A Heart So Full

Is there a word for a heart that swells with both longing and bliss? I suppose then, my heart was just this. This feeling that cannot be strung into words. Just tears. And a heart so full.

“And one of His signs is that He has created for you, spouses from amongst yourselves so that you might take comfort in them and He has placed between you, love and mercy. In this there is surely evidence (of the truth) for the people who carefully think.” (30:21)

On the scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being overtly affectionate), my family falls on a 0. That perhaps is the reason I express best in my writing, preferring instead to bottle my emotions, letting them run wild in words. We never once told each other we love each other, other than me to my mom, so now that she’s gone, i’m a box snapped shut. In this family, love is expressed in an extra pack of chicken rice. In a motor ride. In random memes over whatsapp. My brothers are painfully stoic around me; sometimes I think, on top of the fact that i’m the only girl, the emotional capacity to express feelings have skipped them both entirely and deposited themselves inside me.

So as the months flew by and this day happened, I kept telling myself ‘don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry’. But when the ustaz read the prayers out loud, the dam simply broke. I hid behind the camera lens, hoping nobody would notice. I did a sweeping wide pan through the camera lens and a dull longing surfaced in me when I could see my dad, my brothers, and a space where she was supposed to be. A familiar ache eddied round my heart as I let it wash over me, just as I have been letting it wash over me for the past 3 years each time I’m acquainted with something new, something which held her presence before, but no longer. Occasions that rekindle memories of a lost loved one will always be hard… & no one summarizes this feeling better than ‘O Rourke when she said, “If children learn through exposure to new experiences, mourners unlearn through exposure to absence in new contexts. Grief requires acquainting yourself with the world again and again; each “first” causes a break that must be reset… And so you always feel suspense, a queer dread—you never know what occasion will break the loss freshly open.”

But His mercy extends all things. The biggest thing I’ve gained from her loss is the lens through which I see this life with – transient, temporary, fleeting. I gained a stronger, more conscious detachment of an emotion from a thing, and a steady attachment of an emotion to Him.

Once the excitement had settled, and guests had slowly streamed home, I sat alone after my last salaam in the prayer room at golden hour. Dust and dappled sunlight floated in, the carpets covered in gilt. I observed the stillness for a minute, thinking about the past few hours steeped in bittersweet.

“I want to see your brother get married soon”. I remember her saying, on her hospital bed.

One thing I know for sure… my brother was the one who stood by my side, arms lightly around my shoulders as we witnessed our warrior taking her final breath. I know that she would be the happiest person in the room last weekend, crying tears of gratitude. Last weekend was her du’a manifested. For him. My tears fell in quiet, eyes hiding behind the camera, fingers clicking the buttons as I watched him turn the page to a new chapter. What a blessing it is to love and be loved, even if the love is hidden in little gestures, hidden in words unspoken.

Before slipping into a peaceful slumber that night, a glint caught the corner of my eyes. It was a full moon, reflecting the state of my heart. Staring right back at me. Perfect, complete. Right through the square of my window grill. But her light wasn’t at all blinding; she felt so close to me despite being distanced for a million miles, spilling light across the inked skies.

And in that moment I know. That beyond the things I can see and hold, I was being taught to carry lightly the ephemeral, to grip firmly the eternal. The union, the answered prayers, the laughter, the tears, the stars, the skies, the sun, the night, the moon… these signs.

“And He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason.” (16:12)

Through it all, You’re here. You’re here, closer than my veins. Is there a word to describe a heart that swells with both a lifetime of longing and bliss? I suppose till the day I meet You, my heart is just this. This feeling that cannot be strung into words.

Just tears.

And a heart so full.

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