Ramadhan 2019, day 3
Unlike in previous years (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), I didn’t plan much for Ramadhan 2019. I realized a few days before the start that I should wean off caffeine, and I did… and that’s it. On day 1, I filled in the Ramadhan spread I had made in my 2019 journal. Besides that, I enterprised to take Ramadhan one day at a time and, so far, this appears to be the right choice for me, this time around.
Today, on day 3 of the fast, I realize it has now been exactly a year since my cousin passed away. It has been a difficult journey. His passing certainly sent me for a spin and lead me down life decisions I hadn’t expected.
There was an irate client who emailed me while I was out of town for his funeral, her email was the straw that broke the camel’s back at a job that no longer made me happy. I changed employer and deviated slightly from my previous career: I still work in the compensation sector, but now I’m a trainer. I get to meet new people and give them the skill and confidence to do the job I used to do, except better and smarter, because many enjoy this work more than I did.
My relationship with my cousin, the deceased’s sister, has also grown exponentially. My partner and I visited her, her partner, and her children around the holidays, and again recently for the oldest child’s birthday. I am forming a strong relationship with these beautiful little souls and my cousin and I are growing even closer than we were before. We hold each other’s hands in those moments when we find ourselves hoping her brother was here with us. We hold space for each other’s grief and love. We tell stories, for each other as much as her daughters, that iterate the love and kindness of her brother, our extended family members, and each other.
My cousin lived with Schizophrenia, substance issues, and trauma. His passing was misunderstood by family and friends. This cemented my desire to provide individuals with safe space to explore and discuss substance use and mental health. I had already launched Mind Safe, but his passing renewed my intentions to make it a successful endeavour.
All in all, a year later, I can say that my grief and love for him gave a renewed purpose to my life. I still believe his death was grossly unfair, and am still brought to the edge of tears thinking of this immense loss. However, life goes on. He’s with me, in my heart, and I fuel my work, my relationships, my community-building, with him in mind.
So here we are, a year later, fasting Ramadhan, thinking deeply and dearly about loss and love, and grief, and faith. With my cousin’s passing, my faith was shaken. God’s plan is murkier to me than ever and I don’t know that I’m willing to try and shape my life around it. Everything I held true has been put to the test and I’m not sure I’ll get a passing grade. I’m still Muslim in that I still believe there is only one God and that Mohammad was God’s messenger… but I can’t say that with the same fervour I did at my conversion.
Many Muslims who are ill or pregnant attempt to fast against medical requirements. I get it. If you love Islam, and especially Ramadhan, the way I did, it feels particularly cruel that we cannot participate fully in the holiest month. Last year, I struggled with Ramadhan, and winded up fasting only about half the days. I had to take things easy on myself as my mental health took a dive. I could not rely on my favourite exercise of faith to give me strength, and I saw Ramadhan 2019 approaching with almost a sense of dread. So, as Ramadhan approached, I didn’t have it in me to plan – my plans have been upended so many times before!
I reduced my caffeine intake, dreading the caffeine crash/fasting crash combination. When the beginning of Ramadhan was announced on Sunday night, I rapidly decided to fast as much as my body and mind would allow. I didn’t wake up for a meal before the fast [Suhoor] or for the morning prayer [Fajr] as the lack of sleep often affects my mental health more than the fasting itself.
I woke up, prepared for work, showered and put on hijab. Putting on hijab overwhelmed me with emotions. I mostly removed hijab for the past two years, wearing it only for prayer, Ramadhan, and other religious events. I forgot how much I appreciate the warm hug of a scarf around my face.
I went to work, expecting early brain fog… and was pleasantly surprised to note my brain was clear most of the day. The bus ride home was not particularly pleasant, but I made it home and rested shortly before making dinner and breaking fast [Maghrib]. I can honestly say, the first day filled me with a serenity I had not anticipate.
Day 2 went much the same way but with a much more painful bus ride home with delays and mechanical breakdowns which tested my patience to its utmost limit.
Today… today, I got hit with the reminder of the anniversary of my cousin’s passing… and I’m sad… but I’m okay… I didn’t expect that either.
I’ve often said that what originally peaked my interest in Islam was my first fasting of Ramadhan. Something I had expected to be grueling turned out to be a fulfilling, calming, and empowering experience. Over the years, that feeling was threatened and tested. I can’t say I’ve come out stronger. If anything, I question my faith more than I ever have. However, I’m here. I’m still holding on and finding peace in the lingering corners of my faith… I don’t know what that means for the long term, but I am grasping at all the strength I can find as I continue to navigate this lifetime I have been granted.
May your Ramadhans be fulfilling and heart-warming, filled with compassion, kindness, and serenity. Be kind to yourself first, and to each other, always.
Peace and blessings.