It has been a few days now since my grandmother passed away. And I can’t stop thinking about what just happened.
My Nano lived a full life. She saw good times and bad. She got married when she was young, and saw her husband go off to war just a few days after the wedding. She saw the creation of Pakistan. She lived through the last minute inclusion of Gurdaspur in India, and the sudden helplessness that followed as her husband’s family migrated to Lahore.
My grandfather was an engineer for the military, and at various times served all over Pakistan. Of note were postings in Karachi, Dhaka and Quetta. He and his wife raised a family of four children who grew up and went to school all over Pakistan. With every transfer the young family would gather its belongings, say goodbye to friends, and set off to a new adventure.
One of Nano’s favorite things to do was to teach children. When I was growing up, I would often find myself in a group of three or four, together with a cousin and perhaps two of the maid’s children, being taught English or Maths. She was so fluent in English, even though she rarely spoke it. She also loved teaching children how to read the Quran. And when they didn’t listen or pay attention, she wasn’t known to be particularly patient.
Nano was quite the personality. She could be rude, and she could be quite arrogant at times. At various times she had troubled relationships with each of her children. When my Mom and Dad lived in a small house that belonged to my grandparents, they charged rent – at market rate! My mother often wished that she had a better relationship with her mother. But their egos were about the same size, so that was easier said than done.
Nano was also very charming and well dressed. She loved nice clothes and nice perfumes. Never one to be seen underdressed, she always paid attention to how she looked. And she had quite a social life. For a long time she was the General Secretary of a women’s philanthropic organization. She loved the charitable work they did, and she loved the regular lunch meet ups where she and her friends got to gossip.
Nano’s health deteriorated steadily over the last few years. She started to suffer from dementia, and there came a point when she was unable to remember even the most basic things. She was weak and frail. When her husband of nearly 70 years died in March, her health started to fail. One evening she got rushed to the hospital because of a heart attack. I was there, and I felt there was no hope.
As Nano lay in the ICU fighting for her life, I remember my mother praying to God for time. Praying for an opportunity to talk to her mother. She requested God to not take her yet. Not just yet.
Over the following months I saw my mother’s prayers answered. My Nano recovered beyond belief. She regained her memory. She started to talk again. She started to pray again. She was able to walk once more. It was incredible how quickly she had become her old self. A softer, wiser version of her old self.
In the last two months of her life, Nano reconnected with all of her children. Three of them live in the US, and they all came to visit her. She reconnected with my mother, who was at her side almost constantly. She had moved to my parents’ house, and she would wait for the kids to come home in the evening. Every day she would tell me that I worked too hard. And every evening she would praise my sister for her pursuit of a PhD.
Nano got better, and for a time it was as if this would be the new normal. But it was not to be. The time had come. She left us early morning on the 5th of July. She was 88 years old. She is survived by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Perhaps more importantly, she is missed terribly by the many, many lives she touched. And while I am incredibly sad, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed for these last two months. It’s as if God Himself intervened, and decided that she and her children deserved a little more time together. It was time well spent.