For the past few days, I have been contemplating the tree with colored ribbons. It reminds me of a tree in the garden where my sister and I would take walks whenever we had the opportunity to be together. Contemplating those memories, the best were of our tree adorned with ornaments during the holidays at Christmas. The passersby like us would stop and add colorful ornaments that represented special moments in their lives, prayers for loved ones and for peace on Earth. Teri and I have been taking walks in this garden together for years, indeed since we were young girls.
Teri a few years older than me, more than often would want to play Isis and would ask me to play Nephthys. She was the bright star and Goddess and I would be her shadow, but like the two Heavenly sisters, we often changed roles; one became the day the other the night, ever revolving.
At times, we would stand next to the tree, gazing at all the ornaments and would pretend that each represented a star beyond the firmament. We were convinced that we had to take the prayers out into the beyond otherwise they would not get answered by the deities that ruled the entire Cosmos.
Sometimes we would run around the tree with merriment and other times we would make each other laugh gut wrenching laughs for absolutely no reason at all, but because as we looked into each others eyes we saw eternity and were too immature to contain the magnitude of what we experienced in those depths.
Those memories came flooding back this week as I was contemplating the tree with colored ribbons.
One week last fall, there were a few days where time kept stopping for me and in those moments I would pull up the pictures of our tree in the garden. Teri lived up North and we weren’t planning to see each other for a few more months and for some reason, I felt forlorn and wished we could get together earlier and not wait until Christmas. But then again as I contemplated flying North to see her, I was short of breath and thought that perhaps I was coming down with a cold.
One morning that same week, I awoke suddenly, earlier than I typically wake up and knew right away something was off. There was a tight ominous feeling in my chest and as I dragged myself to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee the phone rang. The last time the phone rang that early in the morning was nine years ago when Teri called to let me know our Mother had just passed away. This time, as the phone rang the tightness in my chest became stifling and I was afraid to answer, I was certain that Teri was calling to say that our Father had passed. And I wasn’t quite ready to lose my Father too. As I slowly picked up the phone I could hear my brother John’s voice, saying, “Jordy, you there?” I was able to choke out, “Habibi, John what’s happened?” He was quiet for a moment and choking with tears, he said in a whisper that Teri was gone.
It happened in a nano second but my ears started ringing and I could no longer breath, I was gasping for air while trying to lower myself to the ground before I fell over on my face. John on the phone, asking, “Jordy, Jordy are you OK?” But I couldn’t breathe. In Arabic we say, “mish minee,” which means I have no control here. But finally my concern for John won over and I was able to say that I was ok and would call him back. He then called my cousin Tania and asked her if she could come and stay with me but I was numb and in shock and wasn’t able to be present.
I kept telling myself to pull it together but my body was on autopilot and it mostly affected my breathing.
It was a few days later that we learned from the coroner that Teri died of deep vein thrombosis and that it was minutes from onset to death.
And that is how we were, we were soul sisters, one light one dark and often that would change several times within a day, but I felt her last breath, felt her gasping for air, no time nor space would break that chain.
At her funeral, I closed my eyes and reached out to her, she met me in our garden but was only four years old, not the 56 year old Dr. that she grew to be. She took my hand and led me around our tree, singing, dancing and laughing. I had tears streaming down my face, which she kindly wiped off, and she apologized for leaving so soon.
However, she did share that the garden is much lighter on her side. And we hugged and hugged and hugged until the Funeral Mass ended and Tania took my hand. I looked at Tania to thank her but she too was crying and then smiled at me and said, “don’t be sad Jordy, she is playing in the garden.”