful Wife" and went
That evening, after taking care of him for the past
two days, Husai went back to Chicago and left me alone with him and Grandma. As a nurse, Husai knew exactly what was happening...
she explained to me what my responsibilities were to keep him as comfortable and pain free as possible, and then with eyes
filled with tears, she left Seattle. In her heart, she knew that Grandpa would not make it. But I had no clue how soon that
That night, I fed Grandpa his last meal. He did so
good.... I kept asking him, "Isn't this delicious Grandpa?" and he kept replying, "No." But he still took
it like a champ and swallowed every bite I fed him.
was time to sleep. Amma Khalida, Kaka Turabaz, Fawad, Shugofa, and Khala Rayeha came by to visit and brought him some soft
good Afghani food for the next day's meals. Unfortunately, he was never able to taste their offering that he was so looking
After they left, Grandma and I stayed with Grandpa.
Though it was not allowed, we spent the night with him right in his room just sitting on the chairs, and that was the best
decision we could ever make.
I caressed him to get him relaxed.
But as soon as I would get him to close his eyes, they would pop right open again. That's when I realized that Grandpa was
afraid... Afraid to close his eyes because he knew that he would never open them again. He battled his fatigue for almost
an hour, until he finally gave in, and sleep took over. Grandma and I were relieved that finally he can take some rest. I
truly believed that he was simply just tired and if he got good rest, he would feel much better the next day and continue
his on again/ off again health pattern. He had a rough couple of days, so I heard, with him being rushed to ER the previous
day. Maybe tomorrow would be better....
The next morning at
9 am, the nurses stormed in the room, frantic. They took his vital signs, and their worries were confirmed: He was deteriorating
by the minute. His BP was down to 68/40 (120/80 is normal). His oxygen level was unable to be read, and neither was temperature...
he was so cold. They found congestion in his chest, and tried to suction it out through a vacuum tube. It helped a little
but, just enough to let him breathe easier. He stayed asleep during that whole time... I do not think he even knew what was
happening to him. The nurses moved him to a comfortable position to sleep, and then they left him.
The head nurse came back to talk to Grandma and me. She said that it could be as early as today. We had no funeral
arrangements made, and we were advised to do so at that moment. She and I went to the office and made several long phone calls
while he was still sleeping...
One hour later, it started to
I was the only one with him, while Grandma was still
making the important phone calls. I was holding on to his hand and I noticed that his chest wasn't moving up and down anymore....
I quickly jumped and called the nurse. "Is he breathing? He's not breathing!!!" I screamed. They checked his pulse
and his heart was still beating. "He is breathing, but very little," the nurse said to me. "But it's happening."
I ran out to get Grandma who was right in the hall, but she
did not understand what I was saying. I got back in and held on to Grandpa.... "Breathe!!! Breathe Grandpa, PLEASE"
I kept repeating over and over....
...the very second Grandma got in.
When she and I realized what just happened, I got up and looked at her, and held
her as we both wept in heartbreak.
was held that Sunday, and an astonishing number of people showed up. Grandpa was a true and respected leader in the Afghan
community, and it showed at his Janaaza and Fatiha. I did not know most of the people I saw... they were all his friends and
followers from several Afghan organizations and clubs he took part in. I was amazed with all the people there...
Unfortunately, none of the women and almost none of the close family members got
to see grandpa before he was buried... the whole thing seemed to be rushed as one location was quite far from the other. By
the time we got to the gravesite, a hundred men were there, and they had already done the job. What a disappointment it was
to see that his sons and grandsons could not even help him lay in his new home, as they had done for Bibi Jaan just over one
month ago. I got there and ran over to see that they were already filling up the grave with dirt in their shovels... and I
broke down in tears for my Father and Uncle who were not even present. When I called my Dad, who was still 10 minutes away,
he advised me to stop crying. He said it was ok, and that they had a time to do everything. They were following the rules....
But what rules, I was thinking... how could they possibly even start without his sons???
When it was all over, and the rest of the family arrived, there was a long prayer and they laid the red and white
roses on his new bed. All of us were a bit more calm and started to pray with them. There was nothing we could do at this
point but pay our respects.
What a difference between Bibi
Jaan's burial and my Grandfather's. I felt so disconnected. I didn't even get to say bye to him one last time before he left
for his new home... I said bye in my heart late that night... as my plane took off, leaving Seattle and leaving my memories...
still hurt and disappointed from the rushed burial.
back at it, that is exactly the way it was supposed to happen. Everybody knows - my Grandpa was a very punctual man, always
on time. And he had to go when he had to go, and nothing, I mean nothing, was going to make him late for his own eternity.