by Rasheedah Na’Allah
Amidst the chaos of a family emergency, the author finds strength in the memories of her grandma, and trusts that everything happens for a reason.
“Buy the ticket right now,” a panicked voice infiltrates my calm dream. There’s another bout of hurried shuffling and I finally wake up from my slumber, groggy and confused. I slip out of bed and follow the sound. My eyes adjust to the light, and I cannot believe them as I see my mother’s room in shambles. There lies a gray suitcase filled with clothes lazily thrown into them, two passports, and a beat-up wallet. Fear begins to rise within me.
“What’s going on?” I say in a shaky voice. My mother struggles to meet my eyes. She finally does and says,
Suddenly, I feel my heart drop to my feet. My mouth becomes dry and my eyes threaten to perspire. This isn’t happening. It can’t happen. My sisters stand there stone-faced, but underneath, I can tell they too are trying not to cry. I knew I needed to get a hold of myself as well. My mother needed me in this moment.
I got straight to work. I went to her suitcase and folded her clothes, then I helped her form a message to her work, letting them know she would be gone to Nigeria for a family emergency. I zipped up her bags and slipped a note of encouragement in her purse.
We drive to the airport in silence. The air is thick with words left unsaid. What would
happen to my grandma? When would mom come back home? My mom’s voice finally breaks the silence.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. I need you guys to take care of all of my responsibilities. Bills need to be paid, and the house needs to be maintained. Can you guys do that for me?”
My sisters and I nod our heads solemnly. As we continue our long drive, I feel flashbacks rush through my head. I start to smile as I hear faint music playing in the back of my head. Suddenly, I’m sucked into a memory. The Nigerian drums are beating as my sister and I dance around in my grandma’s bedroom. The heat is smoldering—with a small fan circulating the heat rather than cooling things down. Sweat beads trickle down my forehead as I sway my hips to the beat. Even though I begin to feel tired, energy manages to pulse through me when I see my grandma laying on her bed, smiling. Seeing that smile on her face brought me instant ease. When my grandma was smiling, everything in the world was perfect.
The brief happy memory then gets overshadowed by a dark one. The day my grandpa died. When my grandpa got terribly sick, the world no longer felt complete. The green trees suddenly looked gray and the air felt dry. I remember the day like it was yesterday. As we sat on my mom’s bed, her phone began ringing. The neutral expression on my mom’s face turns to shock—and then despair. Her phone falls to the ground—as does she.
That day was something I never want to relive. But as I see my mother’s face from theback seat, I am reminded of that despair. Yet, I felt something inside of me that told me this time was different. I just didn’t quite know how yet.
We arrive at the airport and help our mom take her luggage out of the trunk. Not wanting to accept the fact that my mom would be gone for an indefinite time, we follow her to the gate. As we pass through, we see families hugging, some crying with happiness and others crying with sadness. We see a grandma hugging her daughter and my mom’s head quickly turns away. I can see the pain in her eyes. I know my mother thinks she will never be able to do this with her mom again. We finally reach the gate and my mom turns to look at all of us. Her mouth quivers and she takes a deep breath.
“I know it is difficult to hear this, but God makes everything happen for a reason. Your grandma has been in pain for so long. First, her husband, then depression, then her dementia. God knows that she is struggling and if God decides to stop her pain, we have to accept it. Painful or not, we need to put your grandma first in this situation.”
We looked down, not wanting to admit that she was right. We all gave her a hug, not wanting to let go. Once we did, she began to leave. My sisters and I were silent, watching her for what felt like a millisecond until she disappeared. So many things felt like they were left unsaid. I tried to keep my heartbeat in control, but it was impossible. I started to shake. When my mother was out of sight,
profusely cry. I am the type of person who likes to be in control at all times. I always see the light in all things and I was the person who made people laugh, smile and have a good day after the worst moment of their lives. At this moment, I have never felt more out of control in my life. My sister tried to hold me, but I pushed her off. My grandma gave me a different type of love. She didn’t give hugs or say “I love you” but she always wanted to make sure me and my family were good and comfortable. She always asked me, “Have you eaten?”
“Have you eaten” was her way of saying all of those words of care all in one. My sisters and I finally began to walk back to the car. No one said a word. There was nothing we could say that would help change what we were going through at that moment. We drove back home and once we got inside the house I had to sit down. I had to process everything I just went through. The time was only 9 AM, but it felt like 3 days had just passed. What did I do next? My sister sat with me on the couch and we looked outside at a rainy sky. I had no tears left to cry, my face not able to produce any more after the volume that had just left my body. After sitting and staring at the wall for hours, I realized something.
My mother was right. Whatever would happen was supposed to happen. I love my grandma and I knew she was strong. Deep deep within me, I knew she would pull through. And I was right. Today, my grandma is still alive. God spared her and gave us all the relief we were so badly craving for. Suddenly, the world’s color came soaring through, bringing the sunlight back on my face where it belonged.
About Rasheedah Na’Allah
Rasheedah Na’Allah is a senior at Dunlap High School in Peoria, Illinois. She is the youngest of her 3 siblings and enjoys the benefits of being the “baby of the house.” Her Nigerian and Muslim upbringing has led her to be resilient and outspoken in her beliefs. Rasheedah is a dedicated student who is a part of the National Honors Society and loves to be active in her community. She planned a diversity assembly at her school in front of the entire student body, formed an extensive research project on racial disparities and inequities in the education system, and has been appointed into the Peoria County Board’s Racial Justice and Equity Commission. She has also served as Dunlap’s representative to engage and network with young state leaders attending the 2020 Illinois Senator Youth Leadership Council. Rasheedah is the founder of her school’s Muslim Student Association, leads in foreign language club, and is a strong member of the color guard team. Outside of school, she enjoys volunteering and regularly posts on her cooking page through social media. She started her own book club and enjoys reading and discussing books by BIPOC authors. She hopes to pursue Business, Health, and Wellness during her college years and is extremely honored to write for the Giving Voice Initiative.